End of March - Goblin Valley area with kids

Joined
Mar 18, 2014
Messages
95
Hi all -

Since you guys are the experts on Utah I will leave some ideas up to you. I'm in the planning stages of pulling together 5-7 days or so at the end of March in Utah somewhere with the wife and kids (4 and 6).

We've done the Moab thing and Arches as well. So we're not looking to repeat that. We also don't want to buy a park's pass just yet since my future calendar doesn't have that much opportunity to use it all that much. So I'm thinking of holding off on Capitol Reef until another year.

Here were my thoughts:
Day 1 - drive from Boulder, CO area out through Glenwood Canyon - hike Hanging Lake if no snow/ice, then continue on until around Fruita, CO or so to camp for night 1.

Day 2 - Drive out to somewhere near the San Rafael Swell to camp/explore.

Day 3 - Explore some kid-friendly canyons in the swell (Little Wild Horse, Wild Horse Window, Chute/Crack (kid firendly?), etc.)

Day 4 - Goblin Valley SP / Goblin's Lair / Carmel Canyon Loop

Day 5 - ???
Day 6 - ???

So it seems like since I listed a few canyons / hikes I've had on my radar for awhile that I may be able to just take it at a slow pace and extend each day into 2 days of hiking these canyons and this itinerary may fill up 5 or 6 days in just this one area, and we wouldn't then need to drive on any further to Hanksville and then on south or west.

If we did get bored of this area (I know, that is horrible to say), then I was thinking of the road out past Caineville that heads south up to the Waterpocket Fold (this is always a great area) or something south of Hanksville (but I'm thinking that the trailheads for interesting canyons are pretty far south).

Eventually we want to head back to Colorado and wrap up our week with some skiing out at Sunlight near Glenwood and have a hotel to clean up a bit and refresh.

So - any suggestions for kid-friendly hikes in the Swell or north of Hanksville area that you can think of that I may have overlooked? I'm curious about the Swell / Reef area north of i70 as well. I've not done much exploring up there. But it seems like you have to have a pretty burly vehicle to access most areas.

After all this - we may just look at the weather and abandon everything in this area because a storm is rolling in. I'm not sure what plan B would be....Southern Utah (Comb Ridge area) or southern New Mexico even.

Thanks for sharing any ideas you have.
 

MN dad

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
14
Mike

Since no else responded, I will jump in and confirm a few of your choices and give a few more options.

Goblin Valley is simply awesome for kids. It is totally a playground. You can explore for hours off trail. Really a great choice for families.

Little Wildhorse/Bell Canyon loop is another really good but very popular hike. It is usually a full day at a pretty slow pace for the loop. Avoid the weekend. Excellent hike but the Loop will most likely be too long for the little guys. An in-and- out at Wildhorse is a great choice for a family hike. If the kids have never been in a slot, they will enjoy it.

I have not hike Crack and Chute but hear they are great. Ding and Dang are also on my list. The good thing is you can turn around if it gets too difficult or the kids get too tired.

Other options in the area:
Natural Bridges NM is a good loop hike. About 9 miles or so but you don’t have to do the entire Loop to see the Bridges. That might be a good option on the way to Grand Gulch or Comb Ridge from the Swell. The three major bridge are down in a Canyon.

I have not visited Comb Ridge yet but the hikes are pretty short (2-4 miles each), rewarding and accessible as long as it has not rained. (An excellent resource is the website from Road Trip Ryan for this area. He gives maps with GPS coordinates and good hike descriptions.) Another good choice for families. You could spend a couple of days here easily. The kids would get a kick out rock art and ruins.

My family visited Grand Gulch last spring and there are lots of engaging attractions not too far off the road. South Fork of Mule Canyon is pretty short, easily accessible. Mule is home the House on Fire ruin which can be busy with families and phographers but you can explore up Canyon beyond and find other ruins. There are also some Tower ruins right across the road. Another GG area option right off highway 95 is Butter Wash Ruins and Target Ruins. (Again, Road Trip Ryan is a excellent resource.)

Farther north is Island in the Sky and Dead Horse State Park that has easy level rim hikes with great views but fewer archeological sites than CR or GG areas.

Its great that you are getting the little guys out exploring. My twins are now 16 and love the outdoors. We took them on quite a few adventures over the years and the enthusiasm rubbed off.

Best of luck.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2014
Messages
95
Thanks so much for responding and for your suggestions. Keep em coming!


Mike

Since no else responded, I will jump in and confirm a few of your choices and give a few more options.

Goblin Valley is simply awesome for kids. It is totally a playground. You can explore for hours off trail. Really a great choice for families.

Little Wildhorse/Bell Canyon loop is another really good but very popular hike. It is usually a full day at a pretty slow pace for the loop. Avoid the weekend. Excellent hike but the Loop will most likely be too long for the little guys. An in-and- out at Wildhorse is a great choice for a family hike. If the kids have never been in a slot, they will enjoy it.

I have not hike Crack and Chute but hear they are great. Ding and Dang are also on my list. The good thing is you can turn around if it gets too difficult or the kids get too tired.

Other options in the area:
Natural Bridges NM is a good loop hike. About 9 miles or so but you don’t have to do the entire Loop to see the Bridges. That might be a good option on the way to Grand Gulch or Comb Ridge from the Swell. The three major bridge are down in a Canyon.

I have not visited Comb Ridge yet but the hikes are pretty short (2-4 miles each), rewarding and accessible as long as it has not rained. (An excellent resource is the website from Road Trip Ryan for this area. He gives maps with GPS coordinates and good hike descriptions.) Another good choice for families. You could spend a couple of days here easily. The kids would get a kick out rock art and ruins.

My family visited Grand Gulch last spring and there are lots of engaging attractions not too far off the road. South Fork of Mule Canyon is pretty short, easily accessible. Mule is home the House on Fire ruin which can be busy with families and phographers but you can explore up Canyon beyond and find other ruins. There are also some Tower ruins right across the road. Another GG area option right off highway 95 is Butter Wash Ruins and Target Ruins. (Again, Road Trip Ryan is a excellent resource.)

Farther north is Island in the Sky and Dead Horse State Park that has easy level rim hikes with great views but fewer archeological sites than CR or GG areas.

Its great that you are getting the little guys out exploring. My twins are now 16 and love the outdoors. We took them on quite a few adventures over the years and the enthusiasm rubbed off.

Best of luck.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
.
Joined
May 31, 2015
Messages
2,467
I didn't see this originally!

And if you didn't know, the only place you have to pay to go in Capitol Reef is the scenic drive road. The main highway, 24, connecting Torrey and Caineville is free the whole way, as are Cathedral Valley and the Notom Road. So there's a lot you can see without buying a pass.

You could also drive the Burr Trail while you're out there. Plenty of hiking and camping along there.
 

JulieKT

Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2014
Messages
145
You can easily spend all day exploring Goblin Valley with kids, it's such a great playground of adventure. LWH is super awesome, though likely to be super crowded due to spring break. But it's still worth a visit, especially since it's right next door to Goblin. People often camp farther down the road by the trailhead for Ding & Dang, or in a multitude of spots accessible down the many two tracks that sprout right off the main road. Ding and Dang are probably not hikes you want to do with kids that young, at least not the whole loop, in part due to a downclimb section of Dang that can prove challenging. Crack is beautiful and fun as well.

And you might as well visit Capitol Reef since you'll be in the general area. As said above, the only fee is to go down the Scenic Drive. Currently it's $15/vehicle or $7 if you're on foot or on bikes. But there is plenty else to see in the Park that does not require going to the Scenic Drive, and the rest of it is free to explore. Very kid friendly. Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash (from Hwy 24), Fremont River trail, Chimney Rock loop, Sunset Point, Goosenecks, would all be great hikes to check out. There's also the Nature Center which is geared toward kids, and the Gifford House with its pies and ice cream and lots of other stuff. You can picnic right across the street from that in a spot by the river that has a large grassy space with several picnic tables scattered around.

The Notom Road, the one that heads south down along through the Waterpocket Fold, can also make for a loop if you go up the Burr Trail and back down Hwy 12 into Torrey. Could explore Surprise Canyon, Red Canyon, or Headquarters Canyon along Notom. They're all relatively short, though doing all of them in one day probably would be too much. Just past the top of the Burr Trail you can go into Upper Muley Twist. Parking just off the road depending what you're driving and just walking up the canyon a ways is easy and very pretty. You can drive all the way to the actual trailhead, but depending on conditions it might be too much for your vehicle.

You can also head north up the Caineville Wash road into Cathedral Valley, but check road conditions first. Can be great or can be awful. Plenty of spots to get out and hike, see the temples, do the designated trails. Can camp out there too, there's a park campsite, or almost anywhere off the road outside the park boundaries. Do not need to pay to go in there.
 

regehr

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
1,448
As everyone says, this is a superb area to visit with kids. Will be plenty of people there. Crack is lot of fun and LWH is a complete classic. While in the area, consider driving down past Hanksville and visit LIttle Egypt, walk up Leprechaun as far as you're comfortable, check out the amazing views from Burr Point. All of these are shortish drives past Hanksville. You could do them all in a day.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2014
Messages
95
can anyone make a suggestion?

Should I buy a Nat. Geo. San Rafael Swell map or buy a used copy of Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the San Rafael Swell? (3rd Edition)

They are about the same price.
can anyone make a suggestion?

Should I buy a Nat. Geo. San Rafael Swell map or buy a used copy of Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the San Rafael Swell? (3rd Edition)

They are about the same price.
 

regehr

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
1,448
can anyone make a suggestion?

Should I buy a Nat. Geo. San Rafael Swell map or buy a used copy of Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the San Rafael Swell? (3rd Edition)

They are about the same price.
can anyone make a suggestion?

Should I buy a Nat. Geo. San Rafael Swell map or buy a used copy of Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the San Rafael Swell? (3rd Edition)

They are about the same price.

get both, and don't trust Kelsey's route descriptions.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2014
Messages
95
get both, and don't trust Kelsey's route descriptions.


ordered the Kelsey book and we'll see how it goes. I've used his non-technical guide and found his time spent on hikes to be ridiculous. I like his hand drawn maps though.
 

Nurrgle

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds
Joined
Apr 11, 2012
Messages
227
I usually drive through Fruitia when I head to Utah from Boulder, camping near Sego Canyon. Better camping and a decent panel is right there as well. I think the area you are thinking about going to would be swell for kids, it will be gnarly crowded but us Colorado folks are used to that lol.

I have found most of the roads North of I-70 to be pretty good, Black Dragon is pretty nasty but the road up to the Wedge from I-70 is really nice do to all the mine trucks, decent camping as well.

I use the Nat Geo map these days. Kelsey's book is both inaccurate and frustrating as hell to read.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
287
I did a very similar camping trip with my family last Fall, but only for 3 days. The kids had a blast in Goblin Valley, I had a blast doing a quick early-morning (started in the dark) hike of LWH, and we all had fun doing Hanging Lake on the way back to Denver. LWH had a fair amount of water (past my waist, and I'm over 6 ft tall), but I assume it's more dry now? You can call the Goblin Valley ranger station with questions about current conditions for LWH, although I thought they were overly conservative (at that time, they told me I would be swimming through it). Unless your kids have amazing stamina, I would just pick one of the canyons and do that for day 3 (for example, go up LWH on a weekday; you can turn back at any time, or complete the LWH-Bell loop). Right near by Goblin Valley is some cool rock art too: https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/san-rafael-swell/temple-mountain-panels. Oh, and if you haven't been to Hanging Lake before, I highly recommend you do that sometime too (although it's likely not a good time of year with the little kids).
 
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