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Utah's Goblin Valley

Come to this state park in canyon country to see amazing rock formations that look like weird birds, magic mushrooms, and goofy gremlins.

A toadstool? A gnome? What do you see in Utah's Goblin Valley?
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A toadstool? A gnome? What do you see in Utah's Goblin Valley?

All of Utah’s stark canyon country inspires awe, but no place fires up the imagination quite like Goblin Valley State Park, a rockbound fantasyland 90 minutes northwest of Moab. Once called Mushroom Valley for its toadstool-shaped pillars of sandstone, the site opened in 1964 as a 3,654-acre geological reserve filled with odd forms that range from fungal to ghostlike.

A short path descends from the parking lot to the valley, where visitors are free to roam among formations resembling big gremlins, chess pawns, or—to the hungry—cocoa-dusted marshmallows. “People say they see birds, ducks, dogs, noses,” says ranger’s aide Jordan Perez of the structures carved by ages of wind, water, and ice.

The Curtis Bench Trail affords the best views of the nearby Henry Mountains and surrounding buttes, while the Carmel Canyon Loop undulates from the valley floor to Molly’s Castle, a jagged temple of stratified rock. The park also boasts its share of skylit caves and gives access to Bell Canyon, a famed slot canyon in the huge rock dome nearby called the San Rafael Swell.

Photography by Donar Reiskoffer/Wikipedia

This article was first published in March 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.