Boondocking Site Review – Goosenecks State Park, UT
A dramatically scenic boondocking location at the top of a 1000-foot rim by a bend in the San Juan River in SE Utah
NOTE/ As of 2014 this is now a FEE area. Cost is $10/night for camping. Please see the website link for latest info.
Location: Goosenecks State Park about 25 miles west of the town of Bluff, UT
Coordinates: Camping area starts at the end of UT 316 Coordinates approx. 37.173449,-109.927139. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE (unknown stay limit).
How We Found It: We had heard about Goosenecks from other RV bloggers who stayed in the area, and found out more by searching online.
Nearest Dump/Water: No water or dump at Goosenecks, but there is onsite pit toilet and garbage. Nearest known dump is at the RV parks in Bluff, UT. The Tribal Park in Mexican Hat *may* allow dumping (don’t know).
- Access – 4/5
Very easy access here, although it can take a little extra to get the more secluded spots. The drive to Goosenecks is along a good, paved road (UT 316) suitable for any-sized RV. Once you reach the end of the paved road there is a very large open, gravel parking area and you can simply stop and camp there. To get to more secluded sites take the dirt road to the left which will follow the rim for another ~1 mile and has several cleared-out sites along the way, including a few sites set further back from the rim. This road is very rocky with many embedded and rather sharp rocks which makes for a careful, bumpy ride (getting worse as you approach the end) but if you make the effort you’re almost guaranteed to be by yourself. Big rigs are best suited to the front sites, but smaller rigs will be able to make it further back.
- Nature – 5/5
Spectacular nature and views here. You are parked on a rim 1000 feet above the meandering base of the San Juan River leading to 360-degree views all around. You are also a short drive from the amazing Valley Of the Gods with rock formations and even more views. There is undeveloped hiking along the rim-road by the boondocking site and several longer hikes in the surrounding area including the Honaker Trail which drops from the rim all the way to the river-bed.
- Isolation – 3.5/5
Medium-good isolation here depending on time of year. During high season (Spring, Fall) this is a reasonably well-visited park and since it’s on the Trail Of the Ancients it’s a typical stop. There are not a lot of people who stay, but you’ll get a steady trickle of cars driving in to park at the end viewpoint and take pics before moving on. Also, it’s a fairly well-known boondocking spot so there will typically be 3-4 rigs in the area any given night (although most move on after a day). Most of the “activity” stays around the front entrance so if you take the time to drive further back along the rocky road, you’ll be able to get some isolation, plus some days you’ll just get lucky and have the entire place to yourself.
- Pet Friendliness – 5/5
A great location for the paws. Lots of open space around camp, easy dirt roads (no cactus) and access to hiking around the rim-area. Only one warning -> there are no guard-rails so DO need to be careful of doggie getting close to the rim. If you’re not completely sure about the paws choose one of the sites further back from the rim.
Overall Rating = 4.4
BONUS ALERT = Park on the edge of a 1000-foot rim with sweeping views of the valley and the curves in the San Juan River!
Summary: This is a very remote area of SE Utah. Not much around here except the massive San Juan River and miles (and miles and miles) of open red-rock desert, but it’s exactly this remoteness that makes it so very attractive. Goosenecks State Park is easily accessed from paved UT 316 and you can boondock anywhere on the dramatic rim with 360-degree views overlooking the river. The easiest boondocking sites are directly off the paved road, but you’ll get more seclusion if you follow the rocky road to the left and chose a site further back (do be careful though, it gets much rockier and more narrow the further you get from the entrance…best suited for smaller rigs). There are a few picnic tables near the entrance as well as pit toilets and a covered pavilion, but otherwise no facilities. The location has plenty of undeveloping hiking, a few “official” trails and is very close to the spectacular Valley of the Gods (a “must see”!). It’s a relatively well-known stop in the area so you’ll undoubtedly see some day-time tourist traffic, and probably several other boondockers depending on time of year, but you may also get lucky and get the spot all to yourself (we were alone for one night out of the 4 we spent there). Keep an eye on the weather forecast (winds can get crazy on the rim) and stock-up before you come (there is literally nothing for miles around here), but otherwise just sit back and enjoy the remote and gorgeous location. A fabulous stop and we would definitely come again!
Extra Info: Veeery, veeery poor Verizon signal (we got a trickle of 1X using our external antenna/amp). On-site pit toilet and garbage, but no other facilities (no dump, no water).SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Mark Gehring says
I guess you mentioned the wind potential somewhere, but for me that would be a few points off. We have visited there twice, and both times it was super windy so we didn’t camp there. We didn’t see anyone else camp there either. However, we totally agree with everything else you said! It’s funny how many people don’t know about this place. I think the name doesn’t help if you have no idea why it’s named that, and you happened to be driving by. 30 years ago I was there with a friend, and we saw the famous Mexican Hat formation and the amazing formations behind that, but drove right by this.
Weather is such a subjective (and seasonal) issue that I don’t rank it as part of the reviews, but I totally understand how it can be a factor. We had some really nice, calm T-shirt weather days while we were at the rim (beginners luck I guess LOL) and only moved when the temps dropped and the winds whipped up. Wind (and fickle weather) is just a risk that comes with the territory for Spring in the SW…:)
Isn’t that a great area. You might also like Sand Island BLM, great sites on the river: http://stillhowlyntravels.blogspot.mx/2012/09/goosenecks-gods-petroglyphs.html
What a neat spot! Totally missed it when we were there. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s on the list for when we go back.
Jim Mellema says
We stayed here 3 years ago, for two days. I totally loved it.
If you go to the left and hike out to the end of the campsites, maybe a little beyond, there is a useable Verizon signal.
Nice little tip. Thanks for sharing that.
Robert Teague says
I was just there 6 months ago. There is now a fee, $10 I believe and a 14 day stay limit.
Thanks for the update. I’ve added the $10 fee into the very top of the post.
Goosenecks dirty little secret is that while the tiny little ‘car park’ area at the end of the paved road (where the toilets are and from where the best views of the ‘double loop’ can be found, but no overnight camping) is the actual ‘State Park’, the Rim dirt road off to the east is NOT – it is BLM land, so should be available for free camping. (Yes some BLM sites request a fee, but when extra facilities have been provided: toilets, info board, trash, picnic tables, etc etc – this doesn’t apply here all along the rim). So in theory it should be possible to not-pay and drive through and camp for free, if you have the guts. This is one of many similar controversial sites – see http://www.WesternSlopeNoFee.org for eye-opening information. Utah State Parks are cashing in on a ‘nice little earner’ with $10 overnight camping on top of $2/bus passenger and $5/day-visiting car. The state park website must have changed recently and implies it’s all one (“camping is in 8 designated sites along the rim…”) but, unless there’s been a major official transfer of land here, it still smells of BS to me. Dumping a few old picnic tables and trash cans around doesn’t cut it… By the way there are many more ‘spaces’ than just 8, though you won’t get up-to-the-rim-edge views. Also note many people sneak in after 6pm when the fee booth is unmanned; some sneak out before 8am too, but you wouldn’t be challenged anyway. If you pay you get a receipt, but it’s not site-specific, and they don’t go around to check anyway. Draw your own conclusions…
Nice tips. Thanks much for sharing!
Chip Martina says
There are other great boondocking spots on Muley Point Rd at the top of the Moki Dugway, not far from here at these GPS coordinates: 37.238642, -109.981552 If you are visiting bears ears NM or Natural Bridges it is a great stop overlooking both the Goosenecks and some of the Valley of the Gods. without traveling down the Moki Dugway in a big RV, which is inadvisable.
There’s also another boondocking spot nearby with great views of the bears ears near the intersection of hwy 261 and hwy 95. It is off of hwy 95 a little ways down a gravel road near a corral. 37.570261, -109.882863 There’s room for 3-4 rvs without blocking access to the corral. We camped there for a couple weeks in October 2019 while visiting the area.
While in the area don’t miss the fantastic dinosaur museum in Blanding. It was well worth the small admission fee it!
Thanks so much for the tips Chip!