Well, it only took a few tries before we finally had (almost) our dream weekend adventure experience! We actually left at a reasonable hour on Friday and we scored a completely free campsite about five minutes away from Goblin Valley State Park! It was absolutely beautiful — exactly where I was picturing myself on all of these weekend trips (as opposed to an rv park/campground surrounded by noisy people).
We did quickly realize that there were ants all over the ground, which made the location slightly less perfect for a brief moment — but they did not bother us one bit! The temperature dropped low enough at night that we weren’t freezing to death but were able to get a good night’s sleep!
We woke up early Saturday morning and headed for Goblin Valley State Park. We decided to also buy the Utah State Parks pass for $75 since we’re planning on visiting several this year. I think we got there at about 8:00am and made our breakfast: Mountainhouse biscuits & gravy and coffee. The place was deserted and I wondered if it just wasn’t nearly as popular as the other places we visited.
We set out to “hike” the valley of goblins, which was a weird experience for me because it’s not really a hike. There are a few “trails” you can follow but there’s not really a specific endpoint or goal. The point is to explore the valley and climb on rocks and yell “parkour” every so often while trying not to roll your ankle (side-note: Kevin rolled his ankle).
I thought I would get bored pretty quickly and be “done” since I’m used to strenuous, lengthy hikes that take all day, but we ended up being out there for at least four hours and it was easily the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I felt like a kid again, running around climbing on things and scraping my elbows and knees, not caring that I was getting dirt and sand all over my clothes. I actually left Kevin at one point and went off on my own and he didn’t follow me, so I had to go all the way back and find him (sitting in the shade, sipping a martini — okay there was no martini but he wished he had a Corona in that moment).
It was so much fun and we would definitely go back. By the time we returned to the truck for lunch, the place was packed. The parking lot was full and there were people everywhere! If you’d like any sort of solitude (and you don’t love the sweltering heat), I would recommend getting there before noon.
We ate our lunch (a grown-up version of Lunchables) and decided we were pretty tired (turns out Kevin had slept like shit and hadn’t told me) so we retired to our quiet little campsite for an afternoon nap. We found a not-so-nice surprise awaiting us at camp — biting flies — who attacked us mercilessly as soon as we got out of the truck. I heard Kevin say, “Run, save yourself!” so I ran back into the truck and shut the door. He followed shortly after, and we mustered up the strength to sprint all the way into the tent (potato chips in tow because, snacks) and lock ourselves inside.
After a few hours of napping (me) and playing Monopoly on the Switch until it died (Kevin), we ventured back out to see if the biting flies were still there. We put on some bug spray and sat outside reading for a couple of hours in the sunshine and were — thankfully — not bothered by the mean flies anymore. Kevin got to work on his tan lines and I finished my book.
We went back to Goblin Valley to watch the sunset and see the stars. It is known for having a really dark sky at nighttime — but this turned out to be pretty unnecessary since we could have seen the same starry sky from our campsite. But it was still fun watching people walk around the valley in the dark with their flashlights.
We decided that the next day we would hike Little Wildhorse Canyon. There is an 8-mile loop you can do that starts in Little Wildhorse Canyon and ends in Bell Canyon, with a 4WD road in the middle connecting both canyons. I had my heart set on hiking the loop but Kevin was less than enthused (and the biting flies had descended upon him when we were packing up the tent). I knew he would have no choice but to do the loop if we made it far enough, so that was my plan all along.
Little Wildhorse Canyon was absolutely stunning. We’ve never really hiked in a slot canyon before and it was beautiful. I can definitely see why you would not want to be in one of those during a flash flood, however — that’s basically Kevin’s worst nightmare. On the 4WD road connecting the two canyons, we saw an abandoned cabin right by the entrance to Bell Canyon and of course I had to explore it. Kevin was not excited about walking even farther than we needed to, but he only complained a little bit.
The cabin was actually really cool and had a lot of old stuff still inside it, as well as a completely wrecked car that Kevin tried to drive off in to no avail. Definitely worth checking out if you’re doing this hike and you’re into old cabins like I am.
Bell Canyon — compared to Little Wildhorse Canyon — was not as cool and exciting, but definitely more kid friendly. It’s a wider canyon with less scrambling and tight spaces involved, so it would be a great out-and-back hike, especially with kids.
The 8-mile loop as a whole was a great hike. It’s uphill for the first half and downhill for the second half. The cabin adds probably a quarter of a mile (uphill) to the hike. If you’re really just wanting the slot canyon experience, I would recommend just doing Little Wildhorse Canyon and turning around once you get to the end of the canyon. There is some climbing involved but it is very basic and could still be done with kids or pets. I think the hike took us about four or five hours.
We found a bunch of information at the trailhead explaining other hikes and attractions in the area, so we will definitely be back to explore Temple Mountain and the surrounding areas. This was definitely our cheapest trip to date since camping was free and we didn’t have to do a ton of driving.
Oh, and we did stop at a really great restaurant in Green River on Friday night called Ray’s Tavern and they had delicious, affordable burgers. If you’re looking for a quick option besides fast food, this was a really great find.
We are excited for our next adventure this weekend! We’ll be going to Canyonlands – The Needles!