06 Apr Add two Utah state parks to your vacation itinerary
Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Snow Canyon are great additions when visiting the Big Five
Utah’s “Big Five” receive all the hype: Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches national parks. And they deserve the limelight.
We strongly encourage you, though, to consider adding other destinations when planning your visit to any of Utah’s Big Five. In this article, we’re making the case for two state parks near Zion National Park: Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Snow Canyon state parks.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The main feature should be pretty obvious – beautifully colored dunes created by Navajo sandstone, wind and the uniquely shaped landscape of the Moquith and Moccasin mountains. The park sits at 6,000 feet elevation, so it does get snow in the winter, which we experienced during our last visit.
You won’t feel secluded in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which allows recreational activity such as sand surfboarding and ATVs. But like any outdoor preserve, if you’re willing to get up early or hike a bit, you can lose humanity and enjoy the splendor of the wild.
The park is remotely located in between Zion National Park and the city of Kanab. On the drive in, we were treated to a variety of wildlife sightings, including groups of mule deer, hawks and a great photo session with bald eagles.
It’s the only place on earth where you can find a Coral Pink Tiger beetle, plus the dunes themselves provide homes for amphibians and wildflowers that thrive off melting snow. We like big vistas at Wandering Rose Travels, but we also enjoy the “little things” nature offers such as cool insects and seasonal dune vegetation.
Tour operators work inside the park. Your best starting point for planning a visit is the state’s website for Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
Snow Canyon State Park
The park is located on the outskirts of St. George and can be quite crowded on weekends with people enjoying activities such as bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, camping and technical climbing. It’s part of the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve that protects the endangered desert tortoise and provides habitat for wildlife such as kit foxes, roadrunners, leopard lizards, peregrine falcons and gila monsters.
Like many rock landscapes, Snow Canyon State Park’s colors light up in early morning and late afternoon. Its Navajo sandstone consists of red, dark orange and cream-colored formations including petrified dunes and lava tubes.
We enjoyed hiking here to break up our drive from Bryce Canyon back to Las Vegas. The park features 35 miles of trails and we sampled several during our two separate visits, including Whiterocks, Petrified Dunes and Butterfly. You can rock scramble along several of these trails, explore the geology and enjoy great views of the surrounding cliffs, canyons and mountains.
Hurricane’s incredible eatery
Yes, I’m going to apply the words “world famous” to the homemade cinnamon rolls at River Rock Roasting Company near Hurricane, Utah. This place is special! Wandering Rose doesn’t regularly review restaurants but, when our tastebuds dance, we write about the experience.
This place rocks everything it makes: coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and pizza. They also tap a great beer selection. And the restaurant calls them “Aunt Becky’s Bodacious Buns” because cinnamon rolls that good need an original name.
To add to the magic, guests who eat on the outdoor patio can absorb the canyon views cut by the Virgin River. We manipulate our trips to southern Utah so that we can eat at River Rock. Kudos to the staff and owners.
Utah keeps luring us back
Wandering Rose writers have visited Utah at least 15 times and we keep going back. We continually unearth new destinations that we add to our bucket lists. Check out our past articles about The Beehive State.