The road to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a scenic drive that provides a handy short cut to the Arizona Strip district, and hence also a route west avoiding the fees necessary to pass through Zion National Park. Driving south from US 89, the great Navajo sandstone domes of the park are clearly visible, 15 miles away on the right, while a low mesa rises on the other side; in between, the road crosses the level grasslands of Clay Flat
, followed by a shallow valley, Yellowjacket Canyon
. The dunes appear to the east after 9 miles, just beyond a (paved) side road that leads back to US 89, and several parking places provide easy access to the sands which do look quite pink at sunrise or sunset but at other times seem more traditionally colored. They always present quite an impressive scene though, shapely mounds without any vegetation, spread out beneath tall, layered cliffs to the east. Like other sandy places in the Southwest such as Utah's Little Sahara Recreation Area
and the Algodones Dunes
in California, off road vehicles are allowed to roam freely, interrupting the tranquil atmosphere and spoiling the symmetry of the dunes with their tracks. So early morning is perhaps the best time to visit, as nightly breezes tend to smooth out the dune surfaces, and the ORVs are not permitted before 9 am.
The State Park
The official entrance to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is few miles south of the northern edge of the dunes. The fee for day use (2019) is $8, which also gives access to a visitor center and nature trail, though there seems to be no need to pay if entering the dunes from one of the roadside parking areas. The park does have a small campground for an additional $20, and there are plenty of opportunities for free camping in the surrounding BLM land. Past the entrance, the main road continues south through pine woods; wide and still paved for a while, it becomes gravel and rather bumpy after the Arizona border, turns due east at the sleepy community of Cane Beds (an outpost of polygamism), then meets AZ 389 a few miles later. Vegetation within the park is understandably limited since much is barren sand, though there is one particular rare species found here, asclepias welshii (Welsh's milkweed), which flowers in June and July.