As you speed across Highway 24 towards Green River, Utah, there’s not much to see. Isolated buttes float in the distance, the road blurry from heat waves vibrating off the scorching pavement. Other cars zip by, likely on their way to Lake Powell or Moab. Not much else.
But if you take the turn at Temple Mountain Junction and follow the twelve miles of winding road towards Goblin Valley State Park, a desert wonderland slowly comes into focus.
Yes, you think, there is something out here.
The monolithic configurations that give this state park its name were created through years of wind, rain and natural erosion colliding with the sandstone landscapes. All around, these creatures appear in different shapes and sizes. Look for them standing guard as soon as you enter the parking lot. Then in the main valley, where hundreds stand side by side as if part of a large army.
Established in 1964, this park is a playground built for day hikers and mountain bicyclists with slot canyons and nearby caves to explore before the sun peaks. Come night time, stargazers will enjoy an unparalleled view of the Milky Way in one of the darkest skies on earth, as designated by the National Park Service Night Sky Team in 2015.
The best part? You may have it all to yourself. The park receives fewer annual visitors than Utah’s nearby National Parks.
GETTING THERE: Located in Green River, Goblin Valley is a quick day trip from Moab or Salt Lake City. Overnight campsites and yurts are available by reservation and first come first serve basis.
FAVE MOMENT: Follow the Goblin Liar trail, which traces the perimeter of the main valley into the backside of the park where an entrance to a hidden den is revealed on top of a pile of sandstone boulders.