We are taking a short break from the Mighty 5 Utah national parks to discover less well-known but nevertheless splendid locations. After a short visit to Capitol Reef National Park my next goal was Moab, UT. I drove east along the Utah State Route 24, also known as the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway, with a stop-over for sunset photos at Goblin Valley State Park.
Utah State Route 24—or SR-24 for short—is scenic indeed. Even after you have left the Capitol Reef area, the highway leads through a picturesque—if not a bit remote—part of Utah.
Utah State Route 24
The only town on the highway before it reaches Interstate I-70 is Hanksville, UT. Miles and miles of driving being surrounded by endless pastures, desert, red rock, and remote mountain ranges. An occasional car passing by.
Utah State Route 24
I came across this small group of curious cows. As I pulled over, they were standing in a neat row, staring at the stranger.
To get to Goblin Valley National Park I had to take a left and drive quite a few miles west, and then south. The view back towards the La Sal Mountains showed a bit of the Green River canyon—which I would be marveling later from up close in the Canyonlands National Park.
Looking towards La Sal Mountains
Goblin Valley State Park offers direct access to the Goblin Valley, which feature thousands of miniature hoodoos. They are small, mushroom shaped, and indeed evoke images of mischievous creatures from medieval manuscripts—goblins.
Panorama of the Goblin Valley
There are actually three Valleys you can freely roam. It is quite an experience, especially as you get away from kids running around hoodoos closer to the observation point. I did not have the time to do a proper hike (like the Goblin’s Liar), but thoroughly enjoyed roaming the valleys. When the sun was setting, the rock became intense in color, and the whole scenery started reminding sci-fi movies from the Red Planet.
Not from this world
I was planning to capture the sunset over the Goblin Valley from the observation point parking lot, which offers a wide panoramic view. I was a bit late; the panorama above only shows highest hills behind the Valley being lit up by the sun.
I ran to the other side of the observation point to capture the last rays of sun on the rock formation called Molly’s Castle.
Molly's Castle at Dusk
My experience tells me to wait on location until it gets really dark (and then wait more if you are shooting stars of course!). I did that in the Goblin Valley, and was not disappointed. The famous Three Sisters rock formation with the background of pastel evening sky is one of my favorite captures from that trip.
I waited some more, looking for interesting views. Henry Mountains to the south with the waning light of dusk was my parting capture of the day.
Henry Mountains at Dusk
I got into the car to drive further east to Moab, UT. Next up in the series, my attempt at one of the most iconic photography views—Mesa Arch at sunrise.
Saved for the Next Time
Factory Butte is an impressive rock formation that you can get close to. Also, spending a night or two in Hanksville, UT to be able to photograph it in the morning / evening. Here is a capture from the highway.
Links and Resources
For planning the trip between Capitol Reef and Moab, I mostly used these resources:
- Photographing the Southwest Vol.1: Southern Utah, 3rd Edition is an indispensable resource, giving you a good idea of what you can do, and lots of details focused on photographer’s needs
- the official Goblin Valley State Park website is always a great resource to check out
Please make sure to pay the $15 entry fee, even if the entry station is not manned. These marvels of nature need a lot of maintenance to keep them as intact as possible, and at the same time allow many people to wonder them.