When we see pictures of tall sand dunes, we immediately think of the Sahara Desert, often forgetting that there are many other sandy deserts around the world. Many of these, each with its own characteristics, can be found in American territory, from the scorching Kelso Dunes in Mojave to the pale dunes of the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, to the remote dunes of Kobuk Valley in Alaska.
Located in southern Utah, not far from the main destinations of the Southwest, are the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The name speaks for itself. These are tall coral-colored sand dunes, which are especially enchanting at sunrise and sunset. What to do at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park? Let’s find out together!
There are not many alternatives to reach this park on the southern border of Utah. Only one road, in fact, allows you to get there. This is Hancock Road, a detour of the Hwy 89, which branches off from the latter just north of Kanab.
If you’re coming from the south and east, so generally from Arizona’s main attractions, you’ll need to go through Kanab. From here, take Hwy 89 northwards until you find the signs for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The turn for the sand dunes is about 6 miles from Kanab and is well signposted. Keep in mind that it takes about half an hour by car from Kanab.
If you are coming from the north, i.e. from almost all the localities of Utah, you must take Highway 89 and head south and then follow the same directions mentioned above.
Operating Hours and Entrance Fee
The daily admission is $10 per vehicle, regardless of the number of passengers.
Please note: Since this is a state park, the national parks annual pass is not valid, because the parks pass only includes parks operated by the National Park Service.
What to Do at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
What you’re about to visit is a relatively small state park with few visitors compared to nearby giants like Zion or Bryce Canyon. However, you’ll find that passing through here is worth it, also because you can enjoy either a short visit or spending the whole day doing outdoor activities.
The pink sand that makes this place unique is due to the erosion of the sandstone by the wind, which has been blowing between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains for almost 15,000 years, detaching grains of sand from the sandstone rocks and depositing them in this valley. But what makes the pink dunes special is not only their color. It is the home to some rare plant and animal species, such as the tiger beetle, an insect that lives nowhere else in the world. In order to protect the ecosystem, a conservation area of 0.4 square miles has been set up within the park’s approximately 5.4 square miles, which cannot be accessed by motor vehicles.
The best way to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this coral-colored desert is to walk around, but it is important to be very careful, because walking on the sand dunes is not as easy as walking along a marked path. In addition, among the various animals that inhabit this area there are rattlesnakes, so it is good to be careful and not to go to wander off the trails. The trails can be easily accessed from the parking lot and do not have a specific track, but go through the dunes.
If you are here for a short visit, you can drive to two viewpoints from where you can take some nice pictures, without having to fill your shoes with sand and waste precious time on the road. Once you have passed the ranger’s station at the entrance, you will find yourself in a clearing with a series of spaces for RVs and trailers.
Among the 4 outdoor stations, you will easily find short trails that will show you views of the sandy valley. The second and most impressive viewpoint is not far away. Follow the road towards the campground until you reach another rest area. Here a short boardwalk leads to an elevated platform. From the spot designed to watch the dune buggy races, you will enjoy a magnificent view, especially at sunset.
ATV tours and Sandboarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Are you looking for an adrenaline rush? The sand dunes offer two possible activities that are very popular among locals, but also accessible to tourists. What better way to ride on the sand than with a dune buggy? The light, wide-wheeled cars allow you to move up and down the dunes in agility and are suitable both for exploring the park and for racing through pink sand clouds.
Those who are sporty may enjoy sliding down the sandy slopes with a sandboard. You are correct, here you can go sandboarding, the desert version of snowboarding. Do you think you can maintain your balance on a board while sliding down a dune? If you can’t, you can always sit on it and use it as a toboggan to glide down the dunes. Whatever you choose, you are guaranteed to have fun.
If you are interested in these activities, you will find two interesting options below:
Where to Stay
As I mentioned earlier, Kanab is the closest town to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. For this reason, unless you plan to camp in the park, Kanab is the most convenient place to spend the night in this area. In our article with information about things to do in Kanab, you’ll also find our tips on where to spend the night in Utah’s little Hollywood. To get an idea of the accommodations available, take a look at this link.
Once you take a look at the map, you will soon realize that the park of the pink dunes can be an excellent stop between some of the most famous destinations in the South West. Bryce Canyon is 75 miles northeast, Zion National Park only 28 miles northwest, Page, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell are about 93 miles southeast.
It is certainly a good idea to plan a ride on the dunes to break up the journey between two of the above mentioned must-see destinations. If you’re planning your itinerary, you’ll probably want to check out our tips on where to stay in Page,where to stay near Bryce Canyon and where to spend the night near Zion.