Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a fun state park, located about 30 miles from Kanab UT, and similarly 30 miles from the east entrance of Zion National Park.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes Trail Guide
PERMITS: none – $10 entrance fee per vehicle for day use
DESIGNATION: Utah State Park
BEST SEASONS: spring, summer, fall
WATER: spigots at picnic area
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Kanab, drive north on US 89 for 7.5 miles. Turn left on Hancock Rd (signed). After 9.5 miles, turn left on Coral Pink Sand Dune Road. Travel 2.5 miles to the park entrance.
From Zion’s East Entrance, travel 13 miles east on Route 9 to US 89. Turn right on US 89, driving south for 3.5 miles. Turn right on County Road 43 (signed) and continue south for 11 miles to the entrance station
Coral Pink Sand Dunes registers in Google Maps.
GUIDEBOOK: Top Trails of Utah
As opposed to being a big hiking destination, Coral Pink Sand Dunes is primarily known as an ATV playground. Its only trail for exclusive foot travel is the Nature Trail, a short, half-mile jaunt.
But never fear! There’s plenty of space to roam the colorful dunes on foot, and the ATV’s are mostly non-intrusive. If you have time when traveling among the area’s National Parks, this is certainly a worthy stop. Hiking the dunes is unique experience, with wonderful opportunities for photography.
The Visitor Center itself is especially neat, one of the coolest I’ve seen in the Utah State Park system. They have an extensive collection of sand from around the world! Most of it is exotic and colorful, like volcanic black sand from the beaches of Hawaii.
I’ve never seen it, but viewing sunset at the dunes is reportedly spectacular.
Located at roughly 6,000 feet above sea level, weather conditions will be ever so slightly chillier than in Kanab. I’d also steer clear of this park on a windy day. Monthly weather trends and current conditions can be viewed here.
Sand sleds and sand boards are available to rent at the visitor center for $25, which certainly looks like a fun, out-of-the-ordinary experience. Have you ever sledded down a sand dune? Didn’t think so.
Dogs are allowed throughout the entirety of the park at no extra cost. As usual, you must keep them on a leash and be sure to pick up their poop!
As mentioned above, the interpretive Nature Trail is the only official trail in the park, but that’s because most of the area is compromised of sand dunes!
Maps show a trail called the South Boundary Trail, but this is intended for OHV’s (off highway vehicles). I suppose you could walk some of it if you really wanted to, but it’s probably one of the worst places in the park to hike.
The best way to hike this park is to start at the developed viewpoint, size up the terrain, and explore on your own! It’s so much fun to choose your own path up and down the various dunes. There’s usually at least two significantly large ones to choose as summits to climb.
It takes at least a few hours to walk among the dunes, especially if you go up the highest ones. This landscape is bigger than it looks!
This is reportedly the largest area of sand dunes on the Colorado Plateau, a collection of Navajo Sandstone that’s been wind-blasted from a narrow channel through Moquith and Moccasin mountains. The dunes are thought to have begun anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 years ago – a short time in the study of sedimentary rocks on the Plateau.
The wind tends to lose velocity directly over the state park, dropping the sand into a landscape of dunes. Geologists call this the the Venturi effect, originally observed as a behavior in fluids and named for an Italian physicist. They say that the position of the dunes shifts about 50 feet a year.
For more geological information, check out this study (PDF).
Here’s a few maps of Coral Sand Dunes State Park. The first one is best to see the general layout of the park.
All three maps are courtesy of the Utah State Park system. Right-click on them to download or view a larger version.
The park’s campground has 22 sites, with plenty of juniper and pinon pine for shade.
Each site has a water spigot and picnic table.
A restroom is located at the campground with hot showers.
There’s a restriction of one vehicle per site. A truck pulling a trailer is considered to be one vehicle.
Driveways for the sites are paved for RVs. Full hookups are not available, but there’s a dumping station for sewage.
Reservations can be made as early as four months in advance. So if you know you’d like to be there on September 1st, the earliest day you can apply is May 1st.
The fee is $20 per night.
New Campground with electric hookups
There’s a new campground in the park for 2020, with 9 new sites near the visitor center. The new sites have water and electric hookups for RV’s, but there’s still only a single dumping station in the park. As of late 2019 these sites weren’t yet available to reserve online, but you can try calling 800-322-3770 or 435-648-2800 to do so.
Rates at the new campground are $30 per night.
Free Dispersed Camping
Much of the land surrounding the park is managed by the BLM, which generally allows free camping unless otherwise posted.
The most popular and nearest free camping in the vicinity is the Moquith Mountain Dry Lake site, located half a mile south along route 43 from its intersection with Hancock Road.
The Ponderosa Grove is also a minimalist campground, and it has a toilet! The cost for this one is $5.
My Trip Notes and Photos
I visited and hiked the dunes on August 6, 2017. We spent 3 or 4 hours in the park, which felt like a good length of time to be satisfied with our experience.
There were some clouds, which kept temperatures cooler than we feared, and improved the lighting for photography. Maybe someday we’ll come back and camp to experience the sunset and night sky.