Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park
  • The park was established in 1964, but consists of rock formations from millions of years ago
  • The park gets its name from pinnacles of rock , called hoodoos, which locals refers to as goblins because of their unusual shape
  • The park is a popular tourist destination for campers, hikers, and mountain bikers

Goblin Valley State Park is located in the San Rafael Desert of Utah, in the United States of America. The park was established in 1964, and has an area of approximately 9,915 acres or 40 square kilometers. Goblin Valley gets its name from unusually shaped rock formations, pinnacles called hoodoos, which are casually referred to as goblins. 

Rock Formations

Goblin Valley state park
Isolated hoodoos in the Goblin Valley State Park.

The unusual and striking rock formations in Goblin Valley State Park are the very thing that give the park its name. These mushroom shaped rock columns vary in size, but can reach several meters in height. Similarly, some formations have small rounded tops, but others are extremely ‘top heavy’ or are even joined with other pillars, such as the table-top rock. The curious shapes in these rock pillars are caused by long term erosion. The mushroom shape occurs because lower layers in the rock are softer, meaning they are more easily broken down by wind or rain. The top layers of rock are harder, and therefore are eroded much more slowly, meaning the pillars or pinnacles take on a top-heavy domed top. 

The hoodoos are made of entrada sandstone, which in turn are layers of shale, sandstone and siltstone which have piled up over time, usually due to tidal flows. This indicates that the valley may once have been near an ancient sea which dried millions of years ago. 

Visiting The Park

Goblin Valley State Park tourist
A tourist with her child in the Goblin Valley State Park.

The distinct shapes of the hoodoos, or goblins, have made Goblin Valley State Park a popular tourist destination for hikers and families alike. It is open year round to the public, and offers various hiking, trail biking, camping and picnicking areas. Spring and fall are the ideal times to visit the park, as temperatures can fluctuate greatly throughout the year. In summer months, day time temperatures can range between 30 and 40 degrees celsius, or 90 and 105 fahrenheit. The high elevation and low humidity do mean the park cools quickly in the evenings, though, and summer averages drop to around 10 C or 50 F. Similarly, winters can be pleasantly cool for long hikes and outdoor activities during the day, but overnight temperatures for campers drop to around -15 C or lower, which is just above 0 F. 

Plants

Wildflowers blooming IN gOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
Wildflowers blooming in Goblin Valley State Park.

Because the valley park is in an arid desert, vegetation is more minimal, but there are several plants that are native to the area. Cacti are common, thriving in the dry hot climate of Utah deserts. Their thick waxy coating helps protect them from heat, wind and blowing sand. Similarly, Indian ricegrass, Russian thistle and Mormon tea can also be found in this region. Larger plants found at higher elevations include juniper and pinyon pines. 

Animals

Goblin Valley State Park
An antelope wandering near the Goblin Valley State Park.

Due to the high day-time temperatures and strong direct sun during the day, most animals that live in deserts such as Goblin Valley are strictly nocturnal. These animals must also be able to go long periods of time without a direct water source, as there is little rain in the desert. Most animals derive their water from the foods they eat, such as cacti, which store large amounts of water within. Common animals in Goblin Valley State Park include jackrabbits and kangaroo rats, kit foxes, coyotes, pronghorns, as well as rattlesnakes and scorpions. 

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