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Coral Pink Sand Dunes: An Epic Detour for Your Utah Road Trip

  • Post last modified:October 15, 2023
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Want to try sand boarding? How about driving an ATV up a monster dune? Or maybe you’d prefer admiring the surprising amount of biodiversity as you stroll through the ever-shifting landscape? No matter your comfort level for adventure, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Southern Utah is worth the detour.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes (Pinterest Image)

Where is Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park?

Though seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is practically surrounded by some of the nation’s best National Parks.

  • Less than 1-hour away from Zion National Park.
  • 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon.
  • 1.5 – 2 hours from the northern sections of the Grand Canyon.
Its convenient location makes a good day trip from any of these parks. Or you can tie it into your route, like we did on our way from Zion to Bryce Canyon.

Why is the Sand Pink?

The mountains of Southern Utah are made of Navajo sandstone from the Middle Jurassic period. Full of iron and minerals, the oxidized sand appears red.

High winds chisel away at the mountains, eroding the sandstone and leaving behind the magnificent burnt colored sand of Coral Pink Sand Dunes. These dunes are estimated to be around 10,000 to 15,000 years old.

Ridge of the pink sand dune, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

What To Do at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Tour the Park in an ATV

Tire tracks in the red sand from the ATVS, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

Tire tracks crisscrossed our path as we made our way from the parking lot out to the main dune.

From the top of the dune, we had an amazing view of the dune-buggies zipping along the sands. It wasn’t until this moment that we realized just how unnerving this was.

With over 90% (1500 acres) of the sand dunes accessible to ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), there really was no separation between pedestrians, sand-surfers, and the ATVs. No matter which one you are, be sure to keep this in mind.

ATV driving on the dunes of Coral Pink Sands National Park, Utah

If you don’t already own one, there are two ways to get your hands on an ATV.

1) Located within the park, Coral Pink ATV Tours offers various guided scenic tours with the choice of driving or being a passenger.

2) Most ATV rental offices are based in St. George; however, there are a couple in Kanab, like Loop SXS Adventures. You can tow your rental or have them delivered to the park for a charge. Rentals start at around $450 for a half-day. 

Couple riding a 4-wheeler across the dunes, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

It’s also possible to do an off-road 4×4 experience in the surrounding area. Located inside the state park, All Ways Adventure have half and full day off-roading jeep tours.

Learn to Sand Surf

Another unique experience; however, much more budget friendly, is sand surfing. 

From the Visitor Center, the park rents sand boards (stand-up) and sand sleds (sit down) for $25 an hour.

If you’ve never done this, it’s a ton of fun. Though, don’t underestimate the workout. Sliding down the dune is a quick and easy laugh but dragging the board back up is not as much fun.

Woman sand surfing, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

Careful if it has Rained.

We went sand surfing for the first time in Lancelin, Australia. The soft silky white sand made easy work of gliding down the dunes.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes was a completely different experience. The sand was still damp from the rain the night before. This made walking easier, but not surfing.

The board kept gripping to the sand and we were repeatedly thrown off. It wasn’t nearly as fun as our previous experience, and also a little dangerous. Actually, two people got hurt while we were there. It looked like they sprained or possibly broke their ankles. Ouch!

We did find that if we followed the same path down, it dried out the sand and allowed the board to slide a little better.

Follow the Nature Trail

Despite the ever-changing landscape, the dunes are home to a surprising amount of vegetation and wildlife.

Near the observation deck, and thankfully roped off from the ATVs, there is a short 0.5-mile nature trail. Look for the little signposts to guide you through the dunes.

While you’re wandering, keep an eye out for the rare Coral Pink tiger beetle, which is only found here. 

Nature Trail sign for Rabbitbrush plant, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah
Kanab Yucca plant growing on the pink dunes, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

Tips on Visiting Coral Pink Sand Dunes

  • At 6,000 feet above sea level, the elevation keeps temperatures milder than other areas of the desert. However, there is little to no shade. Always bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and ideally wear long UV protective clothing.
  • Sand will get everywhere and in everything. Avoid lotions, sunscreens, and lip glosses that leave moisture on you. We kept a towel and a bottle of saline solution in the car to wash sand out of our eyes and brush ourselves off. 
  • There’s nowhere in the park to get food. Kanab has plenty of options, about 30 minutes away. However, we were heading north to Bryce Canyon, so grabbed food at Archie’s Food to Die For in Orderville. Though we didn’t feel this little food truck was “to die for,” it was good, had plenty of shaded seating, and definitely a local favorite. 

Where to Stay for Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Staying in Kanab

Kanab is the closest town to the state park at only 20 miles / 30 minutes away. There are several budget chain brands in the area and a few local ones.

Staying near Zion

If you plan on visiting Zion Canyon National Park (and you really should), you’ll find better options in the town of Springdale. From Springdale, it’s an easy day trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

  • Zion Canyon Lodge – We stayed here on our trip. It was one of the more reasonably priced hotels in the area. The room was clean and comfortable, and the location made getting into Zion a cinch.

Alternatively, there are a few remote ranches with cabins on the eastern side of Zion. 

  • Zion Mountain Ranch – This beautiful ranch offers cabins in a serene setting on a buffalo preserve. The east entrance of Zion National Park is only 5 minutes away.

Planning your road trip through Utah? Keep reading. We have tons of information to help plan your trip. 

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