While driving the loop of southern Utah (check out our full itinerary), we found ourselves staying at paid car-camping sites, Walmart parking lots, and everything in between.
But the location that stands out in our memories the most during our two weeks in Utah was BLM land right outside Goblin Valley State Park.
The actual state park (link) is pretty small compared to the rest of Utah’s national parks, but we enjoyed that you can see the majority of it in just a few hours. It offers paid drive-in campsites as well as a “glamping” option – staying in your own yurt!
But for those of us who enjoy a more rugged adventure (and money in our pockets), the BLM land that surrounds the park has the same geological features (goblins), and is a quick 5 minute drive to the entrance of the park. The dirt road is bumpy, but there were sedans rolling in with ease,
so your van should be fine. The approximate spot that we camped is pinned on the map below.
Directions: From the park itself, head West on Wild Horse Road. Follow this road and you’ll see the large hills on the left with many hidden inlets and alleys at the base. Keep an eye out for other vans, campers, and RVs, as there are bound to be a few. All of this is BLM land, perfect for a secluded night in your van! Don’t stress about finding a nook or cranny super far from other vandwellers – the many sheltered coves muffle sounds very effectively and offers a lot of privacy – we had neighbors camping within 60 yards of us the entire time, and barely noticed they were there.
A night with the Goblins
As stated, the formations block noise effectively, but also offer a nice protection from wind. We found a little cove with a stone-lined firepit ready to go. If you have the same luck as we did, however, you’re in for quite an amazing sunset.
Be sure to walk out to the dirt road and turn around, taking in the scene and looking at the “faces” of the goblins visible in the rock formations. They seem to change as
a bottle of wine the sun goes down! The full moon and bright starts made it seem like we were wearing nightvision goggles, everything was so bright – it was almost eerie.
Hikes near Goblin Valley
We woke up early in the morning and continued another half mile or so on Wild Horse road (west, away from the park) to the trailhead of Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon Loop trail (link). The whole loop is a moderate 8 mile loop, but if you’re looking to see the slot canyons like we were, just take the Wild Horse section and turn around after mile 2.
The slot canyons are really spectacular, and honestly pretty comparable to the over-crowded Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, which we had visited a week prior. We hiked in relatively early to Wild Horse/Bell Canyon, and didn’t see anyone else until we had turned around. Be sure to bring water, and feel free to bring your furry friends on a leash (dogs are welcome)!
Explore Goblin Valley State Park
Finally, on the way out, we entered the park itself. Our Interagency Annual Pass got us in free of charge, and we parked at the main lookout. What’s great about Goblin Valley (and Utah parks in general) is that theres very little hinderance to exploration. No fences, railings, etc. You can simply walk around and carefully climb these amazing geological features – like a natural playground!
We hope we’ve inspired you to go check out one of our favorite spots to stay in Utah, and remember to respect your neighbors and leave your site cleaner than you found it for the next lucky camper!
– Peter & Kate