March 22, 2021

Goblin Valley State Park & Canyonlands National Park (National Parks Trip #2)

During the past two and a half months, while Alan and I have been renovating a rental property, nearly everything else has taken a back seat to the project, including my blog posts.  For a while there, it seemed like whenever we weren’t painting and repairing, we were shoveling and plowing snow - or sleeping.  We tried to fit a little of that in every once in a while, too.  Now that the renovations are complete and a few warm spring days have us anticipating the even more delightful weather to come, we’re both looking forward to resuming our “regularly scheduled programming.” 

This post represents another installment in the series detailing the second of our three cross-country National Parks camping trips with travel trailer in tow.  At the time of this trip in 2010, our son, Ryan, was 16 and our daughter, Kyra, was 11.

With the visit to Capitol Reef, we crossed off the eighth National Park of our month-long trip.  This epic journey, like our first cross-country National Parks trip with the kids three years earlier, was what we considered a “sampler” trip.  We kept our visits to each Park short so that we could see as many different Parks as possible.  By sampling each Park, we would learn which ones we wanted to return to for a more extensive visit.  In addition, knowing that Ryan and Kyra wouldn’t be traveling with us forever, we chose to introduce our kids to as many areas of the country as possible when they were young and excited about such grand adventures.  We figured that the more extensive our travels were as the kids were growing up, the better they would understand the geography, climate and opportunities in each area of the United States – providing experience that might influence their lifestyle and location choices as adults.  That being said, the fact that Ryan and his long-time girlfriend recently bought a house just 25 miles away in the same beloved mountain range in which we live does not disappoint me.  Wink, wink.

We left Capitol Reef heading north and east toward Moab and the final two National Parks of the trip – Canyonlands and Arches.  First though, a stop at Goblin Valley State Park was needed.  Who could resist a chance to play among a bunch of goblins?

Goblin Valley State Park ~ Utah

The drive from Capitol Reef to Moab, a trip of less than three hours, allowed us to take a long break at Goblin Valley.  The Park is described as remote but, in actuality, is only about an hour north of Capitol Reef and an hour south of the Green River exit off Interstate 70 in Utah.  It is such a worthwhile stop!


The scenery in and around Goblin Valley State Park is both stunning and comical.  Weirdly shaped sandstone goblins cover the valley floor, encouraging children (both young and old) to scamper around in an attempt to find the strangest or silliest among them.  Not that Alan and I would do that.  Cough, cough.  There are countless photo opps here and it’s tempting to create intriguing personalities for each of the unique goblins.  We stayed and played for a long while and, to this day, seeing our photos from Goblin Valley always brings an immediate smile to my face.

Little kids love to play among the goblins.

The Goblin Valley Campground is a popular one, with campsites set among some spectacular scenery.  Because there are no electric, water or sewer hookups, for us it’s a camping experience best left for times other than the hot summer months.  When I checked while drafting this post, the Goblin Valley Campground was enjoying a rating of 8.9.  Apparently, there are a lot of happy campers in Goblin Valley.

Our play date with the goblins was a resounding success!

Despite the fact that our preference is to camp within the National Parks we visit, we decided to use a private campground in Moab as a home base for our excursions to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.  Due to the kids’ school and sports schedules, our travels fell during the month of July, and I wanted to be sure we had an electric hookup to power the A/C in the travel trailer.  Plus, what kid wouldn’t like jumping into a pool at the end of a warm day walking the trails in the Parks?

Kyra taking a break during the Whale Rock hike

As with all of the National Parks, Canyonlands has its own distinct personality.  It’s divided into four districts, with three of them (The Needles, The Maze and the Horseshoe Canyon Unit) being more of a remote or backcountry experience.  The Green and Colorado Rivers divide the districts, and make traveling from one to the other somewhat challenging.  For this visit, we decided to explore the Island in the Sky district, the most accessible of the four.

One small sample of the expansive scenery in Canyonlands

I will admit that Canyonlands is not on my list of favorite National Parks, and I’m not likely to return.  Some of the scenery is magnificent and there are opportunities for hiking but, to me, it felt more desolate than anything else.  I usually think of our National Parks as vibrant entities and, in all fairness, had we taken a Jeep tour or a whitewater rafting trip, my opinion may have differed.

Mesa Arch

The highlights for me were viewing Mesa Arch “up close and personal” (talk about a wonderful photo opp!) and conquering my fear of heights, at least temporarily, to participate in a hike across the slickrock to the top of Whale Rock.  Not only was I dealing with my acrophobia, but I was dealing with The Fear of Watching my Children Fall to their Deaths.

Yes, that's our Ryan on top of Whale Rock.

There’s probably an official word for that fear, too, because I’ll bet every parent experiences it at one time or another.  The first time I felt it, Ryan had climbed to the top of what must have been a 50’ high playground slide at a campground in Maine when he was two.  Well, okay, it probably wasn’t really 50’ high but when the charming grin of your first born is smiling down at you from someplace you’re not, it’s a bit disconcerting.  But, I digress.  Looking back on our hike to the top of Whale Rock, I will graciously admit that I’m glad my family members talked me into it.  The sense of accomplishment I felt when I reached the top and the incredible 360° views were both amazing and well worth the initial trepidation and subsequent angst.

View of Canyonlands National Park from the top of Whale Rock

A full day of exploration in the Island in the Sky district left us hot and tired, but quite pleased with our experiences at Canyonlands National Park.  By late afternoon, we were ready to head back to base camp and plan our visit to Arches, the last of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, and the last Park that would earn a notch on our belts before we turned for home.

If you’d like to learn more about Goblin Valley State Park, hop on over to the website for Utah’s State Parks (link HERE).  Note that Goblin Valley is an International Dark Sky Park, and International Dark Sky Week is scheduled for April 5th – April 12th this year.  Check out the International Dark Sky Association (link HERE) to learn more.  If you’d like additional information about Canyonlands National Park, our friends at the National Park Service would be happy to help (link HERE).



  1. I absolutely love Utah and never seem to get enough of her beautiful landscape. Goblin Valley has eluded our explorations thus far but remains on my must-visit list. Thanks for the wonderful tour.

    1. Just today, when Alan and I were talking about the post, we agreed that Goblin Valley was on our "return to" list. Next time, we'll be sure to plan for the off season so we can enjoy the campground, too. And, yes, I agree - Utah is spectacular!

  2. I was surprised to discover that I had not commented on your two previous posts. How have you lived without something alternatively complimentary or acerbic from me? I am chalking up my omissions to the flurry of unwelcome household chores that have befallen me now that the little woman has resorted to surgery, I suppose, to get a break, at least temporarily. (I don't know why she couldn't have endured the pain a little longer.) I sheepishly admit that I began this comment last night but fell asleep mid-keystroke. I wish to hurry and assure you that it was not your lively writing that was so soporific. I think when we get older, we just nod off from time to time or, more likely, it could have been attributed to exhaustion from my household overwork. (I get the distinct feeling that you are not sufficiently sympathetic, especially after describing your own recent travails of being a real estate baroness.) Oh yes...your posts...sorry, it appears that increasing age also brings a tendency to digress. I loved the old photos...I mean, vintage photos. (Someone told me never to say or write the word "old" that could in any way be connected to a woman.) I'm sure you guys haven't aged a bit. (Is that recovery attempt as cheesy as it seems?) See what I mean by digressing? I enjoyed the reviews of the parks, most of which we have visited except Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley, which are now on my list. I am quite fond of rocky and mountainous places in the great Southwest, and I probably liked Canyonlands more than you because of my love of limitless vistas, especially those with canyons. (We would never stay there, of course--no glamping, no stay.) All this to say I enjoyed your posts, as always. Oh yes, there's actually at least a couple of benefits to getting old. We don't' have much of a filter on what we say or write, nor do we keep focused all that well. Oh yes, and we really don't care. Seriously, love and blessings to you all...Sandy's recovery is going great!

    1. Mike, the withdrawal symptoms caused by your lack of comments (welcome and unwelcome) have left me withering away in abject misery. It made my day to see your name pop up in the comments. Of course, it's only 5:58 a.m. here, so I'm not sure how much that really says about your return. While you and I may not enjoy the same style of camping, I know we share a love and appreciation for the beauty of our public lands - a trait which is always evidenced by your choice of favorite photos on Phannie and Mae. As for your dishpan hands and your long list of other complaints related to household chores, I have a theory. I think you're just trying to drum up sympathy and proof of your status as a wonderful husband. Why? So that you'll have plenty of ammunition when Saint Sandy will need to take care of you following any future surgery you may have. I am so happy to hear that Sandy's recovery is going well. Please tell her to keep up the good work! As for you, my friend, you've had your break. It's time to get back to work!


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