At Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

We arrived at Coral Pink early afternoon after a relatively short 65 mile drive from St George. A lot of negative things are said about GPS navigation devices, but today our paper road map failed us. There are several ways to get to the park – some short, some long. We opted for a shorter route that, according to the map, was paved. A very large portion was not. It was still quite drivable, but a little bumpy and very dusty. Not so bad for use, but the RAV 4 we tow was covered with fine pink sandstone dust when we finally arrived.

We pulled into the deserted campground and immediately found a really nice site. This park can be hit or miss as far as the crowds are concerned. If we hit it right, there will be no one here. If not, the place is crowded with noisy ATV’s, dirt bikes, dune buggies, etc. We figured, cool, we’ve got the place to ourselves. No sooner had we jumped out of the rig, the ranger pulls up and asks us if we are planning to just stay the night. We said no, we hope to stay at least 3 nights. He told us that would be a problem because the site we choose was booked for the weekend. In fact they all were – all 22 sites. Well, except for the 2 that are un-reservable. It turns out at this time of year, the weekend warriors are a force to be reckoned with, and after Easter, it’s crowded every day. The 2 available sites were actually just as nice, so it turns out well for us. At $16 per night, it is also a great deal. While there are no hook-ups, water is nearby and free hot showers are available. All of the sites are spacious and well separated so there is a feeling of privacy.

But it did require use to adjust our plans a bit. We would have originally just hung out for the balance of the day, gotten up early and walked the dunes the next morning. Since we had at least one quiet day, we chose to hike out later that afternoon. It would be a much more pleasant experience. We drove down the road that parallels the dunes to the protected portion and walked out.

Over the 30 years we have been visiting this park, several changes have occurred. Many of the dunes have stabilized to the point where vegetation has taken root and flourished. This is great for nature, but not so much for photography. It is more difficult to photograph large expanses of the sensual lines of dunes than before. The compacted dunes are easier to walk on, but they hold footprints and tire tracks much longer as well. The afternoon winds that used to smooth out everything, now have less effect. We made d0.

On Friday morning, we intended to walk the dunes again, but a visit with the ranger convinced us we could take the RAV down a 4 mile ATV trail to what we were told was a really nice panel of Pictographs, called South fork Indian Canyon pictographs. We’ve know about the panel for 30 years, but never felt we could get there. The ranger said that because the sand was still quite compacted and damp from the rain and snow they got last week, the trail should be no problem for our all wheel drive car. He mentioned only one place that might be too sandy to get through, but that if I just powered through without stopping, I should have no problem. He also warned about the possibility of Utah pin-striping as the trail narrowed towards the end. We decided to give it a try.

It was a breeze. The trail was mostly quite wide – for a ATV trail that is. Maybe as wide a a single lane of regular roadway. The sandy path made for a mostly smooth ride with just the occasional jagged rock or tree root poking through. The sandy spot I was warned about was easy to get through, and after that that the only problem was knowing just where we were at any given time. These kinds of roads tend to have a lot of branches coming off of them – often not marked. We came to a couple of Y’s in the road, but felt pretty confident of our route. That is until after we hit the 4 mile mark. The trail was getting steeper, narrower and windier and finally after 5 miles we just stopped to reconsider. The ranger said it was 4 miles. Mary really wanted to turn back. She gets worried about getting stuck in remote places. I wanted to continue, because what usually happens is we stop just inches from our destination. Well, we “discussed” it awhile and I agreed to turn around. But I had to find a spot to do it and so went forward again. Not more than 50 feet, as we rounded a bend, was the end of the road and the trail head. Some things just don’t change.

We checked the posted information signboard and were discouraged to see The hike was a 1,700 ft decline in .75 miles. A picture of the panel showed a 12 ft. cyclone fence blocking close access to the pictographs. We decided to do the hike anyway. We were here after all, and the canyon it was located in looked inviting. We started down the trail and it really wasn’t too bad until at about a half mile down, we hit ice on the narrow trail. The trail also has steep drop-offs where, even if you didn’t go over the cliff, you would not be happy with the landing. Mary has real problem navigating these kinds of obstacles. Yes they can be very difficult – even dangerous, but she really gets freaked out and makes it worse. I give her credit for getting through this one though. We thought the trail was .75 of a mile. Turns out it was more like .5. Just past the ice was the pictograph panel. Again, we almost turned back because of the ice. It really wasn’t 1,700 feet either. More like 500. So we were both quite happy. Happier still when we found the 12 ft. fence had been replaced with a little rope fence about 3 ft high. There was also a boardwalk that allowed for closer inspection. The panel was indeed quite impressive. Located in a huge sandstone grotto, there was a wonderful variety of figures painted all over the surfaces. We spent about an hour photographing before heading back.

Once in the car and back on the wider main trail, we encountered a large pick-up truck with a large camper on back stopped at a point in the road. It was a family of 4 and the husband was on the roof of the camper trying to lift up a number of low hanging pine branches as his wife drove the truck by. The truck took up fully the roadway – there was no space on either side to get by on. I stopped in a nearby turnout and walked up to see if I could offer assistance. They were planning on driving all the way to the panel we had just left. I had to let them know I didn’t think there would be any way they could make it in the truck. After the next turn – off, the trail got much narrower and windier and steeper. I think he was convinced to park where we were and walk the 3 mile left to get to the panel. I’m not sure though.

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