It's 9 a.m. when we drive a Yamaha Rhino 660 onto the flourlike sand of Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park and out of sight of our Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4x4. On the back of the truck is a Lance camper, which serves as our home on wheels during this adventure.
Coral Pink is a seven-mile-long, half-mile-wide sliver of southwestern Utah real estate. It's at the base of the famous Utah Steps, a geological formation of Navajo sandstone that leads into Zion National Park to the northwest and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the northeast.
The dune complex is actually a valley in a deep notch between the Moquith Mountains to the east and the Moccasin Mountains to the north. Its location serves as a natural collection area for the fine sands blown off the surrounding mountains' steep red cliffs and outcroppings.
The lower 1200 acres are under the protection of the Utah State Parks Department; the larger, upper portion of the dunes and the surrounding land are under BLM control.
The park itself is a year 'round recreational area, perfect for those who enjoy playing with their motorized toys in a giant sandbox. Well, maybe not year 'round. "Spring, early summer, and fall are really the most ideal times to ride in the Pink," says Michael Frank, the park's head ranger. "During the heat of summer, temperatures can easily top 100 degrees. That kind of heat, combined with our altitude (6000-foot elevation) can make it uncomfortable for those who aren't used to such conditions."
"It can also get crowded on major holidays. Memorial and Labor Day weekends are the worst. That's why we recommend making reservations well in advance if you want to stay in one of the 22 campsites with full hookups, picnic tables, and clean bathrooms with hot showers," says Frank. "Fortunately, many of our visitors are self-reliant, and they camp at the unimproved camping areas that border the dune complex."
In addition, the midday temperatures hover in the low 80s, ideal for the forays across the dunes. We also explored many of the trails along the periphery of the main dune complex, which wander through thick stands of pinions and magnificent ponderosa pines.
There are numerous four-wheel-drive trails and several hundred miles of ATV trails. These, and some civilized roads, lead to places like the pictographs at the bottom of South Fork Indian Canyon and the overlook at the top of the Harris Mountains, just north of Coral Pink. Exploring these trails can provide grandiose views of the dunes and Zion National Park.
If you're planning a trip there, making advance reservations at Coral Pink State Park is highly recommended. The unimproved campsites are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also, bring plenty of supplies. The dune complex is a demanding environment, with no gas stations or stores closer than Kanab, which is a 22-mile drive from the park. Visitors to the area need to make sure fuel tanks are filled and food stocks and water are in abundant supply.
Safety in the dunes is also paramount. The dunes are closed to vehicles from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. Once you're on the dunes, orange flags on whips are required on all vehicles. Helmets are also required on all OHV riders under the age of 18.
|Info: In the Pink Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah|
From Kanab, Utah: Take Highway 89 north for 10 miles to Hancock Road, designated a Scenic Backway. Hancock Road is seven miles long and meets at a "T" with Yellowjacket Road. Turn left (south) onto Yellowjacket. The main park entrance is five miles up on the left.
From Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks: Take Highway 89 south past Mount Carmel Junction. Six miles farther south, watch for Coral Pink State Park signs that lead you to Yellowjacket Road. Take Yellowjacket and follow the signs to the Coral Pink State Park headquarters and campground.
|Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park|
P.O. Box 95
Kanab, UT 84741
43120 Venture St.
Lancaster, CA 93535
The information presented in this column is, to the best of our knowledge, correct and accurate at the time of publication. However, because of our lengthy lead time, we recommend you call the proper authorities or local experts for confirmation before visiting.
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