Southern Utah is a special place, and it's a point of pride among many visitors that they continue to carry a little bit of Utah with them wherever they go - in the form of sand. Since you're adding some of that always-with-you sand to your camping gear this year, it may as well be some one of a kind pink sand from the wonderful Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Kanab, UT.
The Southwestern corner of Utah has a different personality than the rest of the area. While many of the National Parks and Monuments are increasingly restricted to busy viewpoints and designated trails, this part of Utah likes things a little more on the wild side. Kenab is filled with tour guides and rental companies offering helicopters, hummers, dirt bikes, jeeps, sand rails, and a slew of non-motorized fun as well.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, created in 1963, is 3,730 acres of rolling sand dunes that have piled up over 15,000 years. There are two sections to the park so that OHV motorists don't have to watch out for hikers and photographers while they're tearing up the dunes. There is a campground with large pull-thru sites for RVs and trailers, but there are no hook-ups in the park. Drinking water and restrooms are available.
In addition to the off-road vehicle adventures which the park is famous for, sand surfing has been growing in popularity in recent years, as well as fat-tire biking, both of which allow some adventurous interaction with the desert without the need for hearing protection.
The park and campground are open year round, and if quiet enjoyment of the dunes for hiking, nature, and photography are what you seek, we suggest winter and spring visits to the dunes. The motorheads start showing up in force around Spring Break. Nearby Kenab is full-featured with several options for dining, groceries, and fuel. Don't forget to bring adult beverages with you from outside of Utah, or you will be very frustrated to find your local choices limited to some of the lightest beer in the nation.
Only thirty minutes from Kenab, but it feels like you are in the wilderness out here. Winds drift sand and flash foods can bring water over the roads during storms. Always be alert when driving where the sand is touching the pavement. Always explore off road with a partner so that you can tow each other out if you get stuck. With no hook-ups in the park, mind your tank levels, and never pass up an opportunity to fill your water tank. Also, never leave your awning open or roof vents open unattended because of sudden high winds.
The State Park Campground consists of 22 sites surrounded by attractive desert Juniper and Pinion trees. There are no hook-ups, but each of the sites is designed for toy haulers and large RVs. Every site is roomy with paved pull-thru driveways, picnic tables, and fire rings. The full restrooms have hot showers and drinking water and there is plenty of additional parking for trailers and OHV staging.
The nearby town of Kanab may have more OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) rental outfits and tour companies than it has restaurants. Check around for prices and availability. There is everything from scenic tours and day trips, to full rental delivery service, where they will bring the toys right to your campsite. The dunes are open to any vehicles, but don't get yourself in trouble without a friend to tow you out!
There is a five and a half mile loop trail that travels the perimeter of the dunes. The desert is filled with life which really must be experienced on foot to understand. Insects and reptiles inhabit the desert in great numbers, and while hiking the dunes visitors will see thousands of unique tracks and marks in the sand, recording much of this unseen life. It takes extra effort to hike in the sandy areas. Bring lots of water, and start early in the day if you are attempting the full hike.
Even though tearing through the sand dunes on a motorized dune-buggy is a blast, it's a special treat to be able to whisk through the desert silently on a bike. The Pink Coral Dunes are an incredibly scenic place to drop your tire pressure and cruise into the desert. The sand here is actually most firm where there are no Jeep tracks, so you'll be able to explore wherever your curiosity leads you. The sand in front of you will only be marked with the tracks of insects and coyotes. Fall and Winter are the best times to roll on the sand.
Whether you strap on a board because you can't wait till the ski hills open, or you're on it specifically because you need to commune with the sand dunes - sand-boarding is exploding in popularity. Many of the dunes tower over 300 feet, and a large section of the park is protected for non-motorized activities. Nearby Kanab has a wide variety of sand toys for sale and rent. There are even custom made tubes and sleds meant for tow-behind action. Fall is the best time because of cooler temps.
There are pictographs and petroglyphs to be found on the South Fork of Indian Canyon just a few miles drive from the State Park Campground, off of HWY89. Because of the nature of the shifting sand dunes, 4WD access is necessary to find your way to the sites. Check with the Park Ranger for trustworthy directions on your own, or call one of the tour companies out of Kanab for guided options. Please respect these historical paintings, and help preserve them from other generations.
A host of plant and insect life against the background of unique pink and orange colored sand dunes provide endless subject matter for adventurous photographers. Insects leave interesting trails in the sand. Coyotes can be found stalking desert rodents and snakes. Cactus and other desert plants reveal vibrant blooms in the Spring. Stunning sunrises spread shadows and color across an already exciting landscape. You'll never run out of things to photograph in Southern Utah.