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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A note for 2015:  While much of the trail is already firmly packed, there are long soft stretches which will tax even strong riders. The worst was a 0.4 mile stretch on the northwest side of the Landslide loop riding clockwise. Although it climbed only 100 vertical feet, the soft red dirt felt like grunting up Puke Hill. With the brakes rubbing. Into the wind. Towing a fat kid in a trailer.

When you see salt on the surface, you're heading into soft stuff. Much of the soil here fluffs up like a marshmallow when it's wet -- rather than compacting. As the water evaporates, it leaves a crust with powder below.

Looking back at my tire tracks on a brutally loose section of Landslide.

Once the trail packs down, the swoops, dips, and turns will make this trail a joy to ride. It will be high-speed desert cruising mixed with dips and turns. With great views all around.

At the trail fork between Landslide and Desert View, looking west toward the cliffs of Summerville Formation mudstone.

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 on Lizard Foot 0.4 miles from the parking area. Buffalo Head is fairly well-packed at this time, with a little rutted fluff on the side-slopes and at the entry and exit of wash-dips. The trail approaches gray ledges of the Curtis Formation (the layer just above the red goblin-forming Entrada). It turns back at a viewpoint where you can see the Henry Mountains to the southwest.

Back in the center of the trail system, ready to head out toward Dark Side of the Moon.

From the Buffalo Head loop, you can either return to the center of the trail complex, or head west (clockwise) onto the Landslide trail 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.

Looking northwest toward the rock slopes of the San Rafael Swell from Dark Side of the Moon. The white is Navajo Sandstone.

Proceeding clockwise, your next stop will be Dark Side of the Moon on the northwest corner. This trail parallels the banded Summerville Formation cliffs to the west. At the northwestern corner of the mesa, there's a viewpoint where you can 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.

As you complete Dark Side of the Moon riding clockwise, you can turn right to return to the center of the trail system, or stay left along the cliff edge as you join the Desert View trail.

Desert View skirts the southern edge of Wild Horse Butte as it heads to the far northeastern point of the riding complex. Here 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.

Looking across the desert on the Desert View trail.

At this point, Wild Horse Butte looms above you. This is the Summerville Formation, with a caprock of (I presume) Salt Wash sandstone.

At the base of Wild Horse Butte, there are views above as well as views below from the overlook.

The next overlook, also on Desert View, 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.

Riding Desert View clockwise, you'll come to the fork for Lizard Foot, near the center of the trail complex. 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.

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.

View into the approach to Molly's Castle from the overlook.

Bottom Line:
Very nicely designed trail system. Needs bike tires to pack it down, but it will become a most worthwhile ride. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Friendly goblins.

Quick ride, outer loop track ("just turn left"):
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
Getting there:
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 (2015 fee $10 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 center
Water:  Campground, visitor's center
Camping:  Goblin Valley Campground (additional fee)

Riding resources:
One-page, printable riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    GPX of individual trails, multi-track      Quick ride outer loop track 
Topo map for printing:    View map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to San Rafael area resources

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