Coral Pink Sand Dunes was the place we nearly skipped on our Spring Break in Southern Utah, but it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the trip.
We had already been driving for hours, and despite the signs, we missed the turnoff to Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab, Utah. We found ourselves on a dirt road in Arizona – not for the first time on this trip…
If we didn't easily find the turnoff on our way back to Highway 89, we were skipping Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Our kids were getting a little surly in the back seat, which made me almost hope we didn't find it.
Then we saw the sign and turned in, amid a chorus of complaints. My kids changed their tune once they saw those big hills of colorful sand.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a fun destination for families. Here are tips to make the most of your visit.
What to Do
There are no formal trails at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Visitors are welcome to explore the 1,200 acres of sand dunes on foot. My kids set their sights on the biggest hill and climbed to the top. They ran down and climbed up again lots of times until they had just enough energy to walk back to the car.
Expect to find sand in shoes, pockets, hair and everywhere else by the end of your visit. It's proof of a successful family adventure!
A family near us brought sleds and sand toys. The sand was soft and clean. I agreed with my kids that this would be a really fun place to visit with friends or cousins.
You'll find an accessible platform with bleachers and informative signs within a short walk of the day use area.
When to Go
This part of Utah gets HOT in the summertime. There is little shade at Coral Pink Sand Dunes and the sand will likely burn bare skin. I would avoid Coral Pink Sand Dunes in the summer – unless you just want to see the wildflowers in June.
Spring or fall are the best times to visit. The weather should be warm, but not too warm.
Winter weather is usually mild and sunny in this part of Utah. You will want a jacket, and may not be so eager to kick off your shoes, but there will probably be plenty of places to play in the sand.
There are several good science lessons to be found at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. These dunes are created when wind blows through a notch between the mountains and erodes the sandstone. It's called the Venturi Effect. Wind constantly moves and changes the dunes, so the landscape will change from year to year.
The sand is brightly colored because of iron oxide (rust) and other elements found in the sandstone.
We did not see wildlife during our stay, but the dunes support a variety of plants and animals. Keep your eyes open for the Coral Pink Tiger Beetle. You won't find this insect in nature anywhere else in the world.
Related: Tips for Touring Glen Canyon Dam
All Terrain Vehicles
About 90% of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is open for ATV and dune buggy use. All of the park is open for hiking and playing in the sand. Signs and a fence make it clear where ATVs can ride.
Riders and pedestrians are expected to share the dunes. The park was uncrowded on the day of our visit, so there was plenty of space for all.
The biggest dunes we saw for hiking, running and sliding were in the shared area. We saw ATV tracks, but no ATVs during our afternoon visit. If I had young children playing with sand toys, I could have easily found them a safe spot inside the fence, nearer the parking lot.
Day use and camping facilities at Coral Pink Sand Dunes are not large, but they are fairly new. I was surprised to find new built-in gas grills and covered tables at the day use picnic sites and camp sites. Bring your own propane tank if you'd like to use the grill. There is a fire pit at the group picnic area.
The bathrooms in the day use area are clean and modern. Hot showers are available in the camping restrooms.
The visitor center is very small. We just spent a few minutes here – long enough to browse the few low-tech exhibits and ask the ranger a few questions.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes is located near several national parks and other top attractions. Here are my favorite day trips from Kanab.
The East Entrance to Zion National Park is located about 30 minutes' drive from Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
Kanab is the closest city to the Grand Canyon North Rim – about 2.5 hours away. The Grand Canyon North Rim is only open during the summer, which is not the best time to visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
Bryce Canyon National Park is about 90 minutes' drive from Kanab, up scenic Highway 89.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument practically borders Kanab. Much of this monument is not accessible for 2WD vehicles, but the monument's visitor center and the local visitor's bureau in Kanab can give you good information on scenic and uncrowded hikes and drives.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is just outside of Kanab. Animal lovers will want to take a free tour, and perhaps schedule a volunteer session.
Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are about an hour east of Kanab. We thought that the tour and visitor center were fun. There is another Grand Staircase-Escalante visitor center near Glen Canyon with dinosaur fossils from the monument.
Good to Know
Where: 22 miles west of Kanab, Utah on Sand Dunes Road (Highway 43). Follow the signs from Highway 89, and you shouldn't have much trouble. Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an easy side trip from Zion National Park.
When: Open year round, but spring and fall are the best times to visit. Wild flowers peak in June.
Summer can be very hot, making the sand too hot for bare feet. Winter can be chilly with occasional snow.
How Much: $10 per vehicle
How Long: 2+ hours
Amenities: modern restaurants with showers, picnic facilities with gas grills, visitor center,
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay? We have stayed at Zion Ponderosa Ranch and Resort in Mount Carmel and Parry Lodge in Kanab. Both are one-of-a-kind properties, which we liked. Parry Lodge is a quaint hotel that once hosted A-List Hollywood celebrities in the heart of town.
Click the button below to check rates and availability for Kanab hotels at TripAdvisor.com.
We have also booked a great vacation home in the heart of Kanab through HomeAway.com. Click the button below to see where we stayed.
Need a rental car? You will need to rent a car to visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes if you're not driving your own. I recommend starting your search at RentalCars.com. They negotiate the lowest prices at all the top rental agencies.