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Why Visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Kanab, Utah?




Coral Pink Sand Dunes is Breathtaking




Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is located at 12500 Sand Dunes Road in Kanab, Utah.  It is a hidden gem!  It takes about twenty minutes of back road driving once you get off the highway to reach the park.  The scenic drive will take you past cattle, tumbleweed, and several types of pine trees (juniper, pinyon, and ponderosa) along the desert landscape.  Once you reach the park and walk out to the dune overlook, you will be awestruck.  There is coral pink sand for as far as the eye can see!  There are dunes, dunes, and more dunes!


How Were the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Formed?




Sand dunes form in two habitats.  Coasts of oceans and rivers and on desert floors.  This desert landform is about 10,000 to 15,000 years old.  The dunes were formed by the erosion of Navajo sandstone from the middle Jurassic period.  The dunes at the park continue to change and evolve.  High winds pass through the groove between the Monquith and Moccasin Mountains.  These winds pick up loose sand and drop it onto the dunes.  The mountains and hills of sand move up to 50 feet a year.  The tallest dune is about 100 feet tall and at 6,100 feet elevation.


How Do the Sand Dunes Get Their Coral Pink Color?


Moqui Sand Caves in Kanab, Utah


Navajo Sandstone Rock Faces

The sand dunes get their coral pink color from the iron oxide and other minerals in the Navajo sandstone. There are many sandstone landforms in the area.


More Science at the Dunes

Your sense of wonder will be in high gear at this state park!

Moqui Marbles

Moqui marbles

We found many small, sand-covered balls in the sand.  At first, we thought that they might be some sort of seed.  However, we went into the visitors’ centers, and a ranger told us that they are Moqui marbles.  These are round iron balls with a sandstone core.

Inside of a Moqui Marble

Desert Sunflowers

desert sunflowers

We saw patches of beautiful, yellow flowers.  They are desert sunflowers.  Desert sunflowers, like all sunflowers, turn their “heads” to follow the sun.  Desert flowers don’t require much water.  They grow twice a year after a period of rain.  These sunflowers have little hairs on their leaves and stems that keep what little water they have in for a little longer.  They bloom quickly.  Their bright yellow color attracts pollinators.  Flowers make seeds rapidly.  Once their job of producing flowers is done, desert sunflowers go dormant.


Coral Pink Tiger Beetle

Coral Pink Sand Dunes is the only place in the world where the Coral Pink Tiger Beetle lives.  They have a coral-colored wing coating and bury themselves in the sand.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see one, but here is a short video showing one.


The Weather


approaching rainstorm

The mean annual precipitation for Coral Pink Sand Dunes is 13 inches.  Thunderstorms can roll in quickly in the summer, like the one we saw.  In the winter, it is cold enough for snow, which usually melts off quickly in the sunlight.


Activities at Coral Pink Sand Dunes



Moe and Sarah at the top of one of the dunes

Playing on the Dunes




There are no formal hiking trails in the park. However, you are free to hike the dunes!  It is a lot harder than you think!  We preferred to go barefoot.  Once you get to the top it is usually windy, so expect to get sand everywhere (hair, ears, clothes, etc)!

Sandboarding and Sand Sledding

We saw several people sandboarding on the dune we hiked up.  It is a lot like snowboarding for those that have a sense of balance.  If you prefer to sit down, sand sledding might be for you.  While you will go down the hill quickly, know that you will get a workout each time you walk back up the dune!  You can rent both sandboards and sand sleds at the park on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Lessons are available too.

ATV Riding

ATV riders can use 90% of the park (we hesitate to write this, as we love it when the park is quiet).  That’s over 2000 acres for riding fun!  Rentals and guided tours are available at the park.  You can also bring your own ATVs, dirt bikes, and dune buggies.


For those of you who enjoy camping, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park has 34 sites.  Twelve of the sites have hookups.

If you are staying in the park, there are many great day trips you can take from there.  The closest place we would recommend is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.  You can easily spend a day there.  They offer tours (some of which you need to make reservations for), hike, and eat at lunch in their vegan cafeteria.

Kanab is called “Magically Unspoiled” for a reason!  There are hundreds of trails to hike, tours to take, and great food to eat.  You can also visit an old-time movie set.

If you want to venture farther, Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon are all within an hour and a half drive.  So are Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, and many other places for those who enjoy outdoor adventures.


kanab, utah
early morning view from the village of Kanab


So, plan on putting Coral Pink Sand Dunes on your bucket list.  If you want to learn more about our travels check out these posts.

And, remember it’s all science!


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