Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fifteen Things To Do at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is full of activities for the whole family! This great place is between Zion National Park and Kanab, Utah. I had seen the turnoff to it before, but had always been in a hurry. Finally we decided to plan a four-day, three-night vacation centered on the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. That was a great plan, as there was so much to do.

1. Play. This is one of the biggest sand boxes around! 


2. Sled down the sand dunes. We had some snow that made sledding down the dunes even easier, but you can use sleds anytime. The state park as well as area businesses even rent out sand sleds and and sand boards for an even smoother ride. 

3. Junior ranger program. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes junior ranger program is lots of fun, with a booklet of activities and picking up trash earning the kids cool badges.

4. Look for tracks. Many animals that live in the dunes are nocturnal, so it might be hard to see them. But it's not hard to see their tracks the next morning--or other tracks, like plants that the wind has blown.

5. Photography. Photographers will have a field day at the dunes--so many colors, textures, and patterns! Here are four photos of the dunes from the overlook, just a short walk from the parking lot. You can see how different the dunes look even though it's nearly the same shot, without any editing.
Early morning with snow
Just after sunset
About 8 am with a little frost
About 5 pm

6. Geocaching. We've recently discovered the fun of geocaching and were happily surprised to find that one of the geocaches on our list was an Official DNR Geocache

7. Look for tiger beetle. Coral Pink Sand Dunes has its very own tiger beetle, found only in the dunes and nowhere else in the world. It's best seen on warm afternoons from April through June. We didn't see one in person, but we did see a beautiful example in the visitor center. We also read the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle brochure.


8. Look for ponderosa pines. Seeing ponderosa pines scattered in the sand dunes came as quite a surprise. Apparently they've been able to do well, as they are numerous. Some have been dated, and the state park has a fun challenge: Locate selected ponderosa pines using your GPS and find a sign at the bottom telling about what was going on in the year the tree started growing. You can pick up a brochure in the visitor center or download it here.

9. Run down (or roll down) the sand dunes. This is an easy and free activity, especially fun for kids! Did I mention that the state park has hot showers? And Kanab has a wonderful swimming pool in the summer.

10. Nature trail. The state park has a half-mile nature trail that gives a great introduction of what lives on part of the dunes and the adaptations they make to live in such a harsh place. The nature trail is a non-motorized part of the state park, as is the conservation area a bit to the north. Also, no ATVs are allowed on the dunes until 9 am, so it's nice and quiet for sunrise.

11. Bike ride.  The extremely slow speed limit and gentle terrain in the state park makes it a good place for kids to bike ride. 

12. Camp and/or picnic. The campground has 22 campsites, most of which are reservable in advance. But even if the website says they are all full (like it did for us), you may still be able to get a spot (like we did). There's also the nearby Ponderosa Grove campground, Sand Springs campground (4WD access), and dispersed camping on BLM land. The state park has several picnic tables near the nature trail.

13. Check out the visitor center. The visitor center, located right at the park entrance, has a cool exhibit of sands from around the world. There's also a snake and a few other things to look at. The best resource is the park ranger, who can answer questions about all sorts of topics.

14. ATVs  The sand dunes have long attracted all-terrain vehicles (or OHVs - off-highway vehicles). While we didn't bring any, if we went back we would consider renting them. It looked like so much fun to take a dune buggy, 4-wheeler, or dirt bike out on the dunes. And ATVs are one of the main reasons that the area was set aside as a state park. ATVs are allowed on the dunes from 9 am to 10 pm and can get noisy, so if you want quiet, try the off-season (late fall to early spring), the dunes on a moonlit night, or sunrises.

15. Visit nearby attractions.
Besides Zion National Park and Kanab, you might also want to check out the Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Trackway and South Fork Indian Canyon Pictograph Site

Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a great place for either a relaxing or an exciting vacation. For more information, check out the Coral Pink Sand Dunes website.

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