Mountain Biking in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
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Goblin Valley is a small state park located in southern Utah not far from the big-name National Parks of Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. It’s also just an hour and a half drive to the mountain bike mecca of Moab. Goblin Valley is most well-known for its mushroom-shaped hoodoos (aka goblins) that you can roam freely among and in addition to hiking, there are also 7+ miles of super unique Goblin Valley mountain biking singletrack (although sadly not among the hoodoos!)
Goblin Valley mountain biking is characterized by amazing views out over the San Rafael Swell, trailside geodes of agate and jasper, towering rock buttes, and five different loops – collectively called the Wild Horse Trail System – that are suitable for both novice and experienced riders.
So if you’re looking for something a bit different and unique, consider adding Goblin Valley to your bike-it list. It may not be the ‘best’ or most engaging mountain biking in the state, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re passing through the area.
What to know before riding Goblin Valley
DO NOT ride the trails when they’re wet
The mountain bike trails at Goblin Valley State Park are built on a bed of bentonite clay. This means that when it rains, the trails turn into thick glue and are unpassable. If you try to ride them when they’re wet, you not only cause a lot of damage to the trails, but your tires and shoes will become laden with sticky mud. Do everyone a favor and please don’t ride them when they’re wet. A good rule of thumb for riding bentonite clay trails is that if your tire treads leave a mark on the ground, it’s too wet to ride.
To avoid arriving in Goblin Valley to a wet network of trails that you can’t ride, always check the weather at least a week before starting your trip to see whether the Park has gotten – or will get – rain.
Leave the geodes where they belong
Much of the Goblin Valley mountain bike trails are lined with beautiful agate and jasper geodes. Please admire them and then leave them where they belong – on the side of the trail. If everyone took ‘just one’ souvenir, there won’t be any left for future visitors. (It’s also illegal to collect anything from State or National Parks).
Goblin Valley is great for families
The Wild Horse Trail System is great for families and novice mountain bikers. There’s not a whole lot of elevation gain or loss and the loop system allows you to choose any length of ride from 2 miles to 7+ miles.
It can get really busy on weekends
Most people visit Goblin Valley State Park to experience the hoodoos in the Valley of the Goblins, but even so, the trails can get really busy on weekends and holidays so plan accordingly, especially if you plan to camp in the Park.
There is an entrance fee
There is a $20 entrance fee for accessing the park, including the mountain bike trails. If you want to camp, it’s $35 and reservations are highly recommended.
Best Time To Visit
The best times to visit Goblin Valley State Park are spring and fall. Summers get pretty hot (over 90°) and rain showers can be frequent (remember, you can’t ride these trails when they’re wet!).
Winters tend to be cold and also often wet with snow and rain. Always check the forecast before planning your trip.
Goblin Valley Mountain Biking: Wild Horse Trail System
What to expect
As I mentioned above, the mountain bike trails in Goblin Valley are built on bentonite clay, so do not ride them when they’re wet. When they’re dry, the singletrack rolls pretty fast and smoothly. There is virtually no tech or rocks on the trails, it’s almost all smooth, buff singletrack.
For climbing, there is a slight incline from south to north, but the total elevation gain is very manageable.
How to ride the trails
There are 5 loops that make up the Wild Horse Trail System in Goblin Valley, so it’s very easy to modify your ride however you want. I rode the outer perimeter of each loop, which was just over 6 miles and 600ft of climbing. If you want to do a shorter ride, I highly recommend choosing the upper loops of Dark Side Of The Moon and Desert View.
All of the trails are best-ridden clockwise and at each intersection, there are maps with your location marked to make navigation easy (I always recommend having the TrailForks app downloaded to your phone).
Full Goblin Valley Loop
Route directions: Goblin Valley Trailhead > Lizard Foot > Buffalo Head > Landslide > Dark Side of the Moon > Desert View > Lizard Foot
The full Goblin Valley mountain biking tour takes you around the perimeter of each of the 5 loops. The lower half offer views out over the desert landscape with the Henry Mountains in the distance while the upper loops take you to the edge of the San Rafael Swell. To navigate this loop, just keep taking lefts at every intersection (there are maps at each junction to direct you as well).
Half Goblin Valley Loop
Route directions: Goblin Valley Trailhead > Lizard Foot > Buffalo Head > Dark Side of the Moon > Desert View > Lizard Foot
If you want to do a shorter ride, this half loop is – in my opinion – the best of Goblin Valley mountain biking. Dark Side Of The Moon (the upper left loop) takes you out to the San Rafael Swell lookout, which is stunning (there is a bit of exposure) and Desert View (the upper right loop) has a number of scenic vistas as well including a great lookout over the campground.
Goblin Valley camping
There is a small campground within Goblin Valley State Park with 24 sites that can be reserved ahead of time. There are also 2 yurts if you prefer glamping.
If you’re looking for dispersed camping, there’s a ton of first-come, first-serve sites outside of the Park off of Goblin Valley Rd. that look out over a mountain of slickrock and have easy access to the Wild Horse Window Trailhead (see below).
What else is there to do in Goblin Valley?
Goblin Valley isn’t really a destination you’d go to just to mountain bike (mountain biking is a great addition to the Park), so I recommend spending some time there exploring these other activities as well:
Disc golf: There’s an 18 hole disc golf course that is free to play for all visitors. Check-in at the Visitor’s Center for a map and disc rentals if you don’t have your own.
Hiking: Definitely spend some time walking around the hoodoos in the Valley of the Goblins. It’s otherworldly! There are also a few short hikes spread throughout the Park. We hiked to Goblin’s Lair, which was 3-miles roundtrip and features a huge cave that was actually once a slot canyon before a rockfall closed it off.
Wild Horse Window: Wild Horse Window is just outside of Goblin Valley State Park, but it is suuuper cool. There are multiple trailheads that lead up the slickrock to this cave and it’s not well marked at all. But if you keep aiming for the cave and following the cairns you’ll get there.
Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph: There’s a great display of pictographs just up the road from Goblin Valley State Park. They’re right off the side of the road and definitely worth checking out on your way out of the Park.
Have you visited Goblin Valley State Park? What did you think of the Goblin Valley mountain biking trail network? Leave a comment below!
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