Coral Pink Sand Dunes
For last year's summer vacation trip, we decided to explore Southern Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Ahhh! Coral Pink, a place that has been on my trip list for years. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a Southern Utah State Recreation area located roughly nine miles west of Kanab and less than a mile from the Arizona border. The dunes are roughly seven miles long but average only a half-mile wide. The park encompasses about 3,700 acres, but only about 1,000 are rideable. A 22-unit state campground with partial hookups is at the park as well as the Meadows, a dry camp area about 850 ft long by 400 ft wide. Elevation is 6,000 ft and the highest dunes are at 6,500 ft. Many western movies were made at the dunes including “Arabian Nights” in 1942, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in 1944, “Timbuktu” in 1959, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, “MacKenna’s Gold” in 1969 and “One Little Indian” in 1973. The park is open year-round and reservations at the campground are accepted; however, we decided to camp in the typical circle-the-wagons style at the Meadows dry camp area.
The first thing you notice about the sand here, after its salmon color, is how fine it is, making paddles a must. The second thing I noticed was the fact that we had the entire place practically to ourselves. This was very strange but also very welcome!
Once you leave the Meadows and get up the hill, you will find plenty of trails through the Ponderosa pine trees to explore. This is unlike any duning I’ve done--the closest comparison being the Oregon dunes. But unlike Oregon, you won’t find any giant hill climbs or really dense bush to ride through; just lots of banked S-turns lined with pine trees and smaller hills to challenge you, perfect for the Side-X-Sides and ATV’s. There is also a one-way sand trail that circles the entire perimeter of the dunes. You could spend hours just on this one trail.
We tended to spend most of our time in the northeast section of the dunes, because they were more forested and closer to camp. The southwest end of the dunes is less forested and the dunes are bigger, but they’re not crescent-shaped bowls like you find at Glamis or St. Anthony; they are more linear in shape.
For the next three days, we rode our collective butts off exploring the dunes. One trail of note will take you out to the South Fork Indian Canyon Pictographs which are northeast of the meadows. The trailhead to the canyon was pretty easy to find after a long fun sand trail through the forest, but once you get there you are greeted by a sign showing a 1.5-mile hike with a 1,700 ft net elevation change into a deep canyon. This, combined with the sun setting on us, discouraged us from attempting it. I just figured this was just a sign that told us we would have to come back to this place again. We also did a pretty slick night ride with the Rhinos with no moon. It was pitch black except for the stars which allowed for some pretty decent satellite viewing. After all this, we were done! It’s not often you don’t hear the kids complaining about leaving, but we were pretty duned out.
The next day, we packed up and headed north to Zion National Park. Zion, the seventh most visited national park in the country, is only about 30 miles northwest of Coral Pink, so we had to see it. Zion is a deep river canyon with very tall, steep sides. To get into the park from this side, you need to travel through two tunnels that were blasted through the rock in the 1930’s. Because of the limited width and height of the tunnel, traveling through with a Toyhauler is not recommended.
Next, we headed further north into the Paiute ATV Trail Country. The 900-plus-mile Paiute ATV Trail system, the largest in the nation, passes through several towns and connects to multiple side trails. We decided to stay at the Rock Candy Mountain RV Resort just north of the town of Marysvale on Hwy 89. One could spend a lifetime exploring these trials and we all agreed a future trip to this area was in order.
Overall, this was a great trip and a place I will definitely visit again. The variety of locations kept everyone interested and the scenery in Southern Utah never disappointed. For a good internet resource on this area, please visit www.atvutah.com.