|Goblin Valley and San Rafael Swell - Part 8 of 11 of
2010 Tour of fantastic Southwest USA
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We drove west on Wild Horse Road for several miles to enjoy the views of San Rafael Reef. Several Internet
websites describe Wild Horse Road as unpaved dirt road that requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle with high
clearance. But on June 3, 2010 when we were here, it looked that this old dirt road was just paved recently
making it much easier for visitors to explore San Rafael Reef.
More views of San Rafael Reef which is a long sawtooth-like, sandstone ridge that rises abruptly from the
floor of the San Rafael Desert. It is at the southeast boundary of San Rafael Swell.
San Rafael Swell is home to Utah's largest herd of desert bighorn sheep. We saw several antelopes in this
area on June 3, 2010.
This is the Wild Horse Wash along Wild Horse Road and is the parking lot and the Trailhead for hikers to
explore Little Wild Horse Canyon. The entire hiking loop/route is several miles and some scrambling in the slot
canyon are necessary, but the views in the slot canyon are gorgeous as shown on the websites listed above.
This parking lot is only about 5 miles west from the Visitor Center of Goblin Valley State Park.
A fantastic view from Black Dragon Canyon Overlook along Interstate Highway I-70 in Utah.
The scenic Interstate Highway 70 cuts East to West across the center of the San Rafael Swell in Utah. Visitors
driving through this 72-mile stretch of I-70 are having a "Swell" time because of the gorgeous landscapes and
views of San Rafael Swell. This section of I-70 has several pull-out parking lots and overlooks for visitors to
enjoy the fantastic views. These vista points have evocative names of Eagle Canyon rest stop, Wedge
Overlook, Black Dragon, Ghost Rock, Devil's Canyon, Spotted Wolf, etc. For example, Devils Canyon (mile
116) and Eagle Canyon -- on the west-bound side, provide glimpses into the deep canyons. This 72-mile scenic
stretch of I-70 is between the town of Green River (Milepost 160) on the east side and Fremont Junction (at
SR-10, Milepost 86) on the west side in Utah. Some visitors drove through this scenic section several times to
enjoy its splendor thoroughly. The swell goes on for miles, and there's a wonderland of eroded canyons inside.
We drove through this section of I-70 in our previous trip in 2003 and took these three pictures.
Some get up to the top of the cliffs at the edges to enjoy the thrill and fantastic views of the area.
Zoom in for a closer view of some features on the San Rafael Reef.
Most scenic highways are 2-lane highway winding through some rugged beautiful terrains. But this 72-mile
stretch of I-70 is a very special scenic 4-lane super-highway. A spectacular view of I-70 winding through San
Rafael Reef can be seen at the following website:
Closer view of some of the goblins. This valley is full of thousands of mushroom-shaped pinnacles or hoodoos
a few feet high. Through millions of years of erosion, wind, water and ice have carved fantastic and unique
goblin-like sculptures out of rock, creating an outdoor playground that inspires your imagination. You can get
up close with all the goblins and explore these weird formations. They look like anything you can imagine. The
valley offers unlimited walking, exploring, or hiking opportunities to enjoy the desert beauty and fascinating
comical goblin forms that you find here. It is the best natural playground for kids.
The vast landscape of sandstone goblins may have visitors wondering if they're on Mars or in Utah. The
movie, Galaxy Quest, was filmed at Goblin Valley State Park because of its unearthly scenery. Many
intricately eroded creatures greet visitors to Goblin Valley.
We toured Goblin Valley State Park in the afternoon of June 3, 2010 after touring Burr Trail in the morning.
This is the backside of the Visitor Center and the fee station at the entrance. We are leaving the Goblin
Valley State Park to explore nearby areas. The background is the San Rafael Reef that looks interesting to
Another view of the newly paved Wild Horse Road near the San Rafael Reef.
San Rafael Swell is a large, uplifted, geologically fascinating area here in central Utah. It is roughly 40 miles
in east-west direction and 75 miles in north-south direction. Eons ago, tremendous geologic upheavals formed
a giant dome of rock - a "swell" in the earth's surface here. The harsh elements beat against this dome and
eroded it into a wild, broken array of multi-colored sandstone. Wind and water carved this jumble of rock into
incredible formations as buttes, canyons, pinnacles and mesas emerged, making the Swell one of the most
ruggedly beautiful pockets of terrain in the world. That was how this area came to be known as the San
Rafael Swell. The elevation in San Rafael Swell ranges from 4,000 to 7,400 feet. It is a high desert country
with streams and beautiful slot canyons that open up to panoramic vistas. Various pools, arches, and
slickrock gardens add to the area's interesting visual character. There is an area known as Utah's Little
The southeastern edge, with its jagged sandstone and deep canyons, is called the San Rafael Reef.
We thank our friends, Chih Kwan and Shan Cheng Chen, for their valuable information and experience in
touring Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.
Location and Directions:
Goblin Valley State Park is located between Hanksville and Interstate Highway I-70 along Highway 24 in
Utah, USA. 24 miles south of I-70 on Highway 24 (or 20 miles north of the town of Hanksville on Highway 24) is
the junction of Highway 24 and Temple Mountain Road. This junction is between Mileposts 136 and 137 on
Highway 24. At this junction, turn west into Temple Mountain Road and go west for about 5 miles. Then Turn
Left (South) into Goblin Valley Road and go south for about 12 miles to reach the Visitor Center and Fee
Station of Goblin Valley State Park. Highway 24, the 5-mile section of Temple Mountain Road and Goblin
Valley Road to reach Goblin Valley State Park are all paved. Maps of local area of Goblin Valley State Park,
San Rafael Swell, San Rafael Reef and several slot canyons are available at the following websites:
The contact information for Goblin Valley State Park is:
Goblin Valley State Park
P.O. Box 637
Green River, UT 84525-0637
Little Wild Horse Canyon: This beautiful slot canyon cuts through San Rafael Reef and is about 5
miles west of Goblin Valley State Park. The trail head and the parking lot for Little Wild Horse Canyon
is along the newly paved Wild Horse Road which branches off Goblin Valley Road near the Visitor
Center and the nearby camp site as shown on the maps listed above. Therefore, from Goblin Valley
Road, turn west into the newly paved Wild Horse Road and go west for 5 miles to reach the trail head
and the parking lot on the right side. A more detailed topographic map of Little Wild Horse Canyon is
Several other beautiful slot canyons that cut through San Rafael Reef are also shown on the maps
listed above. Seasoned hikers and backpackers in great physical shape can spend several days to
enjoy hiking through these beautiful slot canyons. This may be a reason that there is very nice camp
site and RV site near Goblin Valley State Park.
A list of and information on many canyons in San Rafael Swell is available at the following website:
On two occasions, a visitor spotted mountain lions high up on the cliffs watching the traffic flow past them.
Photo Gallery of spectacular San Rafael Swell is at:
Zoom in for a closer view of the Temple Mountain in San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park. After
turning from Highway 24 into Temple Mountain Road and driving west on Temple Mountain Road, one can see
the Temple Mountain in San Rafael Swell ahead at a distance.
P.S. During the planning stage in April and May, 2010 for this 2010 Tour, I knew about Goblin Valley State
Park based on the information and photos from my friends, Chih Kwan and Shan Cheng Chen. But I did not
know anything about San Rafael Reef, San Rafael Swell and Little Wild Horse Canyon. On June 3, 2010 when
we were touring Goblin Valley, I was quite impressed by the distance views of San Rafael Reef. I used my
super-zoom camera to zoom in and was very impressed by some rugged features on San Rafael Reef. They
gave me a hunch that there must be something interesting in San Rafael Reef. After coming home from the
2010 Trip, I made Internet Google search and YouTube search for information, photos and videos on San
Rafael Reef and San Rafael Swell. I also zoomed in on the Google Map with Satellite view plus its associated
ground level photos (on Google Map) to examine the details of the area of Goblin Valley State Park, Wild
Horse Road, San Rafael Reef and Wild Horse Wash.
Wow! I was stunned by the beauty of the photos (on Internet) from Little Wild Horse Canyon and other
canyons in San Rafael Reef and several fantastic vistas in San Rafael Swell. This also reminds me of my
7-year old memory from my previous trip to Utah in 2003. After we finished touring several national parks in
Utah in 2003 and was driving from Moab through I-70 to go back to Las Vegas, I did enjoy very much the
gorgeous views along that 72-mile stretch of scenic I-70 and took several pictures. Now all these pieces of
Jig-Saw puzzles come together, fit together nicely and make a lot of sense to me.
It was funny that on June 3, 2010 after touring Goblin Valley, we did that extra 5-mile drive west on the newly
paved Wild Horse Road along San Rafael Reef. We did arrive at the Wild Horse Wash which is the parking lot
and the trail head for hiking up into Little Wild Horse Canyon. But there was no sign and no indication of any
sort in that parking lot. So, we did not know anything and missed that golden opportunity to hike up into the
beautiful Little Wild Horse Canyon even though it was an ideal sunny day for touring slot canyons (i.e., no risk
of flash flood for touring slot canyon on that sunny day).
No wonder that the State of Utah has spent substantial amount of money and effort to pave the Goblin Valley
Road and the Wild Horse Road recently to make it easier for future visitors to access and to enjoy the beauty
of San Rafael Reef and its slot canyons. But they probably did not have enough time yet to put some sign
posts with key information there to guide the visitors.
Our 10-Day 2010 Tour Route of Southwest USA is a large loop starting and ending in Las Vegas in Nevada,
USA. The sequence of fantastic Point-Of-Interest (POIs) on this large loop is:
Las Vegas in Nevada --------> Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park in Utah ---------> Cedar Break National
Monument in Utah --------> Red Canyon State Park in Utah --------> Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
--------> Scenic Byway 12 through beautiful Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in Utah --------> Scenic
Burr Trail and southern Part of Capital Reef National Park in Utah --------> Goblin Valley State Park in Utah
--------> Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah --------> Canyonland National Park in Utah ---------> Arches
National Park in Utah --------> Goosenecks State Park in Utah --------> Monument Valley in Arizona -------->
Antelope Canyons in Arizona --------> Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge over Colorado River in Arizona -------->
Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River in Arizona ---------> Navajo Bridge over Colorado River in Arizona
Scenic Highway 89-ALT from east to west along beautiful Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona
--------> Grand Canyon - North Rim in Arizona --------> Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada --------->
Hemenway Park in Boulder City in Nevada ---------> Las Vegas in Nevada.
Although I-70 is the only paved road that cuts through San Rafael Swell, there is an extensive network of
2,000 miles of dirt roads and trails, built by prospectors and miners in the 1950s, to entice adventurous
This is one of those impressive Utah geological features that reminds you that the Earth went through some
crazy changes, a long time ago
Part 9 of 11 entitled "Arches National Park - Part 9 of 11 of 2010 Tour of fantastic Southwest USA" is on my
web page at:
How I use information age technologies to enhance my enjoyment greatly of sightseeing large driving tour loop
of thousands of miles and of one to two weeks in duration covering many Points of Interest is described on
my web page at: