North of Hanksville, Utah, Highway 24 and Highway 95 share the same section of road. The area between Hanksville and Interstate Highway 70 certainly is a vast desolate place and the main geological feature to look for is the majestic San Rafael Reef, which is a buckled tectonic plate ridge that towers over the valley to the west. On the east side of Highway 24 there are several dirt roads that go deep into the Canyonlands National Park Maze District, which is a notoriously rugged red rock environment. The red rock formations can be seen throughout this region and one of the most intriguing outcrop areas is Goblin Valley, which is located next to the geological reef. Goblin Valley State Park may be the most famous attraction in this region, yet several solitary goblin rock formations can be seen scattered on the hillsides long before arriving at the park. With the distant towering mountains in the background, the surreal landscape on the way to Goblin Valley certainly is mesmerizing and the gigantic red rock outcrop formations create an out of this world visual effect.
For those who drive a high ground clearance 4x4, there is a way to get to Goblin Valley State Park in grand style! The Molly's Castle 4x4 Trail (Goblin Valley Cutoff Road) goes the hard way over rough terrain from Highway 24 to Goblin Valley Road straight through the surreal landscape that surrounds the park. The gigantic red rock formations dot this landscape with towering outcrops that have a gothic appearance, which is how the Molly's Castle landmark got its name. Molly's Castle is one of the largest red rock landmarks in this area, so it is easy to stay on course when driving the overland route.
There are several deep red silt patches along Goblin Valley Cutoff Road, so a 4x4 vehicle with deep tread tires is the best choice for this ride. There are some bare bedrock sections too, but they are fairly easy to manage. The long dirt road to Molly's Castle definitely is a bumpy ride and taking it slow is the only way to go, with the exception of the loose silt patches where it pays to blast on through.
When approaching Molly's Castle, the true proportions of this landmark are not fully realized until arrival. This red rock formation truly is gigantic and it does have a Medieval castle appearance. There is a short dirt road that goes to the base of Molly's Castle, where a large natural alcove can be found. The walls of the castle tower cast dark shadows over this spot, which adds to the ominous effect. The shadows of the castle are also perfect for a picnic lunch, so be sure to soak it all up before finishing the overland journey into the State Park!
The rest of the 4x4 trail from Molly's Castle to Goblin Valley State Park actually is fairly smooth, but there are a few silt patches to keep an eye out for. At the end point there will be an option to tour Little Wild Horse Canyon on the San Rafael Reef and explore the BLM camping choices. Heading straight into the thick of things in Goblin Valley State Park will likely be the top pick and a day spent here is guaranteed to not be a disappointment. This State Park offers a developed campground with showers, which is a nice convenience after a long dusty 4x4 ride. The surreal Goblin Valley simply must be experienced at least once in a lifetime and arriving in a red silt dirt covered vehicle definitely is the means for demonstrating personal style and taste!
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