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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

If you're an animal lover, one of the highlights of a trip to this part of Utah is a stop at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, near Kanab. Whether you volunteer, or just stop for a look, you won't soon forget a visit to this 5,000-acre spread, home to more than 2,000 cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, birds, and other animals. Founded in the 1980s, the Best Friends Animal Society's mission is simple: to bring the number of pets being euthanized to "essentially zero." Since then, the number of animals killed in shelters has fallen by about 70%, a testament to the organization's hard work and unconditional kindness.

You can see the group's deep commitment to animals at the sanctuary, set amid the red rock of Angel Canyon. The staff works tirelessly to get these often abused or abandoned animals ready for adoption. Their efforts have been chronicled on National Geographic Channel's show "Dog Town." At Best Friends, every animal has a home for life.

Free guided tours are available daily; call ahead for a reservation. Many people come and stay for a week or more, and you can rent cottages ($85-$110 double per night), smaller cabins ($55-$70 per night), and RV sites ($45 per night) on the property. You don't need to volunteer in order to stay -- some people simply take advantage of the amazing setting, with its network of hiking trails.

Volunteers sign up to help with everything from walking dogs to socializing cats to feeding birds; you can pick which critters you'd like to work with. Volunteers must be at least 6 years of age, and those 16 and under must be accompanied at all times by an adult. You must make arrangements to volunteer before your visit.

The entrance to Best Friends is about 5 miles north of Kanab on the east side of U.S. 89. The Welcome Center is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Call tel. 435/644-2001 or visit www.bestfriends.org for more information.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Long a favorite of dune-buggy enthusiasts (off-road-vehicle users lobbied hard to have this designated a state park), Coral Pink Sand Dunes has recently been attracting an increasing number of campers, hikers, photographers, and all-around nature lovers. While big boys -- and some big girls -- play with their expensive motorized toys, others hike; hunt for wildflowers, glow-in-the-dark scorpions, and lizards; or just wiggle their toes in the smooth, cool sand. The colors are especially rich at sunrise and sunset. Early-morning visitors will find the tracks of yesterday's dune buggies gone, replaced by the tracks of lizards, kangaroo rats, snakes, and the rest of the park's animal kingdom, who venture out in the coolness of night, after all the people have departed.

Essentials

Getting There -- From downtown Kanab, go about 8 miles north on U.S. 89, then southwest (left) on Hancock Road for about 12 miles to the park.

Information/Visitor Center -- For copies of the park brochure and off-highway-vehicle regulations, contact the park office at P.O. Box 95, Kanab, UT 84741-0095 (tel. 435/648-2800; www.stateparks.utah.gov). At the park entry station, there's a small display area with sand from around the world, local fossils, and live scorpions, lizards, and tadpoles.

Fees & Regulations -- The day-use fee is $6 per vehicle. The standard state park regulations apply, with the addition of a few extra rules due to the park's popularity for off-roading: Quiet hours are from 10pm to 9am, later in the morning than in most parks. Dunes are open to motor vehicles between 9am and 10pm and to hikers at any time. Vehicles going onto the dunes must have safety flags, available at the entry station; while on the dunes, they must stay at least 10 feet from vegetation and at least 100 feet from hikers. Dogs are permitted on the dunes but must be leashed.

Outdoor Pursuits

Four-Wheeling -- This giant 3,700-acre sandbox offers plenty of space for off-road-vehicle enthusiasts, who race up and down the dunes, stopping to perch on a crest to watch the setting sun. Because the sand here is quite fine, extra-wide flotation tires are needed; lightweight dune buggies are usually the vehicle of choice. Adjacent to the park on Bureau of Land Management property are hundreds of miles of trails and roads for off-highway vehicles.

Hiking -- The best time for hiking the dunes is early morning. It's cooler then, the lighting at and just after sunrise produces beautiful shadows and colors, and there are no noisy dune buggies until after 9am. Sunset is also very pretty, but you'll be sharing the dunes with off-road vehicles. Keep in mind that hiking through fine sand can be very tiring, especially for those who go barefoot. A self-guided .5-mile loop nature trail has numbered signs through some of the dunes; allow a half-hour.

Several other hikes of various lengths are possible within and just outside the park, but because there are few signs -- and because landmarks change with the shifting sands -- it's best to check with park rangers before setting out. Those spending more than a few hours in the dunes will discover that even their own tracks disappear in the wind, leaving few clues to the route back to park headquarters.

Camping

The spacious and mostly shady 22-site campground, open year-round, offers hot showers, modern restrooms, and an RV dump station, but no hookups. Camping costs $16. Call tel. 800/322-3770 or visit http www.stateparks.utah.gov for reservations.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.