You may never have visited this area of amazing shifting sea of red sand dunes and red rock canyons in Southwestern Utah but you surely have seen it.
But you may have thought it was Egypt.
Or Matt Dillon’s home in the old TV series Gunsmoke.
Or the Planet of the Apes or all sorts of other places, thanks to the more than 300 Hollywood movies that used the backdrop of these amazing pink, vermillion, tan and red sand dunes that lie beneath some spectacular red sandstone cliffs.
We spent a couple of days at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and in the town of Kanab, 20 miles south on US 89. Estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old, the dunes are formed from the erosion of pink-colored Navajo Sandstone surrounding the park. High winds passing through the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains pick up loose sand particles and then drop them onto the dunes, which are constantly shifting.
There’s a great campground at the park, though we opted to stay in an RV park in Kanab, where a fascinating museum documents an area so popular with filmakers from the 1920s through today, that it’s been called “Little Hollywood.” Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Dennis Weaver, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Dale Robertson, and Ronald Reagan, are among the stars that were on location in the Kanab area.
And the coral pink sand dunes was the backdrop for many of their movies. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” used those dunes as Egypt for its Exodus scenes.
The dunes are very accessible. There’s a picnic area and an overlook and you can walk right out in and over them on foot. Beware of ATVs and dune buggies, though, as they are also allowed to run through the dunes.
Wear a hat and take plenty of water. The sand is very hot.
If you’re thinking of a visit, you may want to target Kanab and its Western Legends Roundup each August (Aug. 25-27 in 2016). The event pays tribute to the films shot in the area and many of those who worked on the movies and TV series are in town to talk about the projects that weekend.
If you can’t make that event, try to be there on a Monday night. The local movie theater shows westerns every Saturday night. Cost is $2 a ticket.