Quality Riding, Not Size, Rules At Coral Pink Dunes

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013

There are sand dunes and then there are the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes, located just north of the Utah/Arizona border west of Kanab in southern Utah, aren’t the biggest dunes (in acres or dune height) you’ll ever ride. And it won’t take you weeks or even several days to ride all of Coral Pink.

But those who ride there and have experienced the area know it’s not the size, it’s the quality and uniqueness that makes Coral Pink a great place to go off-roading.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes, located about 20 or so miles west of Kanab, are known for their red sand, variety of terrain and unique vegetation. You’ll find areas of mature trees, green plants and desert vegetation with trails of sand that run through them.

Areas like this are joined by open areas with trails through brush and bushes, which open up into large areas of sand with relatively large dunes. You’ll find everything from whooped sections of trails to areas with steep-banked turns in the bottom of small sand ravines.

There are challenging trails with twists and turns that climb up steep inclines where you and your machine will be perilously close to sliding off the trail as both man and machine are caught between a 30-degree sand slope and a 40-foot-tall sandstone wall.

There are also picturesque dirt trails that run for miles outside the Coral Pink riding area for those who want to cover some ground. It’s not uncommon to encounter a coyote on the hunt for prey in this desert wilderness.


Unique, Beautiful Area

The Coral Pink Dune area is one of the most unique and beautiful riding areas we’ve ever seen. This area is a great place for nature lovers, thrill seekers, explorers and families because there’s something for everyone here.

All this is packed into the 3,730-acre Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and adjoining area. About 1,200 acres within the state park are open to OHV riding, which is about 90 percent of the Coral Pink dune field. If you contrast that acreage to, say, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in eastern Idaho, where there is 10,600 acres of riding and 50-100-foot dunes, yea, Coral Pink is small in comparison.

But not many places can compare when it comes to the sheer beauty and ruggedness of the riding area. The salmon pink dunes offer a sharp contrast to the green vegetation, while the surrounding desert and mountains with their red rock coloration and unique rock and sandstone formations provide a dramatic backdrop to riding.

The dunes were created, according to Utah state sources, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. Thanks to a notch between the Moquith (somewhat south and east of the dunes) and Moccasin mountains (on the southern and western side of the dunes), wind is funneled through a narrow gap, helping create the dunes from eroding sandstone. The elevation of the state park is 6,000 feet.


Other Reasons

Aside from the spectacular scenery at Coral Pink, there are other reasons to like riding Coral Pink. First let’s talk about the weather. It does get hot in the summer, so the best time to visit is during spring and fall. July and August can see triple-digit temperatures although the average high in July is 92.8 degrees F and 90.3 degrees in August. And it’s not uncommon to see snow in the winter months. But the other months are ideal for riding with temps in the 70s and 80s.

Another reason to like Coral Pink is the relative lack of crowds. In 2011, 52,676 people visited Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Compare that to the St. Anthony dunes which see well more than 100,000 people in a year. Of course, Coral Pink can get crowded so you just have to pick your times when you want to ride if you want to avoid crowds.

Coral Pink is definitely a popular place to ride dirt bikes, ATVs and UTVs. However, it’s uncommon to see larger vehicles, such as sand rails, there, because most of the trails aren’t big enough to accommodate them.

Our favorite area to ride at Coral Pink is definitely the northeast end of the park. It’s a ton of fun to explore the trails through the woods and amidst the brush and bushes. There are challenging slopes and winding trails that will have you wondering what’s around the next bend and up the next hill. It’s easy to lose track of time and even fuel as you venture farther from camp.



Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park has a campground that provides shade, restrooms, RV spots and great tent camping. The campground is adjacent to the riding area, so you can hop on your machine and drive out to the dunes from camp. It fills up quickly, so it’s best to reserve a camp spot online through the Utah State Parks website. The BLM also offers a campground (Ponderosa Grove Campground) near the dunes.

If camping’s not your gig, you can stay in Kanab, which has several lodging options, as well as restaurants.

It’s not all good news about Coral Pink, though. Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the Coral Pink Sand Dunes area be closed to the public in order to protect the Tiger Beetle, which lives in the area.

The exact statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reads: “We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) propose to list the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Cicindela albissima, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act); and propose to designate critical habitat for the species. In total, approximately 921 hectares (2,276 acres) are being proposed for designation as critical habitat. The proposed critical habitat is located in Kane County, Utah.”

Of course that’s a concern to anyone who likes OHV riding, not just at Coral Pink, but any place where areas are being considered for closure. The federal government’s proposal can be found here: www.fws.gov/policy/library/2012/2012-23741.html.

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