Round Trip Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation: 4827 - 4974 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - Dogs
Time: 1 hr.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: Carmel Canyon
Fee: $7/vehicle - $16 campground
Attractions: unique geology, small slot canyon, gift shop
View Goblin Valley Carmel Canyon in a larger map
The Carmel Canyon trail is within Goblin Valley State Park which is located off of Utah Highway 24 between Green River and Hanksville. The turnoff to the park is 24 miles south of I-70 and 20 miles north of Hanksville. There are signs at the turnoff for Goblin Valley and each of the main crossroads along the route that make it very easy to find your way. It is about 12 miles from Highway 24 to Goblin Valley. The road is paved all of the way and so are the roads within the park. The campground fills up quickly so it is best to make reservations well in advance if you plan on camping. There are also a couple of camping areas around the Temple Mountain road as well as a few primitive spots along Temple Wash.
The Carmel Canyon trail begins near the northeast end of the Goblin Valley parking area. The trail descends eastward towards Molly's Castle then turns back to the west and follows Carmel Canyon back up to the Goblin Valley Road. The trail comes out at an unmarked point on the road just before it reaches the parking area. The hike out of the canyon requires a little bit of scrambling up a few minor sections of slickrock. These spots aren't too difficult but they do require the use of both hands and feet to negotiate. That said, kids and younger hikers are going to think those spots are the best part of the hike.
The trail begins by heading east along a ridge above the first valley of goblins providing a good vantage point for looking over the area from above.
A trail marker points out the spot where the trail begins descending into the valley.
Believe it or not there are some rock steps on the first steep spot to aid with the descent, or ascent if you are headed the other way, and to help control the erosion of the trail. The rocks are obscured by a thick layer of dust in this picture.
The trail continues down the valley towards Molly's Castle. People tend to wander about exploring all areas of Goblin Valley. If you see someone hiking off in another direction they are probably not on the main trail so be careful before you head off in their direction if your intent is to follow the designated route.
The drainage that the trail has been following up to this point comes together with another one that comes down the canyon on the left. There is a trail marker at this point that doesn't really provide any direction. If you continue down the wash you will come to the Molly's Castle Viewpoint. Going left at this junction will keep you on the Carmel Canyon Loop trail.
It is only a short distance to the viewpoint to get a closer look at Molly's Castle. The vast majority of people that hike the Carmel Canyon trail end up going to the viewpoint and then returning to the trailhead the way they came without ever making it around the loop.
Back at the spot where the 2 drains come together follow the one on the right to continue the loop. There will be some rock cairns marking the route. The rocks were painted with blue paint at one time that probably made them very conspicuous and would have made the trail much more obvious.
Follow the canyon to the left where it splits below the prominent formation with the 3 goblin like rocks. There should be some more cairns to indicate you are on the right path.
As the canyon winds further along it begins closing in and resembling a slot canyon hike. The camera makes these spots appear impassable but there is more room than it seems.
One particular spot is pinched down enough at the bottom that you need to walk along the sides with your footsteps a foot or two above the bottom. Right when it starts to get really fun the short little canyon comes to an end and the trail ascends an area of slickrock and comes out on the road.
The Carmel Canyon trail is a fun addition to a visit to Goblin Valley. The upper portion of the canyon gives you a little taste of what it is like to hike one of the slot canyons in the area. Small children, like toddlers, will need a lot of assistance on this hike but kids with a good set of legs will probably run circles around you. The only others that we saw hiking the slot portion of the canyon began at the road and hiked it in the reverse direction. They had one youngster that looked about 8 years old. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.