A Windblown Wonder: Coral Pink Sand Dunes

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An off-the-radar expanse of photographic bliss, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is where weekend warriors can leave footprints in soft sand. Walk among old juniper, and pinyon and ponderosa pines. Then take your shoes off to leave footprints in the orange-red sand dunes. These geological oddities were formed by the continual erosion of the nearby Navajo sandstone cliffs.

While the dunes are estimated to be 10,000 to 15,000 years old, this state park was first opened to the public in 1963. The dunes are created by a phenomenon known as the Venturi Affect, where wind passes through a notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains. It increases velocity through the notch, which erodes the sandstone and carries the grains to the dunes.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is 3,730 acres big, and more than 2,000 acres of sand are open to OHVs.

What Makes it Great

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This Southern Utah escape sees little more than 50,000 visitors each year, offering a respite from more trafficked red rock destinations. The park provides a perfect combination of solitude and sand. However, note that Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are generally quite crowded.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes is the only major sand dune field on the Colorado Plateau. Another unique aspect of the park: This is the only place in the world where you can find the Coral Pink tiger beetle.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes are open for hiking and kid-friendly playing. About 90-percent of the dunes are open for ATV riders, for which this state park has become ever popular. These four-wheelers generally check out the Sand Highway, which is a one-way narrow trail in a small canyon on the boundary of the dunes, and the South Boundary Trail, which is several miles long and continues along the eastern side of the main dune area.

What You’ll Remember

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The vibrant hues of the desert, in particular at dawn and sunset—especially sunset—when the low-horizon sun creates golden alpenglow on the surrounding cliffs and dunes.

Being a sand dune, it’s hard to not remember the sand. In addition to the dunes themselves, there is a collection of sand from around the world at the Visitor’s Center.

Who is Going to Love It

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People who love the beach but hate the water. People who love going really fast in ATVs and OHVs. Anyone looking to snap some great pictures in a beautiful setting.

Directions, Parking, and Regulations

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GPS Coordinates:
37.0377, -112.7316

Coral Pink Sand Dunes is approximately 310 miles south of Salt Lake City. From Kanab, follow U.S. Hwy 89 north for 10 miles to Hancock Road Scenic Backway. Follow the signs west into the park. You will intersect Yellowjacket Road; turn left, and the park entrance is five miles up on the left. The road is paved all the way to the parking lot.

Entrance into the park is $8 per vehicle. Park at the main lot just inside the park or at the campground (sites are $20/ night). There is primitive camping available on the nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. Dogs must be on a six-foot leash at all times.

The park is open year-round, seven days a week, during daylight hours. The best times to go are spring, early summer and fall, as the temperatures are the most mild.

Park Website:  Stateparks.Utah.Gov/Park/Coral-Pink

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