View on the edge of the mesa, looking northeast from the Dark Side of the Moon. The red columns are the same rock as the goblins -- the Entrada Formation. Photos and trail review by Bruce on July 11, 2015. Updated May 2018.
Wild Horse Trail System
Goblin Valley State Park
Seven miles of singletrack mountain bike trail opened for riding in June 2015 at Goblin Valley
State Park. The Wild Horse trail system sits on a small mesa west of (and above) the campground,
with Wild Horse Butte looming above the trails to the north. No, you won't be riding among
the hoodoos for which Goblin Valley is famous, which are better enjoyed at a strolling pace.
The trails form interconnected loops, so you can ride as much or as little as you want. To
hit every single piece of trail, your minimum ride would be 8.7 miles with 800 vertical feet
of climbing. Each trail fork has a trail map on a post. If you've been paying any attention
at all, you shouldn't get lost.
We're approaching the Henry Mountains overlook on the Buffalo Head trail. Those are the Henrys in the distance, looking southwest. Note the red rocks along the trail -- agate and jasper.
Looking back to the northeast, the Wild Horse Butte is a landmark visible from almost all of the trail system. The gray slopes are the Curtis Formation.
While there are long stretches of flat smooth easy trail, there's also a lot dipping through
washes. If you're taking true beginners or young children, expect that they'll likely dismount
to hike through these spots. Overall, I'm rating the trail system as requiring early-intermediate
skills. The hardest riding is on the north/west end of Lizard Foot, which I'd rate upper-intermediate.
Of the five loops in the system, only one (Buffalo Head) offers two-way traffic. The rest have
a designated direction. That's because the one-way trails have sections of narrow trail on
steep side-slope where passing would be difficult.
The one-way trails, unfortunately, will
complicate your riding plan a little bit. But there are "you are here" trail maps at most intersections,
with one-way "do not enter" signs on the exits from the one-ways. You'll figure it out.
Rolling out to the system on Lizard Foot.
At the trail fork between Landslide and Desert View, looking west toward the cliffs of Summerville Formation mudstone. At this spot, you can fork left for Landslide, or right to go counterclockwise on Desert View. But you shouldn't go straight west, as Desert View is one-way.
The swoops, dips, and turns will make Wild Horse a joy to ride. High-speed desert cruising
mixed with dips and turns. With great views all around.
The trails are hard packed, but there will be occasional spots of softer clay. Expect a bit
of loose dirt here and there. Clay trails will rut when ridden wet. And the goop will stick
to your bike like glue. Don't ride after rainstorms!
In many areas, the trailside is paved with agate and jasper. There will be geodes as well as chips and slabs.
Here's a slab, about 8 inches long, that's studded with pearls of red rock. Fun stuff. Leave it where you found it.
The first loop option is Buffalo Head, which you'll encounter after you pedal Lizard Foot 0.4
miles from the parking area. (Lizard Foot becomes a "do not enter" one-way trail at this point,
so you must fork onto Buffalo Head.
At the next trail fork you can either fork right to head for the other three loops, or fork
left for the full Buffalo Head loop. At the south end is a viewpoint on gray ledges of the
Curtis Formation where you can see the Henry Mountains to the southwest.
Turning around at the end of the Henry Mountains viewpoint on the Buffalo Head trail.
Southbound on the Landslide trail.
As the Buffalo Head trail ends on the Landslide trail, you must keep right to head back to
the center of the trail complex. Once you're there, you can take the one-way Landslide loop
counterclockwise. (You'll repeat the short common section you rode when completing the Buffalo
Head loop.) Landslide gets into the red dirt at the bottom of the Summerville Formation as
it loops around a knoll and returns to the center of the riding area.
As you return to the central area, your next option is the Desert View trail. This is your
one-way route to Lizard Foot or to Dark Side of the Moon on the northwest corner. For our narrative
here, we'll assume you'll first ride the Desert View and Dark Side of the moon combo, then
hit Lizard Foot on your way out.
Desert View hits the eastern and northern sides of the mesa, skirting the southern edge of
Wild Horse Butte. The first viewpoint you'll hit is the Desert View overlook. Here you're looking
into the campground and picnic areas, with the pavilion and parking for the hoodoos on the
ridgeline to the southwest.
The lie of the land from the Desert View overlook.
At the base of Wild Horse Butte, there are views above as well as views below from the overlook.
Next is the Wild Horse Butte overlook, where you can again admire the sandstone escarpments
of the San Rafael, occupying the skyline to the north as far as the eye can see. Wild Horse
Butte looms above you to the west of the viewpoint. This is the Summerville Formation, with
a caprock of (I presume) Salt Wash sandstone.
Desert View heads west to a trail fork, where a left turn to stay on Desert View takes you
back to the center of the riding area. A right turn continues along the edge of the cliffs
on Dark Side of the Moon.
The Dark Side of the Moon trail follows the cliff line west for some fabulous views. At the
northwestern corner of the mesa is the San Rafael viewpoint. Take a minute to admire the sharktooth
southern edge of the San Rafael Swell. Tiptoe toward the edge and look at the spires in the
cliffs of Entrada Formation below you.
View east as Dark Side of the Moon runs near the cliffs. Wild Horse Butte is the on the right.
Making the final turn away from the cliffs on Dark Side of the Moon.
As you complete Dark Side of the Moon riding counterclockwise, you'll speed back to the center
of the trail system. This is a high-speed whooping ride slightly downhill. To your right are
banded Summerville Formation cliffs.
As Dark Side of the Moon joins Desert View, you'll continue back to the central 4-way.
Now you're ready for the final loop, Lizard Foot.
Head north on Desert View again, but this time fork hard right onto Lizard Foot. The next mile
is some of the most fun riding, with lots of turns and dips, mostly high-speed and hard-packed.
Rockin' along on Lizard Foot. Back in the gray stuff, with a coating of red jasper.
View into the approach to Molly's Castle from the overlook.
On Lizard Foot, you'll make a turn at the cliff-top viewpoint above Molly's Castle. Awesome
gawking, but be careful here.
Lizard Foot will take you back to parking. Or, you can fork off onto Buffalo Head to do it
again. Or to hit the pieces you missed on your first go-round.
Very nicely designed trail system. The riding and terrain here is unique. You won't find another
trail system like this in Utah. And Goblin Valley is one of those places you absolutely must
visit sooner or later. The bike trails give you another reason to go there, plus an excuse
to stay longer.
More Lizard Foot as we head back.
And while you're there...
Looking southeast from the Goblin parking area. We're probably on the same spot where I spent a rainy childhood night in a leaky tent, back before there were paved roads or a state park.
You can't go to Goblin Valley without visiting the goblins. Neither could I.
The goblins are at the end of the paved road (left at the T as you were entering, right as
you hit pavement from the bike parking area). There's a large shaded picnic pavilion, plenty
of parking, and a bathroom.
The hikes down into the valley start here. Descend on any of the trails, then just wander around.
The goblins change with every new angle. It's been one of my favorite places since childhood.
The goblins are made of Entrada sandstone and mudstone. The white cliffs east of the valley are Curtis Formation, but a bit harder than what we were riding on a little to the west.
You can go where you want, except for climbing on the hoodoos themselves. Imagine a 1000-pound
rock on your splattered chest, with the State Parks Department asking your next of kin to pay
the substantial fine. Don't climb on the goblins.
Note! Four of the five trails are now
one-way! So this ride description is now "riding against the grain." See the map.
Quick ride, outer loop track ("just
0.0 Dirt road from parking
N38 34.179 W110 42.705
0.05 Left as DT splits
0.1 L onto ST (Lizard Foot)
N38 34.188 W110 42.786
0.4 L on Buffalo Head
N38 34.192 W110 42.993
0.6 L (still Buffalo Head)
N38 34.155 W110 43.138
1.4 Henry Mountain overlook
1.8 L on Landslide
N38 33.957 W110 43.166
3.0 L on Desert View
N38 34.230 W110 43.302
3.2 L on Dark Side of the Moon
N38 34.240 W110 43.457
3.7 San Rafael Swell overlook
4.1 L on Desert View
N38 34.482 W110 43.393
4.6 Wild Horse Butte overlook
4.8 Desert View overlook
5.1 L on Lizard Foot
N38 34.329 W110 43.238
5.7 Molly's Castle overlook
6.0 L to stay on Lizard Foot
N38 34.192 W110 42.992
6.4 Back at parking
Wild Horse System map
On Interstate 70 just west of Green River, drive 8 miles west from the
US-6 junction. Turn south on Highway 24 and go 24 miles. Turn right on
Temple Mountain Road. Drive 5 miles west, then turn left on Goblin Valley
Road and drive 7 miles to Goblin Valley State Park. Pay at the entry
station (2018 fee $15 per car).
At the T in the paved road, go straight across to the narrow dirt road.
Climb the hill and drive 0.2 miles then turn right into the parking area.
Start the ride by pedaling back to the road and continuing west. At the
fork in the road, go either direction. The singletrack entry is found at
the far west end of the loop in the road.
Bathrooms: Campground, Goblin overlook, visitor's
Water: Campground, visitor's center
Camping: Goblin Valley Campground (additional fee)