Hiking Southern Utah: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Tucked away in Kanab near the Utah/Arizona border is Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Rippling arcs of rust-colored sand welcome you as you enter this area of shifting dunes. Contrasted by blue skies, juniper and pinion pines, and steep red cliffs, the park is a wonderful place for camping, photography, off-highway vehicle riding, and playing in the sand. As the only major sand dune field on the Colorado Plateau, this park is a unique geologic feature that should not be missed.
A 22-site campground offers showers, restrooms, and water. Off-highway vehicle access is available directly from the dunes. Reservations are recommended, especially on holidays and weekends.
The geology of the sand dunes is an intriguing subject. The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period called “Middle Jurassic.” The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand.
The sand dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park are created by three factors: sand, high winds, and the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains. The notch uniquely influences the wind, which is funneled through the notch, thereby increasing wind velocity to a point where it can carry sand grains from the eroding Navajo sandstone.
This phenomenon is known as the Venturi effect. Once the wind passes through the notch and into the open valley, the wind velocity decreases, causing the sand to be deposited. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes support a diverse population of insects, including the Coral Pink tiger beetle that is found only here. Melting snow sometimes creates small ponds in the dunes that support amphibians such as salamanders and toads.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is in Kanab, approximately 62 miles east of St. George.