Best Hike at Goblin Valley State Park Utah

While there are a number of trail hikes at Goblin Valley state park (Curtis Bench Trail, Entrada Canyon Trail, and Carmel Canyon Trail), the best hike at Goblin Valley state park isn’t a marked trail at all. One of the wonderful aspects about Goblin Valley is that you can wander into the valley among all the goblins and explore to your heart’s content creating your own hike. Since the Observation Point makes for an easily recognizable orientation point, you don’t have to worry about getting lost or turned around as you wander.

As soon as you make your way down into the valley, you’re greeted with the goblins at eye level:

the valley floor at Goblin Valley stat park Utah

What makes wandering the valley so much fun is that around every corner there are more goblins hidden around unseen side valleys:

goblin valley state park

Hiking among the goblins also lets you see how playful they can be:

looking through goblins at goblin valley state park utah

There are actually three valleys which you can explore (be sure to take plenty of water) meaning that it is easy to spend hours wandering while seeing new goblin formations. For those that like to wander instead of following a preset path when hiking, this is definitely a destination you want to add to your list.

Black Bear Cub Opens Car Door Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A good example of why you don’t leave car doors open. A black bear cub manages to pry open a door on a car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and get inside. While definitely cute, it’s not a habit that young bears should be learning:

From the video information:

While going to our cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we saw a baby bear cub pry open a barely opened car door and climb in. All of this happening while the mother bear and another bear cub waited a couple feet away. Nobody was in the car while this happened, nobody got hurt, the bear didn’t damage the car, and the bear didn’t get anything unhealthy to eat

Sunset View Overlook Cedar Breaks National Monument

Sunset View overlook gives you a spectacular view directly over the Amphitheater portion of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The overlook is right next to the parking lot so there is no hike involved to get there, so it is definitely worth a stop when you are driving Scenic Drive.

Sunset View Cedar Breaks national monument

view from sunset view overlook at Cedar Breaks national monument

This is the description that the Cedar Breaks pamphlet gives about the Amphitheater:

Nothing is subtle about the great natural rock amphitheater of Cedar Breaks and its gigantic spectacle of extraordinary form wrapped in bold, brilliant colors… The Cedar Breaks Amphitheater is the result of many of the same forces that created other great Southwestern landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, and the Bryce Amphitheater. it is, however, unique in its own right as an amazing product of geological forces.

Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater is over 2,000 feet deep and over three miles in diameter. Millions of years of deposition, uplift, and erosion carved this huge bowl in the steep, west-facing side of the 10,000-foot-high Markagunt Plateau. Stone spires stand like statues in a gallery along side columns, arches and canyons. These intricate formations are the result of persistent erosion by rain, ice and wind…

Mother and Baby Whale Die in Fishermen Nets in Machala National Park Ecuador Video

This is simply tragic. A mother and baby whale are trapped in fish nets (if you look closely, at 1:39 in the video you can see the nets underneath the whales as a lighter white/green color) which ended up causing their deaths. Other whales in the area are seen trying to free them. The men operating the boat didn’t want to free the whales because it would have destroyed the fishing nets:

This is the description from the video:

This video shows a mother and a baby humpback whale trapped in fishermen nets in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador. You will notice a group of larger male humpback whales trying to break the mother and baby free. The video was filmed on a boat from the Machala National Park for tourists that wanted to see the whales. The guides who work for the Ecuadorian National Parks and Ministry of Environment did not want to set the whales free because it would destroy the costly fishermen nets. The mother and baby whale died three days later.

Moab Fault Arches National Park

With over 2000 arches at Arches National Park, you might think that arches is all the park has to offer. You would be wrong. The first paved turnout that you will come across once you have entered Arches National Park is one that describes Moab Fault. The pull-out gives a wonderful view of the highway you drove in on to reach Arches which also shows in detail the Moab Fault:

Moab Fault at Arches National Park

Your instinct will be to pass on by and most cars do, but it’s well worth stopping simply to get a better understanding of how Arches National Park was formed. It will only take 5 minutes of your time and the plentiful arches waiting on the other side of the ridge will still be there. If you think that you will stop on your way back, you may have great intentions of doing so, but the reality is that you likely won’t. The turnout is much easier to see on the way into Arches and by the end of the day of hiking you won’t have the energy to do so.

There is an informational sign at the turnout that gives the following description:

A dramatic break in the earth’s surface occurred here about six million years ago. Under intense pressure, unable to stretch, the crust cracked and shifted. Today, the highway (below) parallels this fracture line, called the Moab Fault.

After rock layers shifted, the east wall of the canyon where you are standing ended up more than 2,600 feet (792 meters) lower than the west side (across the highway).

Individual rock layers no longer line up horizontally here because of the faulting. The cliff across the highway looks much like the Entrada sandstone, but is actually composed of Wingate Sandstone — rock deposited about forty million years before the Entrada.

Moab Fault information at Arches National Park Utah

If the sole purpose of visiting Arches National Park is to see as many arches as you can, then the Moab fault information will be of little interest to you, but if you are there to learn, this five minute pull out is well worth the time.

Devil’s Kitchen Trail Colorado National Monument

By Kristen Lummis (enjoy her blog Brave Ski Mom, like her on facebook or follow her on twitter @BraveSkiMom)

My city-girl niece visited us this summer. She lives in the Denver area and we live on Colorado’s Western Slope. She is 8 years old, full of energy and loves to be outdoors. I am much older, but still full of energy. And, I too, love to be outdoors. We are a good match.

So on a cool Saturday, despite the threat of rain, my mom and I took her hiking at Colorado National Monument. Here is our report from the Devil’s Kitchen Trail.

Lots of Prickly Pear Blossoms: I am mom to two boys. Thus, I am used to spotting lizards, oohing and ahhing over rocks, and identifying unique shapes and uses for twigs and sticks. My niece pointed out the brilliant cactus blossoms and spotted lizards. Rocks and sticks, not so much.

Prickly Pear Blossom at Colorado national Monument

Plenty of Room to Run: And run she did. She ran, she climbed, she skipped and she balanced. An open trail, a beautiful day and nothing to do but enjoy being amidst the splendor of nature.

balancing on devil'skitchen trail at Colorado national monument

Time to Practice Trail Boss Skills: My niece is the youngest in her family. We let her choose the trail, set the pace, lead the way, and read the signs. We helped her find the cairns marking the trail and she became our official cairn-spotter. She was an excellent trail boss.

trail boss on Devil's Kitchen trail

While hiking with her, I was reminded of an article I recently read entitled Leave No Child Inside. Concerned about the trend of more and more kids spending their days indoors looking at TV and computer screens, a group of outdoor agencies and advocates in Chicago are urging families to turn off the technology and get outside. As one of the organizers put, “(Children) are excited to be outdoors.”

That is so true. No matter where you live, kids are excited to be outdoors. Some time in the sunshine, lying in the grass, hiking on a trail or chasing butterflies is exactly what our kids need.

No matter where you live, you can find the great outdoors. It’s just a matter of opening the door and walking outside: to an urban park, to a meadow, to a national monument, to wherever you can find nature.

When You Go: 2011 is a great year to get out and visit Colorado National Monument. Located near Grand Junction, approximately 250 miles west of Denver on I-70, the Monument is celebrating its 100th Anniversary as a unit of the National Park System with fireworks, special events and new displays in the Visitors’ Center.

Hiking: Comprised of 32 square miles of stunning red rock canyons and monoliths between Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado National Monument has miles and miles of established and back country trails.

My niece, my mom and I chose the Devil’s Kitchen trail for our adventure. 1 and 1/2 miles long, the trail begins on sandy, clearly marked trail and after about 1/2-mile transitions to sandstone and slickrock.

devil's kitchen trail Colorado national monument

Climbing and switch-backing across slickrock, the trail offers enough adventure to keep kids engaged and ends in the Devil’s Kitchen, a sandstone “room” hundreds of feet above the valley. With rocks to climb on and ledges to peer over, kids can keep themselves busy in the Kitchen for hours.

hiking devil's kitchen Colorado national monument

Camping: Camping is available at the Saddlehorn Campground, along the upper rim of the canyons in the pinyon and juniper forest. There are no hookups for RVs, but there are flush toilets and running water, which in my mind, changes the experience from camping to glamping. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Finally, if you’ve ever wondered why some National Park sites are called Parks and some are called Monuments, here’s your answer: Parks require the approval of Congress. Monuments do not.

In 1911, with feelings in Congress running against conservation, Colorado officials didn’t think they had the votes necessary to create a national park. In May of that year, President Taft preserved this glorious slice of canyon country with the stroke of his pen.


Pumice Castle Crater Lake National Park

Pumice Castle is one of the most colorful (a golden orange-brown in a sea of grays) features at Crater Lake National Park, but it’s often missed because it’s located at an unmarked turnoff along East Rim Drive (the pullout is 1.1 miles west of Cloudcap Overlook road junction and 2.4 miles east of Phantom Ship Overlook). It’s well worth paying attention and not passing this unique feature within the Crater Lake caldera. The orange-brown pumice rock has emerged in the shape of a castle as the rock around it has eroded away:

Pumice Castle at Crater Lake

Pumice Castle at Crater Lake National Park

This is what the information sign at the turnout has to say about Pumice Castle:

Mount Mazama, the great volcano that preceded Crater Lake, was built up by successive eruptions of lava over many thousands of years. Some lavas oozed or poured from the volcano’s top or sides. Some erupted as red-hot rocks that flooded down the slopes. Others exploded into the air and fell as cinders or globs.

You can see the variety of Mt. Mazama’s lavas on the steep caldera wall. Pumice Castle, with its pinkish-brown “turrets,” is the most eye-catching feature. It’s made of layers of pumice and other rocks coughed up by Mt. Mazama – some so hot they welded welded together. These air fall deposits were buried and compacted by other lavas, then exposed when Mt. Mazama collapsed. A firm foundation of andesite lava has kept Pumice Castle intact, while surrounding pumice deposits have eroded away.

Mt. Mazama is classified as a composite volcano, a cone built up by lava flows interspersed with air fall deposits. Pumice Castle is made of air fall pumice that was laid down while Mt. Mazama was still growing.

Bear Cubs Wrestling at Yosemite National Park

In July 2011, hikers returning from a hike in Hetch Hetchy suddenly stumbled on two bear cubs in the middle of the road and their mother off to the side. The caught the action on video:

While seeing bears is not a usual occurrence at Yosemite, there is always the possibility as the road signs warn:

speeding kills bears sign Yosemite national park

Observation Point Goblin Valley Utah State Park

Sometime when I’m traveling, I come across a name of a park that is so intriguing that I have to go there even without knowing what I’m going to find. That was the case when I saw Goblin Valley Utah State Park on the map. I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions I have made. If you have never visited Goblin Valley, it’s one of those places that you want to add to your bucket list.

When you first enter Goblin Valley state park, the first recognizable formation you will see are the three goblins. While the three goblins give the impression that the valley will be filled with sparse, distinct goblin formations, you immediately realise this is not the case when you reach Observation Point. Observations Point gives you a wonderful view of Valley 1 (there are actually three valleys) and the hundreds of “goblins” that live within the valley:

observation point Goblin Valley state park Utah

Goblin Valley from Observation Point in Utah

In addition to giving you an amazing first view of Goblin Valley, Observation Point also becomes an essential orientating landmark when you venture down into the valley to look at all the goblins up-close. The point has a large picnic structure with roof that can easily be seen from most places in the valley which keeps one from getting lost in the maze of all the goblins and gives you the security of being a bit more adventurous in your exploration that you might be without this landmark.

Chessman Ridge Overlook Cedar Breaks National Monument

To get the best overall view of Cedar Breaks National Monument, Chessman Ridge Overlook is the place to go. The overlook is directly in the center of the two main areas of the monument. To the left is the Amphitheater:

the Amphitheater at Cedar Breaks national monument

and to the right is Cedar Breaks:

Cedar Breaks at Cedar Breaks National Monument

There is a very short walk from the parking lot to the overlook which is wheelchair accessible. The overlook gives a wonderful perspective of the entire park where you can step back and see the vastness, or focus in on specific points to see the intricate details of the weathered rocks. A poem from the Cedar Breaks national Monument newsletter does a nice job summing everything up:

Clinging to the clouds at 10.350 feet
Cracks and crevasses, hoodoos and arches

Exposed limestone structures from the ancient amphitheater.
Elegant and profuse, wildflowers appear in July

Brushing the sub-alpine meadows in a rainbow of colors.
Bristle Cone Pine, twisted, stunted, ancient trees

Remain standing in drought and flood for over 1,600 years.
Raptors, ravens, California Condors soar and play on warm updrafts.

Nighttime approaches, campfires flicker, Rangers tell stories.
Night sky deepens, dark, vast. The stars appear.

Millions of stars, billions of stars, stars no longer hidden by city lights.
Monuments all. The great masterpieces of nature.

This is CEdar BReaks National Monument! — Park Ranger Teri Saa