Goblin Valley State Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Goblin Valley State Park
Utah State Park
Goblin Valley 2007.jpg
Hoodoos in Goblin Valley
Country United States
State Utah
County Emery
Location North of Hanksville, Utah
 - coordinates 38°34′00″N 110°42′36″W / 38.56667°N 110.71000°W / 38.56667; -110.71000Coordinates: 38°34′00″N 110°42′36″W / 38.56667°N 110.71000°W / 38.56667; -110.71000
Highest point
 - location Wild Horse Butte[1]
 - elevation 5,760 ft (1,756 m)
Lowest point
 - location Red Canyon - southwest corner of park[1]
 - elevation 4,840 ft (1,475 m)
Area 3,654 acres (1,479 ha) [2]
Geology Hoodoos
Founded August 24, 1964 (1964-08-24)
Management Utah State Parks
Visitation 61,435 (2011) [3]
IUCN category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape
Location of Goblin Valley State Park in Utah

Goblin Valley State Park is a state park of Utah, USA.

Its eminent feature is its thousands of hoodoos and hoodoo rocks, referred to locally as "goblins",[4] which are formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, some as high as several meters. The distinct shape of these rocks comes from an erosion-resistant layer of rock atop softer sandstone. 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 hoodoos in the world.

The park lies within the San Rafael Desert southeast of the east limb of the San Rafael Swell and north of the Henry Mountains. Utah State Route 24 passes about four miles east of the park. Hanksville lies 12 miles to the south.[5][6]

Hiking is permitted in the park, which features three marked trails.


Coffee table arch

Evidence of Native American cultures, including the Fremont, Paiute, and Ute, is common throughout the San Rafael Swell in the form of pictograph and petroglyph panels. Goblin Valley is noted for several rock art panels as well as the rock formations. The secluded Goblin Valley was then found by cowboys searching for cattle. Then in the late 1920s, Arthur Chaffin, later owner/operator of the Hite Ferry, and two companions were searching for an alternate route between Green River and Caineville. They came to a vantage point about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Goblin Valley and were awed by what they saw – five buttes and a valley of strange goblin-shaped rock formations surrounded by a wall of eroded cliffs. In 1949 Chaffin returned to the area he called 'Mushroom Valley'. He spent several days exploring the mysterious valley and photographing its scores of intricately eroded rocks.

Publicity attracted visitors to the valley despite its remoteness. In 1954 it was proposed that Goblin Valley be protected from vandalism. The state of Utah later acquired the property and established Goblin Valley State Reserve. It was officially designated a state park on August 24, 1964.

2013 vandalism[edit]

In October 2013 a delicately balanced hoodoo was intentionally knocked over by three Boy Scout leaders who had been camping in the area.[7] The men claimed that the hoodoo appeared ready to fall, and that they knocked it over to prevent park visitors from being hurt.[8] They recorded the illegal act and posted it to Facebook, but subsequently admitted that they should have told a park ranger. The hoodoo had existed for 20 million years, and had been formed out of rock that dated back as far as 165 million years.[4][8] Two of the men were subsequently dismissed from their leadership roles by the Utah chapter of the Boy Scouts, the Utah National Parks Council. The national Boy Scouts then removed them from Scouting altogether.[9] In January 2014, they were arraigned on felony charges of "intentionally damaging, defacing and destroying property".[10]

Plants and animals[edit]

Vegetation is limited to hardy desert species that can endure blowing sand and hot dry surface conditions. Vegetation and wildlife exist on a limited supply of water in the arid desert environment. Plants have adapted by reducing the size of their leaves to reduce evaporation, with some having a waxy coating on their leaves that reduces water loss. Flora occupying Goblin Valley include Mormon tea (joint fir), Russian thistle, Indian ricegrass, and various cacti. Juniper and pinyon pine grow at slightly higher elevations.

Animals often must travel many miles to find water or else wait for thunderstorms to provide moisture. Most animals in the area are nocturnal, venturing out only in the cooler evenings to hunt and forage for food. Some animals get water from the food they eat and go for weeks without a drink of water. Jack rabbits, scorpions, kangaroo rats, pronghorn, kit foxes, midget faded rattlers, lizards, and coyotes are found within and near the park.

Valley panorama


Mushroom caprocks

The unusual stone shapes in Goblin Valley result from the weathering of Entrada Sandstone. The Entrada consists of debris eroded from former highlands and redeposited on a former tidal flat of alternating layers of sandstone, siltstone and shale. The rocks show evidence of being near the margins of an ancient sea with the ebb and flow of tides, tidal channels that directed currents back to the sea and coastal sand dunes.

Joint or fracture patterns within the Entrada sandstone beds created initial zones of weakness. The unweathered joints intersected to form sharp edges and corners with greater surface-area-to-volume ratios than the faces. As a result, the edges weathered more quickly, producing the spherical-shaped 'goblins'.

The Entrada Sandstone from which the hoodoos developed was deposited in the Jurassic Period around 170 million years ago.[11]


Dark red hoodoos at dusk

Average daytime highs in the summer average between 90 °F (32 °C) and 105 °F (41 °C), though the low humidity, high elevation, and sparse vegetation allow evenings to cool off rapidly to about 50 °F (10 °C). Also, the intermittent summer monsoon arriving from the south can bring intense and localized thunderstorms. The rugged terrain and intense rainfall can lead to devastating flash floods, while the low humidity combined with gusty winds and frequent lightning can spark wildfires. Winters see colder temperatures and occasional snow, with temperatures above freezing most days but often dropping as low as 10 °F (−12 °C) at night. The average precipitation is less than 8 inches (20 cm).


Goblin Valley was prominently featured in the movie Galaxy Quest as an alien planet. In the movie, the crew of the Protector stops at a rock planet to get a new Beryllium Sphere and Captain Nesmith battles a rock monster. Though at the time, the access to Goblin Valley State Park was partly by dirt road, the fees paid by the production company were used to upgrade the entire access road to asphalt pavement.


  1. ^ a b Goblin Valley, Utah, 7.5 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS, 1996
  2. ^ Utah.com. "Goblin Valley State Park". Utah.com LC. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Utah State Park 2011 Visitation" (PDF). Utah State Parks Planning. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Watkins, Tom (18 October 2013). "Created over millennia, destroyed in seconds". CNN (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.). Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  5. ^ San Rafael Desert, Utah, 30x60 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS, 1986
  6. ^ Hanksville, Utah, 30x60 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS, 1980
  7. ^ Grenoble, Ryan (20 October 2013). "Boy Scout leaders topple ancient rock formation in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post ( TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.). Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Stecklein, Janelle; Dalrymple II, Jim (18 October 2013). "Boy Scout leaders destroy ancient formation in Utah's Goblin Valley". Salt Lake Tribune (Digital First Media, MediaNews Group). Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Duke, Alan (21 October 2013). "Men who toppled ancient boulder get booted by Boy Scouts". CNN (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.). 
  10. ^ Botelho, Greg; Watkins, Tom (31 January 2014). "Ex-Boy Scout leaders involved in pushing over ancient Utah boulder charged". CNN (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.). Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Mark Milligan (1999). "The Geology of Goblin Valley State Park" (PDF). Utah GeologicSurvey. p. 10. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Goblin Valley State Park at Wikimedia Commons