We only went to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park because it was 10 minutes from my apartment. That’s probably the only reason you should go unless you like ATVing.
We did hear about how the night sky is really clear here so we decided to camp to see the stars and to try out our new camping equipment.
There is a fee to enter the park but it was like $5 and camping was around $16. On the road to the park, however, we noticed you could get to the dunes well before the entrance and there was even bleachers set up, presumably to watch the night sky. So if you didn’t want to pay a fee and just check it out, you could probably do that.
Anyway, we soon learned that this was ATV central. We were the only ones camping; everyone else was RVing it with trailers that held thousands of dollars worth of ATVs and ATV accessories.
It was actually kind of late when we got there so we set up our tent and just hung out for a while. (By the way, 3 years later and I’m still finding sand in that tent.) The campgrounds were LOUD. Children were running around and screaming and people were working on their ATVs, gunning the engines and all that. My mom was worried that ‘quiet time’ was more of a suggestion than a rule but, I swear by all that is holy, the exact moment it turned 10pm, all noise stopped.
We were exhausted and completely forgot about looking at the stars. I did end up going to the bathroom at 2am-ish and managed to look up. I’d never seen the Milky Way before. It looked more like a strip of cloud cover with some stars showing through and I literally can’t think about how the Milky Way is made up of suns, many bigger than ours, without hyperventilating so I’ll just leave it at that.
It wasn’t pitch black so if you’re looking for something like that, Coral Pink Sand Dunes isn’t the place, but for someone who had never seen the Milky Way before, it was definitely cool enough for me.
Now, I honestly don’t remember how we got to the sand dunes. I want to apologize, but we went there before doing a blog even crossed my mind and it was 3 years ago and I just don’t remember. HOWEVER, I do remember it not being hard and there’s a campground office with rangers.
So the dunes were interesting. There was definitely an expanse of sand and they were kind of coral pink in color. It looked like a valley that sand got caught up in. There were also plants growing in the sand, which I still don’t understand how is possible.
Turns out, the sand did just get trapped in a valley, according to a sign. Apparently, the sand that is light enough gets picked up by the wind, the wind slows down in the valley area, the heavy sand grains drop away, and the wind carries the lighter sand away. So every grain of sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes is the same size. SCIENCE!
The dunes were split in two sections. One for ATVs to ride around in, and the other for people to walk through. The ATVers were very respectful because they understand that if they go off course, the state could shut down the ATVing altogether. Apparently there are several groups who lobby to have recreational activities. I once talked to a guy in one of those groups and it was obvious that these groups don’t want to just run amuck over the land for fun. They treat the land with respect and want to preserve it so that others may enjoy it.
Anyway, the section for people actually had a trail with signs you could walk. It was weird, because you could see the whole trail from the top of the dunes. It was just a loop around the valley. We decided to do it because why the hell not. Um yeah, you have to take off your shoes. Or you’ll end up leaving with all the sand in your shoes.
The signs were cool and pointed out how plants grow (I still think it’s magic) and draw your attention to all the animal tracks. You then realize that the dunes are not just a pile of sand, but an entire ecosystem where lizards and mice and plants all co-exist.
I grew up in Michigan and the west coast is filled with sand dunes so this wasn’t super impressive for me. BUT, I did learn a lot because of all the signs on the trail and next time I go to a sand dune in Michigan, I’m going to look for animal tracks. They were EVERYWHERE and it was cool to see the path certain animals took: most went from bush to bush and into little holes at the base of each one that I seriously didn’t notice until a sign pointed it out to me.
There were a lot of people and sound of the ATVs didn’t exactly scream nature but if you’ve never seen a sand dune and you’re close to these, then check them out.
The trail did end up near a drop off of sand so my mom and I leapt off it to see who could go farthest. We ended up in sand to our waists! Sorry, no pictures, but honestly there was sand everywhere and we didn’t have a “sports” camera so you all can just deal with it.