First stop – Coral Pink Sand Dunes

I love road trips with my daughter. We always manage to find plenty of adventure, and trust me, this recent road trip was filled with lots of laughs, challenges, and new experiences for the both of us.Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

The last time Ashton and I took a road trip she was still in college living in Fort Collins, Colorado. That trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota has always held the fondest of memories for this mother and daughter duo.  We never imagined that we could possibly top that road trip.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Ashton taking a panorama

But oh boy, we topped it indeed.  What an adventure.  One for the books!

sand dune flowersIt all started when Ashton drove up from Phoenix to pick me up in Prescott Valley, Arizona, where Al and I are currently camped with the RV.

She had her new Honda CRV (lovingly named Charlotte) all loaded up with everything we needed for our camping trip.  She and I had been planning and preparing for this trip for the past several weeks, and just like her mom (me), Ashton is well-organized.

Wednesday – May 17th   After loading my personal belongings into Charlotte along with a few items into the cooler, we hit the road.  As the lunch hour neared, I received a text message from hubby thanking me for the yummy food left in the frig.  Say what?  I had a feeling all along that I was forgetting something. I managed to load the cooler with the freezer items, but totally forgot about the frig; the egg salad, lettuce, and turkey in the RV refrigerator were left behind.  At least Al was a happy camper with a full tummy.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Having traveled this route in Arizona many a time, I knew exactly where we were going to stop for a picnic lunch, or so I thought …..   The plan was to stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend overlook for some photo-ops and a picnic, but as we neared the turn for the overlook, there was a line of cars and RV’s stretching down the highway waiting to enter the parking lot.  Egad …. no thanks!   And with the food targeted for our lunch left behind, it was time to come up with an alternative plan.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell – A scenic overlook north of Page, Arizona. Perfect stop for lunch.

We continued north on Highway 89 and stopped at the Walmart in the town of Page to pick up some lunch meat and groceries along with a couple of Subway sandwiches.  We then had that picnic lunch at the Lake Powell scenic overlook.  Not a bad plan B, but that weather was not looking good.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We encountered a steady stream of rain and wind our entire drive from Page, Arizona to Kanab, Utah. It was still drizzling when we arrived at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  Much to my surprise, the campground was full, but they did have a primitive site for us which turned out to be perfect and gave us views and privacy.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our primitive site F at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our previous practice pitching the tent in daughter’s backyard paid off in spades.  We managed to battle the wind and rain like pros and had our shelter up in no time.

tent campingWe held off inflating our air mattresses and brought our camp chairs into the tent.

As the rain pelted the tent and the nylon fabric whipped to and fro by the winds, Ashton and I sat inside our shelter wrapped in a blanket watching the weather pass by.  We were warm, we were dry and we were on an adventure.

Eventually, there was a short reprieve in the weather and we wasted no time getting out to explore the sand dunes.  The poor weather actually served to our benefit.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an off-roader’s paradise.  With 1,200 acres of dunes to explore, the steady roar of engines from ATV’s and dune buggies is to be expected. However, with the poor weather, we practically had the sand dunes to ourselves. There were a few other hikers out and about, but absolutely no OHV’s (off-highway vehicles). We didn’t need to share this amazing scenery with anyone.  How cool was that!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

It was quiet, peaceful, and down right beautiful.  Ashton and I hiked, climbed, and explored the dunes.  There wasn’t a single four-wheeler out on the dunes, allowing us to wander about without concern. What a treat and a privilege to be able to experience this unique landscape in solitude.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The shutter on our cameras clicked away as we admired the views. We were fascinated by the wildflowers and vegetation. The contrast of colors between the sweeping sand dunes and the mountain backdrop dotted with juniper pines captivated us.  We drank it all in before the second wave of weather began to assault us.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The dunes were dotted with these lovely wildflowers

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow.  The winds were relentless and the temperature continued to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  For cripes’ sake, this was the middle of May!  For some reason, we found a great deal of humor in our situation and by 8:30 p.m. we were cocooned in our warm sleeping bags atop our four-inch thick inflated air mattresses and laughing.  Yes, we were roughing it. No glamping for these gals…. at least not this time!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Just two weeks earlier as temperatures in Phoenix were hitting the triple digit range, daughter Ashton, a Colorado gal at heart, decided to take her ice/snow scraper out of her vehicle for the first time ever.  Having grown up in Colorado and traveling regularly to higher elevations, she’s used to encountering inclement, unexpected weather anytime of year. We found the timing of her ice scraper removal just another laughable moment.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We woke up to an iced over car and ice topped tent …. brrrr – it was cold!

At some point during the night I woke up.  I was a little disoriented and not sure when we had fallen a sleep. Probably in between giggles and story telling while the tent swayed hither and yon.

And now it was calm and quiet.  No more wind or rain.  It had to be about one or two in the morning.  Not wanting to wake Ashton, I slowly unzipped the tent, and although I was shivering from the cold, I was awed beyond words the moment I exited the tent. The sky was incredibly clear and the stars shone brilliantly against the navy blue background.  For a split second I thought about waking Ashton and had it been even slightly warmer, I would have.  What a sight to behold and oh how I wanted to linger and drink in that breathtaking vision, but alas the warmth of the sleeping bag beckoned.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The sand was frozen and felt like we were walking on pavement.

The next morning while we allowed the rising sun to melt the ice on Charlotte, we took another hike across the dunes.  The sand was frozen and reminded us of walking on frozen snow.  It was a very different experience from our hike the day before.

So how did we feel about tenting it in these conditions?  I won’t lie, once it started sleeting the thought of a hotel did cross our minds, but in the end, I’m so glad she and I are both stubborn.  Our experience at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes couldn’t have been any better (well, maybe a tad warmer).  Sure, we were cold, but the weather added another dimension to our overall experience, and fortunately, we maintained our sense of humor which definitely helped.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Frost and snow dotted the landscape that morning


And this was just our first stop.  Next up, Zion National Park ….


97 thoughts on “First stop – Coral Pink Sand Dunes

  1. Pingback: How to Plan for a Camping Trip | Live Laugh RV

  2. Pingback: Stunning Beauty at Zion National Park | Live Laugh RV

  3. Just put that on the destination wishlist, for sure! Thanks for a beautiful post, with a great sense of “being there.”

  4. Wow, I’ve never heard of this park. I’ve just really started thinking about our trip out west next year, so it’s great to hear about these parks. I will add it to my rapidly expanding list of “must see” places once we get out there. Also, we’ve considered packing a tent to allow us to go deeper into places like this, but man, I think we’ve gotten pretty soft with our fancy RV living. I’m not sure how I’d feel about sleeping in a sleeping bag in freezing cold weather. Hmmmm. (I know…”Stop being a wuss…”) Anyway, looks like you all had a great time and you’ve inspired me to think about doing something like this.

    • Not having to worry about size felt very freeing but I sure missed the comforts of the RV. Tenting it was fun for a few nights but I wouldn’t want to travel regularly that way. Once you start exploring the west, you’ll understand why many of us full-timers never travel east of the Mississippi.

    • Crazy weather indeed. I even checked and rechecked the weather forecast for our trip and there was no mention of this inclement weather. Oh well, it added another dimension to the adventure. It was truly special to experience the dunes without the OHV’s.

  5. What an awesome first stop out Your pics are incredible and the unexpected weather and changes makes for really good together time. Laughing and just enjoying the time together is very priceless. I can’t wait to read of your next stops…enjoy and drink it in as God’s beauty is all around.

    • When it comes to awe inspiring beauty, we were on overload during this road trip. And the smiles, laughs, and bonding were plentiful. Can’t wait for our next trip!

  6. You had me laughing again! We got caught in the same storm at Wild Horse Reservoir in Northern Nevada. We had the luxury of hunkering down in our rig but the 25 degree temps with high winds and 4 inches of snow had us wearing our winter clothes inside. We just visited the Bruneau Dunes in Idaho and while we were hiking and exploring them we commented that we needed to stop at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes the next time we went by, therefore, it was wonderful to see your beautiful pictures. Have a great time in Zion, one of my favorite places. Make sure you hike Angels Landing (I think that’s the name) even if it’s busy.

    • Thank goodness we didn’t get that much snow. It was more ice and didn’t accumulate on the ground. You can imagine if you guys were wearing winter clothes, what we were wearing … lots of layers!

      Angels Landing was NOT an option for us, but we did hike Observation Point and looked DOWN on Angels Landing. Daughter still had a few moments where her fear of heights kicked in which mommy seemed to find rather amusing. Ah, lots of funny tidbits left to share.

  7. I love your photos and stories – you always make the best adventure out of anything that comes your way. What a special way to share the memories with your daughter. I may have to repost one of your photos on my blog to show your amazing skills.

  8. Love the rainbow through the tent shot! There’s nothing better than having a place all to yourself, especially when you expect it to be full of people.

    • Couldn’t agree more … having our little campsite off in a corner all by ourselves was awesome. It was definitely an adventure!

    • I’ll need to do a whole post on our meals and how we prepped and planned. We sure ate well and did not go out which was our goal 🙂

  9. Your primitive site looks perfect. Exactly what a tenting spot should be.

    As always, you’ve captured the raw beauty of the outdoors in spectacular light. How fortunate you were to be able to have this spot to yourselves, instead of sharing it with a hundred ORVs. That’s the big benefit of camping in crappy weather.

    Looking forward to the next installment. Love Zion…..

    • It’s amazing the contrast in campsites I look for – tent vs. RV. We did enjoy the best tent sites on our little trip and it was wonderful not having to think about our size. On the downside was the lack of conveniences. I love the self-contained RV, but the tenting thing was fun for a few days. More fun to come!

  10. Mother-daughter trips are the best! I could feel your happiness as I read this! I can’t wait to hear the rest of your adventure. This is a trip you and your daughter will be talking about for many years. Those sand dunes are simply stunning.

    • The last time my daughter had been through this part of Utah, she was four years old and of course remembers nothing. It was fun for me to recall her antics. The dunes are incredible but most times are overrun with OHV’s thus this was a rare and wonderful experience. Our fun continued ….

    • Oh boy …. I was sure missing the comforts of my RV that day/night. I’m trying to talk my daughter into getting a nifty tricked out van for our future road trips. Mama’s getting a little too old for this tent thing 😆

  11. Great post about a great adventure with your daughter. I can’t wait for your blog(s) on Zion. As you know, we’re here in Hurricane for the entire month of May and still that won’t be enough time to explore this wonderful area.

    • Two days in Zion convinced me I need to go back. I’m jealous of your month long stay and may have to use your blog to convince hubby that we should do the same next spring. Keep those posts on Zion coming 🙂

    • Thank you. I’ll certainly admit, I would not have gone tent camping in that weather purposely. The weather report made no mention of those low temps or precipitation. In the end, we found the surprise humorous.

  12. Oh what a great adventure!!! I’m so jealous! I’d love for my daughter and I to do something like this….but as a mother of two active little guys, it’ll have to be in a luxurious hotels with facials, sauna and massages. Hummm doesn’t sound too bad! Lol
    Fabulous photos and great memories!

  13. Great mother-daughter adventure, Ingrid. I think I would have had to go to a hotel but then I am MUCH older than you. Sleeping on the cold ground would do me in.😀

    You photos are lovely. Are you still using LR to process? You do a wonderful job. So glad that I found your site.

    • Thank you and yes I’m still using LR but only use the ‘Basic’. I still have a lot to learn.
      It was definitely a great adventure with my daughter. We have a couple of awesome air mattresses that don’t feel like we’re sleeping on the ground. We managed to stay warm and comfy.

    • Trust me, I didn’t plan on tenting it in weather like this. I checked the weather forecast numerous times before hitting the road. Thus, the winter conditions were a total surprise. It’s a subject Ashton and I are still laughing about!

  14. Fantastic photos and what a wonderful time you must have had with your daughter, Ingrid. Every time I see photos of Utah, I burn up with the urge to just walk through its rusty beauty. The dunes and their craggy backdrop are eye-catching!

  15. What an incredible experience, Ingrid and so nice you got to share it with your daughter. You seem a perfect team! I would not have seen the humor in being so cold, for sure! As a matter of fact, we decided against camping in Yosemite a couple of months ago, because the temps were below 40F at night! You are much braver. I can imagine the clear nights and the “crisp” sand underneath your feet, though!

    • Had we known the weather was going to be this bad, we may have postponed for a day. However, sometimes it’s best to just jump in … well prepared, of course. And although it was cold, it made for exquisite scenery and a few laughs. We did work very well together 😊

    • A memorable trip indeed. Southern Utah never ceases to awe me. Not sure how we’ll top this trip, but we sure can try 😉

  16. Sounds like a wonderful memory building trip… mother and daughter… see your photographic prowess has not in any way diminished… glad to be back and find you’re still travelling around..

    • Hopefully my photographic skills have improved since the last time you stopped by. Yep, I’m still out here meandering … the mobile lifestyle can be addictive 😃

  17. The first May camping trip I had with my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) was quite the experience. Sunny to windy to rainy to sleet to cold to snow. Then we decided to go for a nature hike and got lost by ending up off the trail and onto a deer run trail. I was laughing/crying and thought we would never get out of those woods. Plus we were not carrying a lot of rations due to it going to be a quick 1 to 2 hour hike. Ahhh the Adventures 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • Oh boy – you had quite the adventure filled with a range of emotions. Hopefully, we learn from these experiences and plan better the next time. I know my daughter and I learned a lot about ourselves and the mistakes we made 😉

  18. Im impressed you tough it out in a tent on a cold night! Kudos to you and Ashton. But with a scenery like that backaches are ignored. As always great photos especially the close up of the lupine flowers.

    • We slept like babies and woke with no aches or pains. We have some good equipment. Now that Zion hike is another story when it comes to aches LOL. I was in love with the wildflowers!

  19. Wow, what an adventure! We went to Horseshoe and Lake Powell overlook in December and i posted about it recently. We also covered Monument Valley and Antelope Canyons…driving across Arizona was an amazing experience altogether.

    • You managed to visit some of my favorites. Such stunning and unique scenery that I never tire of. I’ll be sure and check out your posts from your visit to AZ 🙂

  20. What an adventure, Ingrid! I so enjoyed reading your story and viewing the photos, and most of all I liked the spirit of adventure that both you and Ashton have. This is the only way to travel, with a good attitude and a sense of high spirits for whatever you come upon. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes are truly beautiful, and I look forward to the next stop.

    • I taught my children at a very young age how to travel. Flexibility is key and when things don’t go according to plan understand it’s all part of the adventure and laugh. Let’s face it, we’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature when traveling … she’s ultimately in charge. The challenging weather gave us a rare opportunity to explore the dunes in solitude and we took full advantage 😊

    • Thanks … it was so much fun exploring the dunes with my daughter and sharing my passion for photography. Can’t wait to see her photos this weekend.

  21. Isn’t it great when we can enjoy doing things with our adult kids. Looks like a trip for the memory books. We visited Coral Sands, too many 4 wheelers when we were there.

    • Yes, it is special and wonderful to have fun adventures with our adult kids. I tried explaining to Ashton how fortunate we were to be able to meander the dunes to our hearts content without fear of being run over. I had visited once before and know how crazy busy it gets with off-roader’s. This visit was so awesome even though it was cold!

  22. Good for you two to tough it out. Your memories wouldn’t be the same if you had a warm hotel room:) Love your amazing photos of the rainbow, especially peeking out the tent door:)

    • Trust me, the idea of a warm hotel room was very tempting, but then we would’ve missed out on a few very special moments. Great fun and memories!

  23. You are tough for sticking out that cold, snowy night in a tent! But not having OHVs disturbing the quiet would have been worth it.
    Hated to read that Horseshoe Bend was so crowded, and the campground was full. Doesn’t bode well for our summer plans without reservations.

    • The crazy, busy traffic every where really surprised me. I thought for sure we were beating the summer crowds ☹ It scares me to think how much busier it’ll be this summer. I think I’ll sit in Prescott and wait it out 😉

  24. Kudos to you gals for sticking to your original plan of camping! These situations always seem to make the best stories. How wonderful to once again be able to enjoy a mother/daughter runaway, memories in the making!

    • As you well know, those mother/daughter trips are the best regardless of where we go. But when we add in fantastic scenery and unexpected situations, it takes the adventure to a new level. Special memories indeed!

  25. That is an adventure indeed! What beautiful scenery and wonderful pics! I’m excited to hear about your visit to Zion – we will be spending a couple of days there in September.

    • Zion should be beautiful in September, but then again, I’m sure it’s beautiful year round. I can’t wait to go back. You’ll love it!

  26. Oh wow, what an adventure! I can’t wait to read more about it. We call this “making memories!” Snow in May??? In a tent??? I am bowing to you today for that. 😀

    • Daughter and I were pretty proud of ourselves especially when you consider we’re both used to the 90 degree heat and then to camp in below freezing temps …. talk about a drastic change! We did a lot of laughing in-between all the photo taking.

  27. Great Post, Ingrid, and thanks for taking me to these places. They are simply gorgeous. Lake Powell – or the sky there rather – looks really threatening.
    But when seeing the lake level, I cannot but wonder what we humans do to our environment. It’s worrying how low the water level there is, really worrying. And I also cannot understand how we humans spoil such a gorgeous and unique natural wonder like the Coral Pink Sand Dunes with ATVs and off-road vehicles! Have we no better sense that this?
    Sorry about these negative thoughts, but they went through my mind when I read your post. Kudos to you for not doing this but just camping in the rough!
    Have a wonderful time,

    • Water rights are so complex. Then add in droughts and between the two it does play havoc with the lakes. We witnessed a kaleidoscope of skies that added drama to our adventure. Fun times!

  28. That whole area is one of my very favorite places. That blows me away there was a line at horse shoe bend. The dunes are so pretty, and how fun they were frozen. You were lucky to not have 4 wheelers, it gets kinda busy there. If you make it back to that area, check out Natural Bridges NM.

    • I love southern Utah. So much stunning beauty. Yeah, the line into the Horeshoe bend parking lot shocked me. There’s no doubt, I need to spend more time exploring Utah.

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