Our family loves the beach and playing the sand. Whether digging a hole or building a castle, my kids can play in the sand for hours at a time. Sand dunes are no different. We had a blast driving dune buggies across the Oceano Dunes in Pismo Beach, sledding down the steep sand dunes at Inglenook Fen Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve in Fort Bragg and exploring the vast Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.
Needless to say, when I found pink sand dunes while doing research for our spring break trip to Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks, they immediately went on my “must do” list of activities!
Sitting at 6,000 feet elevation, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is 3,730 acres of undulating salmon pink dunes estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old.
The park is just over 30 minutes from Springdale, Zion National Park’s gateway city and all but 265 acres of conservation area in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is open to the public for hiking, picnicking, camping, playing in the sand, sand sledding, and driving off-road vehicles. While there are no official trails through the dunes, the park does have a nature trail, overlook trails, and an accessible boardwalk to an observation deck that looks out over the vast sea of coral pink dunes.
Cardboard Sand Sledding Fail
We couldn’t bring snow discs on the airplane, so after dumpster-diving for cardboard in Orderville on the way to the park, we couldn’t wait to try it out and sled down the dunes. We arrived in the late afternoon, grabbed our cardboard and headed straight for the dunes. Carter and Natalie climbed to the top of a dune, threw their cardboard pieces on the sand, and jumped on ready to ride like the wind down the dune… but nothing happened.
Seriously, even on a steep slope of sand, they didn’t move. They scooted, shoved, and pushed each other… and nothing happened. Carter got a bit of a slide once with a running start and Natalie scooted her way down one small dune while I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. But that was it. Cardboard sledding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes doesn’t work.
Luckily I have this video to watch anytime I need a laugh!
Exploring the Coral Pink Dunes
Eventually we gave up and wandered up the boardwalk to the observation deck to take in a panoramic view of the dunes. The pink and orange dunes surrounded by steep cliffs, juniper and pinyon pines, and blue summer skies were breathtaking and the giant dune dominating the landscape was calling our names.
Carter wanted to reach the top of that dune and it didn’t look too far away, so we all followed him into the dune field. OMG. It may not have looked very far away but it was so far away. It was HOT and exhausting traipsing through the lose sand. We had a destination though, so we were determined to get there. Brian and I waited at the base of the behemoth dune, as Carter and Natalie climbed to the top and ran down it. After that, Natalie was wiped out, so she stayed with us as we watched Carter do it several more times and watched other people sled down the dune on sandboards.
Honestly, I was tired just watching him! I have no idea where he gets his energy!
Eventually, Carter was tired, sweaty, and ready to head back. That’s when we all turned around and realized we had to hike through the dunes again. By the time we reached the parking lot, I was a sweaty mess with burning calves.
How The Dunes Were Formed
The Coral Pink Dunes were formed by a natural phenomenon called the Venturi Effect.
As wind blows through the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains into the open valley, its velocity increases so much that it can pick up grains of sand from the eroding Navajo sandstone — the same sandstone that created much of Utah’s majestic red rock country. Then as the wind travels over the valley floor, its velocity decreases and the sand is deposited. Over time, this created the massive dune field that exists today.
Know Before You Go
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is located at 12500 Sand Dune Road, Kanab, Utah 84741 in Kane County near the town of Kanab and only 30 minutes from Springdale.
- The state park is open during daylight hours, seven days a week.
- Day-use fees are $10.00 per vehicle; $5.00 for Utah seniors 62 and older. Camping fees are $20.00 per single site for the old campground (no hookups) and $30.00 per site for the new campground (with water and electric).
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park opened to the public as a Utah state park in 1963. In addition to the dunes, the park has a covered picnic area, visitor center, campground, and an accessible boardwalk to an observation deck.
- The park is a popular destination for off-road enthusiasts with about 90% of the dunes are open to ATVs.
- There are no formal trails through the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Visitors are welcome to explore the sand dunes on foot or off-road vehicle.
- The visitor center, boardwalk, and overlook are accessible.
- There is a 22 site campground with hot showers, modern restrooms, water, and picnic tables.