The Chamber of the Basilisk is a fantastic feature in the Goblin Valley State Park located in the San Rafael Swell area. The thing that makes the Chamber of the Basilisk so unique is that the slot canyon disappears into a hole in the ground!
If you are in the area of Goblin Valley and Hanksville and want an incredible route without a punishing approach, this may be the route for you.
Doing the full route requires technical gear, but you can get into the lower end of the chamber without it.
The Story Behind the Name:
On May 14 2011 my son Kessler and daughter Shaylee (this was to be their birthday trip as Shaylee turned 7 and May 4 and Kessler was to turn 9 on May 17), my wife Kimberly, coworker Justin and I were going to go do Crescent Creek slot after exploring Little Egypt. The weather forecast said hot and dry, but the skies were dark, cloudy and it looked like it could rain. We decided not to do a slot canyon and headed for Goblin Valley to do some exploring.
We explored around a bit and climbed a highpoint and explored around the mini-slot above the chamber. We didn’t bother taking ropes (I’d never taken them to Goblin Valley before) and we got to a drop which we weren’t sure if we could climb back up so I was thinking maybe we should come back with ropes and see what’s down there sometime. We didn’t expect too much, but it might be a cool place to kill sometime.
On October 16 and during the Bogley gathering Scott (a different one), Brad, Kessler and I checked out a “new route” at White Roost Canyon (funny story). After seeing that we didn’t have enough time to reverse the “new route” and complete the standard route, I mentioned that there was this mini-slot in Goblin Valley (which was more or less on the way home) that I thought would only take a few hours. Brad and Scott were going to drive home instead, but last minute they decided to check it out with us.
This time we took a little wrong turn and ended up too far south, but we climbed a butte for some nice views and headed for the little slot. We followed the mini-slot down canyon and it just disappeared into a hole in the ground(!). We didn't expect anything like this. It didn't drop into a crack or a narrow slot, but just a hole. It was kind of intimidating to just look into a deep and dark black hole in the ground since we couldn't see what was down there or if you can get out of it.
I tied a kid’s pack onto the rope and tossed it down to see if it would hit bottom. It did and after measuring the excess rope, we figured that the “hole” was ~90 feet deep. Brad, the other Scott and I still wanted to see what was in the hole so we all decided that we would descend it after we helped Kim and the kids back to the head of the canyon so they could safely return back to the car the normal way.
We would all wait at the top of the hole though until someone rappelled down with ascenders to make sure that the route continued. We weren’t sure if the route was doable. Brad volunteered for the job and nervously rappelled into the hole. On the way down he yelled “I see light”, but he wasn’t sure if he could climb out of the Chamber to continue the route. When he got to the bottom of the Chamber he walked to the other side and made sure he could climb out the other side. He then yelled up that he could climb out and urged us to come down. Before we would drop into the hole though, Scott and I got ready to escort Kim and the kids back out of the slot canyon to Goblin Valley proper when seven year old Shaylee said “I want to go down down the hole”. It was a longer drop than they had ever gone down at the time, but we decided to let them. Shaylee had a huge smile (caught on camera) while descending into the hole.
We all rappelled into the hole and found that it opens up into this huge spectacular underground chamber. There were some huge holes in the ceiling so you don’t need a headlamp.
After admiring the chamber we exited and headed back. It was an awesome route and took us four hours (including all the exploratory time, tossing the pack down, measuring, etc.). We discussed names, but the kids wanted the name Chamber of the Basilisk named after the giant snake in Harry Potter and for the huge “snake hole” you rappel into to reach the chamber from the top.
On November 13 during the North Wash gathering, several Bogley members were looking for a short canyon to do on the way home. We volunteered to show the canyon and the kids were really eager to show off the place (since they felt like they pioneered the route). There was a pretty big group of us (all the people in the video) and we drove to the trailhead. With the kids usually leading the way and since we knew exactly how to get there now, we went straight to the entrance and down in. It was all done very efficiently and we all completed the route in ~two hours car to car.
Anyway, a moral to the story might be that no matter how well you think you know a place, there can still be features that you have missed and still room to explore. I’ve been going to Goblin Valley with my parents and siblings ever since I was a small child. My wife and I have been going since we knew each other and we’ve been taking the kids since they have been very tiny as well. The chamber was sitting right there under our noses for all these years before we got to see it. I thought there wasn’t much more to see in Goblin Valley that I already haven’t seen, but (as has been the case with some other areas as well) I was wrong. No matter how well you think you know aplace, there is always room to explore, including in places you’ve walked right by for years.
It's amazing how quickly an obscure place can turn popular. Chamber of the Basilisk is already a very popular destination, despite the fact that nothing was ever published on it until very recently. After we took them through, some people started calling the place Goblins Lair, but I prefer the name Chamber of the Basilisk. You may find the name Goblins Lair on some websites.
All roads to the trailhead are now paved.
From Green River:
The main paved road offering access to this peak is Utah's Highway 24. The mountain is located roughly halfway between I-70, and Hanksville, Utah. From exit 149 on I-70, head south and drive 22 miles to Temple Junction, on the west side of the road and at mile marker 136, which will be sign posted for Goblin Valley State Park.
From the signed turn-off on highway 24, follow the signs and paved road to Goblin Valley State Park, which is 13 miles from Highway 24.
The trailhead is at the picnic area at the end of the road.
Follow Highway 24 north for 20 miles to mile maker 136 and the signed turn-off to Goblin Valley State Park located on the west side of the road. From the signed turn-off on highway 24, follow the signs and paved road to Goblin Valley State Park, which is 13 miles from Highway 24 and follow the directions above to the trailhead.
The Chamber of the Basilisk can be reached via a technical route in from the top of from a walk-in route from the bottom.
Chamber of the Basilisk Technical Route
This fantastic route should take 2 hours, but you may want to take more time to explore around. The route is very mellow in comparison to many canyoneering routes, but technical rope skills are still a must.
The canyon is beginner friendly with strong leadership.
This is one of the most entertaining and spectacular routes around, so don't miss it! See the route page for details.
Chamber of the Basilisk Walk In Route
The Chamber of the Basilisk can be reached from the bottom and without technical gear. From just north of the picnic ground follow the Mollys Castle Trail to the end. The Chamber can be reached by following the base of the bluffs south and to the base of the slope (N38° 33' 40", W110° 41' 40") that access the hidden chamber. The chamber is not visible from below, but a trail is now developing and the park rangers can give directions. The state park rangers have begun leading guided trips into the chamber as well. Tours leave at 10:30 AM and 5:00 PM. Click Here for details.
If you take the technical route through the Chamber of the Basilisk, you will need a free permit from the Goblin Valley State Park Visitor Center. The day use fee to enter the park is $7.
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park features a developed campground, several miles south of Temple Mountain. Plan on reserving this one in advance! Info on this campground:
435-637-3009 or 800-842-0789
* Tent Sites
* RV Sites
* Group Sites
* Drinking Water
* Flush Toilets
State park fees: Day-use $7; Camping $16
Utah.com link for the Goblin Valley area is here.
Outside the State Park, this area is fairly open with many options for at large camping. There area several locations along the Temple Wash access road to camp. There are fire rings in interesting locations along the four wheel drive access road. If you want some solitude an overnight venture off into one of the narrow washes or canyons away from the road will do the trick. There is no private land for miles and miles around in this area.
Summer is Very hot with temperatures exceeding 100F degrees (38C). Winter temperatures can drop well below 0F (-18C). Weather wise, the best times of the year to visit are spring and fall, but they are also the most crowded.
This is a land of weather extremes. Temperatures in the nearest towns have ranged from -42F (-41C) to 112F (44.5C) at Green River and -35F (-37) to 114F (46C) at Hanksville. Sunny weather predominates and it only rains a few times a year, but when it does rain, it can really pour!
Because the route is short and you can do it at various times of the day, any time is a good season. A morning trip in summer would be enjoyable and winter is a special place in Goblin Valley. Flash flood danger is usually low, so the canyon can be enjoyed in most weather conditions.
CLICK HERE FOR THE WEATHER FORECAST
Weather and climate data for the Hanksville is below. *National Weather Service Data 1912-2004.
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