Coral Pink Sand Dunes — a Utah destination for more than sand

Thursday , March 09, 2017 - 5:00 AM

LYNN R. BLAMIRES, ATV Adventures columnist

Although you will find national parks and monuments closed to regular ATVs and UTVs, Utah has 18 state parks that not only welcome them, but actually offer access to a variety of opportunities to enjoy Utah’s beautiful backcountry.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is one of these — and we are entering one of the best seasons to ride there.

Located between Kanab and Mount Carmel Junction west of U.S. 89, this park is unique for several reasons. The sand gets its color from the pink-colored Navajo Sandstone cliffs that border the south edge of the dunes. Huge ponderosa pines dot the sands, and on the west end is a sandstone slope covered with dinosaur tracks.

When I first visited these tracks, I noticed the sign indicating the tracks, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. As I hiked along the sandstone slope, the rhythm and regularity of the divots in the rock began to take shape. It was then that I was able to recognize the individual footprints. The slope looked like a regular dinosaur thoroughfare. It is a place that is fun to discover with your family.

The park covers 3,370 acres of the dunes and 90 percent of it is open to riders. It features 17 campsites with restrooms, showers and a dump station. A small area is protected to preserve a beetle whose only known existence is inside the park boundaries. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle is an honored guest of the park.

Safety is the first concern in the dunes. Because riders carve their own trails in the sand, it is important to know where other riders are at all times. Riders are not allowed in the park without a brightly colored whip flag. Also, machines must run with lights on between dusk and dawn.

I like this area because the riding season starts early. A day in the mid-60s on a sunny day will feel comfortable as the sand reflects the sun’s heat. This is also a reason to avoid the summer months, when the temperatures will reach triple digits.

The state park covers only a small part of the area available to explore. Farther west from the park entrance is the parking area for the Mail Drop Loop Trail. The Barracks Trail also starts there, as well as the Yellow Jacket trails and connector trails to Mount Carmel Junction, which include the Virgin River trails. Days can be spent exploring trails in Kane County.

Being a mountain trail rider, I like to follow a trail to see where it goes. Making trails in the sand is not as fun to me, but this place is different. Yes, there are open sand dunes, but there are also trails that skirt the edge of the dunes and climb up to the top of the cliffs, where the views are spectacular. Trails wind through tall ponderosa pines as you work your way to the top of the ridge on the east end. Sections of the sand dunes have enough foliage to make trails well-defined and fun to ride.

If you view the dunes on Google Earth, the area looks like a huge nightmare of a sand trap going west to east, with a dogleg on the east end that turns south.

As you work the cursor, you can follow trails all over the area. I can’t do that for very long because my thumb, the one that works the throttle, gets twitchy and I start to hyperventilate. Why am I glued to this computer screen in a vicarious adventure when I could be on the seat of my ATV having a real adventure?

This area of Kane County is one of the features that make Utah such an ATV mecca. More information and directions can be found at www.stateparks.utah.gov. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and ride like the wind in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

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