In the Hall of the Goblin King

Sorry, this post isn’t about David Bowie. It’s about the camping trip I took last weekend!

I love camping with so much of my heart, there is none left to protest. And this is the best thing about Utah: there is never a shortage on places to camp. With five national parks and seven national forests – each offering a different landscape, not to mention state parks, like the one I just returned from.

It’s called Goblin Valley, down in the middle of nowhere, Utah (it’s near Green River and Hanksville, and Captiol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks).

It’s called Goblin Valley because of this:

These little rock structures are dashed across the desert and are not found anywhere else (though many similar structures are abundant in other Southwestern areas, such as Bryce Canyon National Park, also in Southern Utah). What makes these little guys different is…they are little. In Bryce Canyon and nearby places, the hoodoos, as they are normally called, are dozens of feet tall, towering over the earth. These little goblins are climbable for the general population.

And they look like little aliens.

Or giant mushroom patches.

And the best part is – you are actually allowed to play around on them. Just be careful not to knock them over (which happened tragically a few years ago, and the party responsible will live in infamy for many years among Utah residents). The reason why they are so short is because they are soft.

As explained to us by a ranger, these little goblins are formed by layers of rock eroding away, just like the hoodoos mentioned above. The goblins, however, are made from softer rock in general and are swept away much faster. Many of the structures in the park are formed over only a handful of decades (like 200 years) versus the thousands of years it takes for something like the Grand Canyon to come about. They are made from two different sandstones (no metamorphic material involved, this contributes to their softness), the harder sandstone being the top layer, and acting as an “umbrella” to the softer sandstone, so the softer sandstone is only eroded by weather that comes at it sideways and not from above, which, as you can imagine, significantly slows its decay.

Nonetheless, the sandstone is constantly eroding and sometimes the goblins “move”: their hard sandstone layer falls over, landing a few feet away, and in a matter of a few short years, the rest of the soft sandstone column has deteriorated, while the sandstone in the new place is now being protected so the hard stone raises up as the world washes away around it.This is how some of the goblins are standing by their lonesome.

In addition to the Valley of Goblins, Goblin Valley State Park also has some pretty sweet hikes. The first we went on was the Goblin’s Lair, a hike which passes through some of the taller hoodoo structures and leads to a sweet cave. A word of warning on it though – this is a desert hike with zero shade, so bring lots of water and don’t dally around. It’s only 1.5 miles each way, but the Utah sun is not kind. If you do, however, go into the cave, you’ll get a nice cool down which should keep you safe from heat exhaustion on the return journey. It’s not an extensively underground cave, just a carving of rocks:

There are also slot canyon hikes. The one we went on was called Little Wild Horse, but there are a few surrounding it (but I think Little Wild Horse is the best one). I LOVE slot canyon hikes because they are much cooler (temperature wise) and very cool (sights wise).

All in all, highly recommend. However, more highly recommend not in the summer, cause the desert is just trying to kill you. I think going in the last weekend in May is probably the last safe time to go, unless you’re cold-blooded or love the heat like a crazy person.

Now, for some more lovely nature shots:

I love rocks! 🙂


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