The most obvious highlight in Goosenecks State Park is discovering the geological formation of the goosenecks. You’ll see the tight turns of the San Juan River, also known as the goosenecks, and magnificent canyons that tower above the glistening water below. Located at the Arizona-Utah border, a few miles from the town of Mexican Hat, this hidden gem offers the best dry camping for RVers. For geology enthusiasts, this is the perfect example of an entrenched meander.
The sight of San Juan River cutting through sandstones and rocks 1,000 meters below the cliff, before flowing downwards to join the Colorado River, is quite breathtaking. Geologists estimate that this unique phenomenon of goosenecks happened 300 million years ago as a result of gravity and massive erosion. Originating from the Colorado Mountains, the San Juan River flows several times through five miles of red rock canyon before flowing downwards to drain in Lake Powel, 35 miles away.
Established in 1962, this southeastern Utah state park sits on 10 acres of open land with an elevation of 4,500 feet and offers great opportunities for photography and stargazing. RVers can park their motorhome at the paved parking lot near the viewing overlook. Whether you are interested in camping, hiking, or photography you should pack a hat, comfortable hiking shoes, and plenty of water in your rig since the temperatures are quite high during the day. Rattlesnakes and yellow collared lizards are native to the park as well.
Located four miles off Utah Highway 261 and 25 miles west of Bluff, the main access road leading to the park is well paved while the side roads are unimproved and dirt, but manageable. Situated eight miles north of the city of Mexican Hat, the narrow and fairly steep road that enters the park passes through the Colorado Plateau, providing great views of the San Juan River below. When driving to the park be careful of the many cows roaming along the roadside which can cause accidents. Since the park is small and all amenities are close to each, there are few roads and trails. Inside the park, there is a paved road leading to the scenic vista, park offices, and the adjacent paved parking lot. The rest of the road is rocky and leads to the unmarked campsites. During the winter rocks are layered with snow so drivers should be extra careful.
There are no campsites open for reservations. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Goosenecks State Park features a primitive campground that offers dispersed camping with eight RV spots along the rim. This pet-friendly campground offers amenities such as fire rings, benches, vault toilets, and picnic tables. Campsites are exclusively on a first-come, first-served basis.
Campers should come with their own water, food, and all necessary gear since the campground is dry and very remote. There is no dump station, water, or electricity. However, generator use is allowed. Though campers are free to camp anywhere, for safety reasons tent campers should pitch their tents away from the rigs. It can get extremely windy and cold at night so bring warm clothes with you. Campers can get supplies, water, fuel, and firewood from Mexican Hat.
Since Goosenecks State Park is largely undeveloped and viewing the canyons of the San Juan River is the most popular activity, there are no designated trails. For the adventurous and those who want to get a view of the goosenecks from below, there is an undeveloped trail that passes through rugged and rocky terrain with varying degree of steepness. Located on the western section, Honaker Trail leads hikers down to the river. This trail can be strenuous and is suitable for hikers of average ability since it involves a bit of scrambling and roughly takes four to five hours. This five-mile round-trip hike will reward you with incredible views of the San Juan River meander. There is no shade and hikers should carry enough drinking water with them.
Nature has its way of enticing people so guests should pack their best photography gear in their camper. The impressive views of Goosenecks State Park meanders are very picturesque and provide a great backdrop for family photos. For avid photographers, sunrise and sunset are the best times to capture great pictures. The best location for shooting these rare geological formations is from below on taking Honaker Trail.
The incised meander of San Juan River is a famous stopover for visitors going to or coming from Monument Valley. Due to their close proximity, most campers and guests heading to Monument Valley opt to spend a few minutes viewing the meanders. Moreover, Goosenecks State Park is within an easy reach from many of Utah’s attractions, so for many sightseers, it is worth the drive to visit the goosenecks as part of a half-day tour.
Goosenecks State Park offers one of the best night skies in Utah. Away from light pollution, stargazers will have the chance to capture perfect night sky photos. Once you park your motorhome you can take your camera and look for the best place to sit as you take pictures of the stars.
Picnickers will appreciate that the picnic areas within the park are shaded and equipped with tables, benches, and grills. For large groups, there is a big covered picnic shelter near the observation tower overlooking the canyons. After clearing their picnic lunch, day use visitors can relax along the ridge to get a closer look at the outstanding scenery. The view from the overlook area is 1,000 feet above the San Juan River as it dramatically flows for over five miles through the red rocks is jaw-dropping.
Goosenecks State Park has been a gem for geologists since 1952. If you are keen enough you will notice that Honaker Trail is scribbled with numbers all the way down to the river. Don’t be fooled to assume they are mile markers as these numbers actually denote different rock layers. Goosenecks State Park is often cited in geology literature, thus attracting many geology enthusiasts in the park. Also, the park is used for field tours for those studying geology. You can explore the unique geology of the region yourself when you bring your rig to this incredible state park.