A visit to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southern Utah is a lesson in geography, geology, weather and physics all at the same time. Its location, which is actually a deep notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains, serves as a natural collection area for the fine sands blown off the mountains’ steep red cliffs and outcroppings. The wind funneled through the notch is so great that it easily carries these sand grains from the eroding ancient Navajo sandstone. Mixed in with the sand are grains of quartz with a hematite coating, providing the pink-orange color. Once the wind passes into the open valley, its velocity decreases and the sand is deposited, but the wind continues to whip it into ever-changing dunes. This phenomenon is known as the Venturi Affect, named after Giovanni Battista Venturi (1746–1822), an Italian physicist.
Most visitors stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park while touring Utah’s Grand Circle (Bryce Canyon and Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks). Just 12 miles southwest of U.S. Hwy 89 near Kanab, the park is indeed convenient to these more popular attractions, but Coral Pink Sand Dunes is also a unique destination perched at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Photographers and off-road enthusiasts especially appreciate this unique landscape found nowhere else in the United States. The sweeping sandy expanse is 3,730 acres of contrasting color— coral dunes surrounded by red sandstone cliffs, blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and emerald junipers and pinion pines. The dunes are also a massive playground for riding off-highway vehicles!
If you’d rather get around on your own two feet, a nature trail is closed to riding, so hikers can get sand in their boots without dodging OHVs. Park facilities include a campground ($15 per night) with modern restrooms, hot showers, 22 pull through sites (max RV length 32 feet), and a dump station. No electricity. There’s also a small visitor center and a gift shop. Day use fee is $6.
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com