Search This Blog

Monday, March 21, 2016

Goosenecks State Park, Southeastern Utah

Goosenecks State Park
As far as campsites go, Goosenecks State Park is the bees knees.  

Amazing views, dispersed "camp where you want", basic amenities, dog-friendly, really affordable prices, and generally empty.  Those are some of the best qualities about a campground.

Some campgrounds are strict, quite expensive, and insanely crowded.  Usually, it's camp ONLY in designated spots, $25 a night and GOOD LUCK finding a spot if you don't show up mid-week.  I have had to sleep in my car parked next to the bathrooms in Arches National Park because I could not find an open campsite, even in the off-season, and overnight parking is only allowed in campgrounds.  I won't even go into the details of the pit toilets at popular campsites (you are welcome). 

Not only was I not able to pitch my tent I had so delicately packed along with its various necessities, but I still had to pay the $25 fee to "camp" there.  Thankfully I learned my lesson and avoid camping in the National Parks if I can.  If you read my post about all the BLM camping in Moab, it is quite easy to avoid those National Park campgrounds and find something better, less crowded, and for half the price.  

camping at Goosenecks State Park
My tent set up along the rim at Goosenecks State Park
views from my tent door Goosenecks State Park
My morning views from my tent
camping at  goosenecks state park
Dinner with a view at camp
Alicia, over at Girl On A Hike did her research and found us an amazing campground at Goosenecks State Park right outside Mexican Hat, Utah.  She planned an amazing camping and hiking trip on the Utah/Arizona border to explore the Southeastern corner of Utah. I have to admit, I had never heard of Goosenecks, and was pleasantly surprised when she picked Goosenecks as a great "home base" for all our travels, and for its general awesomeness as a stellar campsite.

 goosenecks state park
 goosenecks state park
Ranger booth. Dumpster to the right, pit toilets in the background 
Goosenecks State Park is a large open area above the rim, with views down below of the canyon and winding San Juan River 1,000 feet below the overlook. 300 million years of geologic activity created the area you are perched above. The Goosenecks (the deep canyons created by this curving river, think Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon) are the "most impressive examples of entrenched river meander on the North American Continent". The San Juan River below flows, twists and turns over six miles, while only covering 1.5 miles west towards Lake Powell. In other words, the sharp twists turns and bends (the river itself) actually cover six miles, while only traveling east to west 1.5 miles, showing how much this river really twists and turns.

I have one warning for you, and it's mostly as you are driving into the park.  The area is an open range for cattle, and I can almost promise there will be a ton of cows around the campground, and on the road, and with the cutest little babies.  Drive cautiously (especially at night) as there are cattle dispersed throughout the area.  They also get pretty close to the tent nights at site so be warned, your closest neighbors may be bovine. 

day use area goosenecks state park
Day Use Area
rim at  goosenecks state park
Walking along the rim, looking back at our camp site.
The scenery makes this a perfect spot for sight-seeing, photography, picnicking, camping, and hiking around the rim.  This isn't your typical state park full of trails and sights, but more so this giant open space for you to camp and explore.  There is one established trail outside of the park down to the San Juan river, the Honaker Trail.  Goosenecks State Park is definitely one of the lesser known State Parks of Utah.  The campground is on the primitive side, with no water or firewood.  But it does have the basics, and more than enough for our simple needs.  There are two pit toilets, a dumpster for garbage, picnic tables, fire rings, and even a day-use area with benches, shade, and a grill.  Most importantly, there are insanely amazing views of the meandering San Juan River and the canyon it carved, as you sit perched on the rim.  You can also see the sun setting on Monument Valley in the distance- what more could you ask for?

rim at goosenecks state park
Relaxing along the rim
sunset at  goosenecks state park
San Juan River 1,000' below
Camping is more "dispersed" rather than at designated sites.  We arrived late Thursday night, and dropped in our fee of $30 dollars ($10 dollars a night) for camping.  We decided to set up our tents right along the rim of one of the goosenecks, and dragged a picnic table over and set up our temporary "home".  Because we arrived at night, we hadn't had a good look at the park, only by moonlight.  We woke up to the most amazing views of the San Juan and its canyon down below. 

We were surprised to see we were one of the only tent campers at the park.  There were about 5 RV's all parked together in the beginning area, but no tents (probably something to do with the temperatures plunging down from 70 to 35 at night).  Thankfully the site we chose was far enough away from RV land to avoid their noisy generators.  The beauty of this park is that you can really camp wherever you want, choosing to be as far away from other campers, or as close to the bathrooms as you choose.  

Sunsets at Goosenecks state park
Sunsets at Goosenecks State Park with Monument Valley in the background
The sunsets here, by the day-use area overlooking the rim were absolutely spectacular.  And best yet, the place was still practically empty.  A few more campers arrived Friday night, and a few people showed up to watch the sunset.  According to Alicia, it was very similar to famous Horseshoe Bend of the Grand Canyon, without the hundreds of people.  Just us, our chairs, minty gin mules, an amazing sunset, and a few other campers.  

goosenecks state park
GoPro shot of San Juan at Goosenecks State Park
I never thought I would love spending time in a desert.  I mean, the temperature can change from 70 during the day to 34 at night (as it did when were here).  Brutal sun burning your skin during the day just to sit in your tent freezing that same night.  And there are the creepy crawlies.  A friend reminded me that we were in the desert, and to bring your shoes in your tent with you at night because Scorpions love a warm dark place to hide out.  But despite the blaring sun, chilly nights, and critters that sting and bite, I have reached an appreciation and love of visits to the desert.  One you can only understand after several trips to the desert, hiking gorgeous trails, coming across cool and sparse pools of water, the open landscape, the visibility for miles, and all the plants that hurt.  

If you are heading to southeastern Utah, then Goosenecks State Park is an excellent place to camp.  You are close enough to Mexican Hat where you can run into town to grab supplies, water, gas, and firewood.  You are also sort of central to some of the popular attractions like Monument Valley and Natural Bridges National Monument.  An amazing affordable campsite with spectacular views, the basic amenities, solitude, and the perfect base camp for southeastern Utah adventures.  

goosenecks state park
Entrance Sign and after hours deposit box at Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park RECAP
  • Dispersed camping with picnic tables and fire rings 
  • 24 hours and year-round
  • Dogs allowed (on-leash)
  • $10 dollars a night for a campsite (envelope and self-pay area if there is no ranger on duty)
  • $5 per car for a day-use fee if not camping, or $2 a person if in a bus
  • Pit toilets and a dumpster are available, but no water or firewood
  • Amazing views and spectacular sunsets
  • Beware of the cows along the road and campground 
  • On the quieter/less busy side. 
  • There is one trail outside the park but down to the San Juan- Honaker Trail (3.8 miles RT, 1,300'). 
  • Check the weather - the nights can be chilly especially in early spring.
Driving Directions 
Directions to Goosenecks state park
Driving Directions to Goosenecks State Park
Taking in the views at Goosenecks State Park 

Check back in Wednesday and Friday for posts about Monument Valley, and Natural Bridges National Monuments.  

Happy Camping, 



  1. Love it! Great write up and photos. - Alicia @

    1. Thanks for stopping by and finding us such an awesome spot!


Let's Chat!