Goblin Valley State Park isn't exactly Utah's most famous, but it is indeed its strangest. And with each year that passes, it exceeds in popularity. Why? Like many of the state's breathtaking national reserves, it offers stunning scenery and a selection of superb outdoor adventures fit for the whole family, including mountain biking, camping, and hiking along its three marked trails. The park itself lies within the San Rafael Desert and north of the Henry Mountains and southeast of the east limb of the San Rafael Swell - making it a place of exceptional beauty with myriads of activities available. But it's not just its geographical location and outdoor activities amidst the desert within the mountainous vicinity that intrigues adventure-seeking visitors; Goblin Valley boasts a particularly special characteristic that sets it apart from other parks (and no, it's not actual goblins). Situated in an area of soft sandstone and impressive rock formations, some of the sandstone has eroded over time into interesting shapes - shapes that resemble none other than goblins, hence the park's bizarre name.
9 The Park Is Home To Thousands Of "Goblins"
The park's signature feature is its thousands of hoodoos and hoodoo rocks, which are locally nicknamed "goblins" due to their close resemblance to the mythical creature appearing throughout humankind's unnerving folklore and legends. In some parts, the goblins lie close together, forming a labyrinth playground ideal for family fun and exploration. These naturally formed structures are essentially mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, with some rising up as high as several meters. They are the result of an erosion-resistant layer of rock atop softer Entrada sandstone, the latter which erodes away much more quickly to leave the peculiar shape. Along with Bryce Canyon National Park some 190 miles to the southwest, Goblin Valley State Park is one location with some of the highest occurrences of hoodoo "goblins" in the world.
8 The Goblins Are Very, Very Old
The Entrada sandstone that the goblins are formed from stems as far back as pre-historic times; experts estimate that it was deposited during the Jurassic period - a time that existed around 170 million years ago. Along with being hundreds of millions of years old, the average rate of erosion of a hoodoo goblin is approximately two to three feet (or 0.6 to 1.3 meters) every century, meaning they're not only old, but also super slow to form.
7 There Is Evidence Of Native American Tribes
Throughout Goblin Valley Park (as well as the San Rafael Swell), remnants of Native American cultures can be seen, including pictograph and petroglyph panels from the Ute, Fremont, and Paiute communities. Furthermore, the valley's surrounding areas also boast several rock art panels, as well as the goblin rock formations themselves.
6 The Valley Has An Interesting History Of Discovery
Despite being secluded and remote, Goblin Valley was later found by cowboys in search of cattle. By the late 1920s, Arthur Chaffin - who later went on to become the owner and operator of the Hite Ferry - along with two companions discovered the valley whilst scoping out an alternative route between Green River and Caineville. From a vantage point around a mile west of Goblin Valley, they were reportedly mesmerized by what they discovered; a valley of oddly shaped rock formations taking on the form of goblins, surrounded by striking walls of timeworn cliffs. With its increase in popularity, Goblin Valley continued to attract visitors who came to spectate its marvel in spite of its remoteness. As such, by 1954 it was proposed that Goblin Valley become a protected reserve. The state of Utah later took it over and established the Goblin Valley State Reserve, which was officially designated a state park on August 24th, 1964.
5 It Has Suffered Vandalism
In October 2013, a goblin was knocked over on purpose by a Boy Scout leader whilst two others watched, with one filming a video of the act of vandalism that was later uploaded online. Apparently, the men claimed that the delicately balanced goblin appeared as if it were about to fall and that they took it upon themselves to help it on its way by knocking it over in order to prevent any future park visitor from being hurt from it falling. Whether their claims were truthful or not, the two leaders were relieved of their Boy Scouts leadership roles by the Utah National Parks Council and were consequently dismissed altogether from the national Boy Scouts organization. And that isn't the end of the story; by January 2014, two of the men were reprimanded on felony charges of "criminal mischief" and "intentionally damaging, defacing and destroying property", with both pleading guilty to the less severe charges of criminal mischief and attempted criminal mischief - crimes that saw them handed one-year probation, along with fines and case fees.
4 Goblin Valley Is Home To Finely Adapted Plant Species
The flora and fauna of Goblin Valley consist of durable desert species that are able to withstand hot, dry conditions and the buffeting of blowing sand. The wildlife and vegetation can also survive on a very limited water supply in the vast, harsh desert environment; plants have successfully evolved, adapting to the climate by reducing the size of their leaves - an adaptation that reduces water evaporation. Some plants even possess a waxy coating on their leaves, which further minimizes the loss of water. Many interesting plants inhabiting the valley include Russian thistle, Indian ricegrass, Mormon tea, as well as a number of cacti species. Pinyon pine and juniper also grow at higher elevations.
3 Various Highly Evolved Animals Live In The Valley
Most animals thriving in the valley are nocturnal, which means they come out after sunset during the cool evening and nighttime to forage for food and hunt prey. It's also common practice for them to travel many miles to find water or wait for thunderstorms to bring about much-needed moisture. Due to living in a dry, barren desert land, most animals have adapted extremely well to be able to survive in such harsh, low-moisture conditions. Some get water from their food, whilst others live for many weeks without drinking a single drop of water. To name but a few of the hardy creatures inhabiting the valley, there are scorpions, lizards, midget faded rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, Jackrabbits, pronghorns, kit foxes, and even coyotes.
2 The Climate And Weather Is Variable And Harsh
In the summertime, average daytime temperatures are between 90 °F and 105 °F (32 °C and 41 °C). Although this is insanely hot, it does get quite cool come the evening, plummeting to around 50 °F (10 °C) - the severe contrast in temperature being due to the high elevation, low humidity, and minimal amounts of vegetation. Additionally, the summer monsoon that comes from the south can also deliver strong, localized thunderstorms to the area, though even so, the average precipitation does remain less than 8 inches (20 cm). Still, the rugged terrain coupled with intense rainfall can sometimes bring about devastating flash floods, while on the other hand, the valley's low humidity, strong winds, and frequent lightning can also spark wildfires. As for the winter months, temperatures tend to be cooler, and even see occasional snowfall. For the most part, winter temperatures remain above freezing, however, they can fall as low as 10 °F (-12 °C) at night.
1 Goblin Valley's Unearthly Scenery Caught Hollywood's Eye
The park's extra-terrestrial landscape akin to an alien, Mars-like planet has caught the attention of filmmakers in the past. In fact, it prominently appeared in the classic movie Galaxy Quest, serving as the set of an alien planet. In the film, the spaceship's crew stops off at a rocky planet to acquire a "beryllium sphere", where the captain engages in a fight with a Martian rock monster - a creature of the movie's alien world that the people of Utah know to be their beloved Goblin Valley. Whilst at the time of filming, Goblin Valley State Park was difficult to navigate with it being partly unpaved, the funds paid by the movie's production company were ultimately used to upgrade the park's unpaved road into a more accessible asphalt path. Next: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Guide