Goblin Valley State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab Area

3/11/23 – 3/20/23

Since our plans for this next section of the trip were not set in stone, we decided to make a quick stop at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.  We had heard great things and were intrigued.  The scenery in this area of Utah is striking and the drive is always breathtaking with the starkness, contrasts of the rock formations in the barren landscape. 

We arrived at the park and were fortunate that there were some cancellations at the small campground which is beautifully set in the rocks. So, we had 2 nights to stay and explore, which we felt was the perfect amount of time.

The park is relatively small and the hikes on the shorter side.  Our first afternoon was a bit stormy but we were able to walk through the 3 valley areas of the Goblin Valley.  There are no real trails so you are free to meander around the goblins and washes (where the water flows when it rains).  You can see how water erosion formed these goblins.  We had fun wandering around and looking at all the formations until the clouds got dark and we decided to head back to camp. 

Video of Goblin Valley

The afternoon cleared up nicely, so we went out for a hike that led to an overlook of the valley with a nice perspective of the area.  In the evening I did a quick painting from a photo that I took on our drive into Goblin Valley.  I love how this area’s landscape is desolate and flat and then out of the blue there will be a grand butte formation.

On our second day we headed out for a longer hike that looped around the valley to various highlights.  Unfortunately, we found both the map and the trail markings poorly done and frequently had to scramble up sand/rock formations to get to where we were going.  But it was a beautiful loop with great vistas and nice to be in sunshine.  Overall, we both felt like it was a worthy stopover if you are in the area.

We left Goblin Valley and headed to Canyonlands National Park (the Needles area).  Again, the drive was striking and we wound our way into the park on a slow 34 mile road.  We decided to stop for a quick bite to eat at a pullout and ended up being surprised that we were in an area called Newspaper Rock Archaeological Site with petroglyphs that dated back 2000 years.  They were beautiful and a very pleasant surprise.  

Off we went to Canyonlands. As we anticipated the campground was full.  However, there was plenty of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land nearby with camping.  We pulled into the nearest area called Hamburger Rock Campground and found an amazing spot to put the airstream. 

Our views were spectacular from all windows, and we were only 5 miles to the National Park.  Fortunately, we had our generator, and all our systems were prepared so that we could be off the grid for a few days.

  After we got setup, we headed into the park to do the scenic drive and do some of the smaller hikes.  The variety of terrain, rock formations, colors and shapes are incredible.  The huge red rock buttes were accentuated with snowy peaks in the background and large white clouds.  Storms surrounded us that evening which made for a dramatic setting, and then there were the needles far in the distance.    We were certainly looking forward to some of the signature hikes the following day.  We enjoyed the view from the camper while eating dinner and watching the sunset.  What a special treat!

The following morning, we got up and headed out for a long hike.  We had the intention of heading towards Chesler Park (which is where the needles formations are).  The trail map showed lots of trails that connected at various points, so we thought we would end up over there eventually, but little did we realize that the distances between the trails were more than they appeared on the map and the terrain was difficult.  We ended up crossing streams frequently, scrambling up and over rock formations and having to find cairns (which designate the path).  The elevation ascent and descent were also much more than we anticipated (next time we will buy a real map!).  However, we were not disappointed at all!  The trail we did was an 8-mile loop that began with some great views of the park, then ran along a creek bed and eventually up some huge slick rock faces to a saddle in the rocks and down the backside. 

The rocky section of the trail led us through enormous rock bowls, along rock ledges that dropped into valleys.  The vastness and size of rocks really made us feel like a speck of dust in this universe.  One of the nice things about this national park is that it is very remote and has no lodging except for a few camping spots so it is relatively unpopulated.  We saw only a handful of people.  To be honest at times it was nice to see other hikers which I don’t usually say.  The section of the hike where we climbed up the rock faces, along the ledge and then over the top made this hike one of top hikes that we have done. The views were spectacular!!! 

After the big hike we spent a lazy afternoon back at our campsite.  The forecast for the following day was not great and we woke up to rain drops so we decided to head out.  We ended up finding a great camping spot just outside of Moab along the Colorado River.  We have stayed here before but years ago when we were in our old pop-up camper. 

It was a rainy day, so we spent it working on this blog, driving into Moab to resupply groceries and painting.  We were lucky to be able to have such a nice cozy place with great views to wait out this storm. I was able to paint this view from our hike in the Canyonlands and was trying out a new technique with watercolors and ink lines. I was happy with the outcome and will try to incorporate more of it in the future.

After sitting out the rainy cold day we awoke to sunshine.  It was cold and windy, but the sun was out!  We decided to drive over to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park.  It had a very different feel than the Needles section.  This area of the park is mostly on a high mesa which overlooks the canyons.  We did the touristy thing and drove to all the overlooks and did a few of the shorter hikes at those locations. 

We had Buddy in the car, and it was quite cold and windy so we were happy with the tourist version of travel. The views at most of these spots were incredible and our favorites were the Mesa Arch which is a fairly small arch with majestic views looking through it.  Unlike Arches National Park, this arch was perched high on a sheer ledge so the view overlooked an enormous canyon, rock formations and the La Sal Mountain snowy peaks. 

The Green River overlook and the Grandview Overlook provided a more expansive view of the canyons cut out by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  One can really envisage how the water carved these canyons and the geological layers of the rocks eroding. 

We also hiked out to the Upheaval Dome overlook which both of us found interesting in that the scientists do not know how it was formed, but it was the least breathtaking spot for us.

The following day was a bit warmer and less windy, and we wanted Buddy to be able to join us for a hike so we decided to hike a local hike called the Grandstaff trail.  As we drove into the trailhead, we realized that we had done this trail a few years ago.  However, the trail had been washed away from a flashflood the year before which made it unrecognizable and a bit more challenging due to the river crossings and having to scramble up and over some rocks. 

The hike ends at the top of a canyon with a slender arch.  We all enjoyed ourselves and it made for a very nice day. 

After a nice relaxing late lunch, we all hopped in the truck and headed over to Arches National Park for a beautiful sunset drive.  Since we have visited this park a few times we didn’t feel the need to hit all the sites but went to where the park suggested the sunset lighting to be the best.  My favorite view was at the Garden of Eden since there was a line of rock spires with snowy mountains in the background.  The contrast in colors was gorgeous so I pulled out my paints and did a quick plein air painting while sitting in the truck.  I got the colors and feel that I wanted but it certainly needs a lot more work and will need some time in the studio before I can show it to you. This is the view that I was trying to capture.

On our last morning on the Colorado River in Moab the lighting was beautiful and there was a half marathon being run on the road so we stayed in place until the last runner had gone by.  We then started the official journey home.  We drove Hwy 128 which is a beautiful scenic highway that goes to Interstate 70 into Colorado.  We have a few favorite stop overs in the area and we made a beeline to the James Robb Campground in Palisades which also is on the Colorado River.  It was an easy stopover and nice to know where you are going and what to expect when you get there.  From there we made a beeline home since both of us were ready to get settled back into our home, have a long hot shower and central heating!  Winter camping (and in particular this winter) is much harder and really makes you appreciate the little things in life, which is always a good reminder for all of us!

Thank you for following us and joining us on these adventures. If you have any questions or suggestions on ideas to post please let us know.

6 Comments on “Goblin Valley State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab Area

  1. Great trip!
    Loved the adventures! Loved the sunset shot at Hamburger! Along with so many others! Welcome home!


  2. Thanks for the story of your journey with photos of the amazing sites and views. It’s nice to vicariously go on your adventure with you three. Really incredible!


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