Being back on pavement and driving fast for the first time in several days, we blasted through the pre-dawn darkness, south along Highway 6 towards the truck-stop-town of Green River on I-70 for gas and water. Then off on Highway 24 towards Goblin Valley State Park we went, watching the sky start to brighten as we approached. When we arrived at the parking lot, we both took off running to explore on our own for several hours — finding endless new nooks and crannies, and enjoying the goblins' shapes and colors and shadows as the sunlight rose above the valley. For the first hour or so, we had the whole valley alone to only ourselves and a single other photographer. But we were later joined by many tourist families and their squealing children.
After a morning of exploring the Goblins, we had an early lunch in preparation for a slot canyon hike at the nearby Little Wild Horse Canyon. This is has been described as one of the best "easy" slot canyon hikes in all of Utah and we most definitely found it to be our favorite.
That being said, I don't know if it was necessarily "easy" for everyone — not like a trail in your local park might be. We had met an elderly couple at Goblin Valley who talked with us about being excited to do some exploring, and wanting to hike Little Wild Horse Canyon. However, upon arriving, we later learned that they found right at the start that they could not pass by a huge boulder which was blocking the way into the canyon unless they climbed up, over, or around it. So they were saddened to find they were unable to enter the canyon.
Once "inside" the canyon, there were several challenges facing us which made the trail more of a "canyoneering" adventure than a hiking one. The hike itself is a 9 mile loop — passing through one slot canyon, following a trail for about three miles up out of one wash and down into another, and then returning through a second slot canyon. [Map]
We started with a right turn at the Bell Canyon fork, continuing first into Little Wild Horse Canyon, and entered a very different world. This was a diverse hike — sometimes we were squeezing sideways, pack in hand, through winding canyon walls, and at other times we were in cavernous rooms with a multitude of logs that had been swept into place by the periodic floodings. Geoff imagined our journey as passing through the innards of a giant creature, from the intestines into the stomach, or maybe through the veins into the heart.
In one larger room, we encountered a group of people waiting to squeeze into a smaller passage. Peeking into the darkness between tight walls, we found that there was a backlog. A group of guys were coming from the opposite direction and there was a reason they were taking so long — the trail was thigh deep with muddy water. These guys making a project of attempting to climb around this obstacle. As we watched each of them try, only one guy made it through unscathed. The others had splashed in and were covered with a thick muddy goop. As we hadn't prepared for water (such as bringing sandals), and we knew that we still had most of our hike remaining, we too were interested in attempting keeping our feet dry for now. Besides, the challenge was fun! Laura tried first, and quickly understood why getting around was such a challenge. There were no rocks along the water's edge — one had to stay high — chimneying up the walls and down the slot canyon. After much experimentation, foot placement, and occasional jumping, Laura made it through successfully with just a little bit of mud on her toe! Then, Geoff the Monkey Boy had no problems getting through. And this turned out to be only the first of many pools that we were to climb over and around, making a relatively unchallenging (for us) hike more fun and technical than we had expected. With or without the puddles, if you're anywhere near Goblin Valley, definitely check out this hike!