Photo Post: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park near Kanab, Utah

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Sand dunes

Just outside the seasonal tourism hub of Kanab, Utah, stretches one of the rare sand dunes in North America’s Colorado Plateau. The first thing you notice when you step off the creaky, weathered boardwalk onto the sand is how incredibly soft it is. I’ve been on my fair share of beaches, but the sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes is so much more delicate and light; it welcomed my bare feet onto a vast, otherworldly sea and gently gave way as my feet left smooth depressions in the dunes. Silent trickles of sand spilled down the corrugated flanks of the dunes as I made my way to a lookout point in the center of this Utah state park.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Edge of the protection zone

Views from the top were cool, offering a comprehensive take on far southern Utah: the undulating fields of sand stretching from the southwest to northeast, the pines and junipers slowly encroaching on the periphery, and several cliff “steps” of the Grand Staircase rearing up in the distance, each a few thousand feet closer to Heaven.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Dried rabbitbrush

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes formed due to a quirk of geology. There’s a north-south notch that runs between the Moccasin Mountains to the south, out on the Kaibab Indian Reservation in far-northern Arizona, and between the Moquith Mountains to the east, on the Utah side of the border. This notch focuses local wind patterns, boosting their velocity while they pass between the two mountain ranges. As they pick up speed, they also pick up eroded grains of sand from exposed layers of the same rusty-orange Navajo Sandstone that spans much of the Colorado Plateau. Once these currents of wind exit the “funnel,” they drop the sand in a long, narrow dune that you can visit today.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Two visitors & a dog

How to get there

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Vials of sands at the visitor center

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is located 22 miles west of Kanab in far southern Utah. The visitor center and campground can be reached about 12 miles south of U.S. Highway 89 on Kane County Road 43 (a.k.a. Coral Pink Sand Dunes Road). I only spent about an hour here but camping would be a great alternative to lodging in Kanab if you’re looking for a home base to explore the Arizona Strip or the Grand Staircase region.

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