White Pocket

Typical White Pocket view...

A typically exceptional White Pocket vista…


Mid-March 2015. After a day of hiking around the North Coyote Buttes and the Wave, I decided to break my camp at Stateline Campground on the Arizona / Utah border and strike out for the White Pocket – another stunning and far-flung location in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument…

Like ice cream...

A prominent and gorgeous White Pocket formation…

I have visited few locations that rival the beauty of White Pocket – it presents an alien landscape that confounds imagination, full of puffed and buckling rock swirling with striations in various shades of pastel and eggshell white. The whole surface of its seemingly sugar-coated geology looks like whipped cake. In the late-afternoon and evening light, the colors of this remote oasis of bizarre rock really come alive. Getting there, however, takes some prep work…

Brain Rock...

This sedimentary “Brain Rock” is everywhere around White Pocket…

The “roads” to White Pocket, characterized by deep sand, traverse grazing land on the semi-arid Paria Plateau and wind through a sagebrush landscape dotted with junipers and pinyon pines. The difficulty of access means that getting stuck could get you into very serious trouble if you aren’t adequately prepared. 4wd and high clearance are mandatory at the very least.

From Stateline campground I headed south through Coyote Valley, rumbling along deeper into the wild country of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Eventually my map told me to turn east onto ‘Pine Tree Road,’ and the trail became progressively sandier as my truck lurched onwards through Coral Valley. At this point I stopped and aired my tires down to about 15 psi to better float on top of the sand, before bearing northeast on unnamed 4×4 roads that were sandier still. I took the ‘never stop moving’ approach to sand driving – keeping an easy momentum and accelerating gently through turns and uphill – letting my wheels find their own way in the shifting trace.

Road to Paw Hole...

Typical road conditions to White Pocket…

To White Pocket...

Just the way I like it…

A tablet loaded with offline maps and GPS tracks kept me on track and after a few close calls and some pretty severe suspension checks, I eventually reached White Pocket in the early afternoon. I set up camp just south of the parking turnout, amongst a cluster of junipers and set out to scout the area for evening photography.

Moqui Marbles...

“Moqui marbles” litter the ground at the northern end of White Pocket…

Insanity...

Absolutely stunning formations in every direction…

Unbelievable Landscape...

Crazy rock in pastel colors…

The one square mile or so that comprises the core scenery of White Pocket manages to pack in so much scenery and variety that you could spend a lifetime exploring this relatively small area of interest. Almost immediately you are surrounded by fragile sedimentary rock frozen in geometric patterns and swirls. Towards the northern boundary of the White Pocket formation, just before the geology gives way back to sage plains, is an area littered with small concretions of iron-oxide, known colloquially as “Moqui Marbles.” About the diameter of a quarter, these small balls of iron and minerals weather out of the sandstone through geologic time.

Clusters of moqui marbles...

Moqui marbles lay tiled in the sand…For the sake of others, do your best not to disturb them…

The photographic opportunities at White Pocket are literally endless and one can easily hike around and around all day without feeling taxed. Hiking back the way you came or gently scrambling up some of the formations can yield entirely new vistas. The same scenery seems to change with every angle. Every viewpoint offers something new.

The Hunt Panel... _DSC2791_rw White Pocket twilight... Dinner Chuck-Wagon Style...

White Pocket Moments…

After a few hours of exploring and scouting for photo compositions and petroglyphs, I headed back to my camp to relax before going out again in better light to shoot. By the time I returned to my tent that evening to put away my gear I was so in love with the area that I was determined to stay another full day.

Absolutely Surreal...

Evening closes in over White Pocket…

That night I cooked dinner out of the back of my truck, chuck-wagon style, and ate while enjoying the tranquility of a place so remote and pristine. After clean-up I relaxed in my tent without a rain-fly, looking up at a brilliant night sky full of glowing stars that hung from horizon to horizon. I also happened to have full LTE cell reception – making this by far the most remote place in the lower 48 where I have accessed the internet 🙂 And although I usually try to stay unplugged while I’m out on these trips I couldn’t help but read up on the geology of the area.

_DSC2856_rw

This tenacious tree springs up amidst the rock…

White Pocket Sunset...

…a stunning sunset near the northern end of White Pocket…

Reflecting...

Recent rains had made for scattered reflecting pools amongst the rock…

Sunset over White Pocket...

A view looking North-Northeast from the top of a knoll…

I spent my final day at White Pocket hiking around to fully explore the surrounding area. It should be mentioned that, like the Wave nearby, this area is extremely, extremely fragile. There is no doubt that the brittle sandstone formations will suffer as more people make the visit, as is evident on the hike in and around the Wave. Therefore it is important to be extra-mindful of your impact. The small sedimentary ridges, waves, swirls, rifts and textures that make this place so unique can be crushed under foot if you are not careful. The few people I saw in my two days in the area all understood this and were careful of where they stepped as they navigated the twisted landscape. This area is not currently as restricted as the easier-to-access Wave, and if people continue to treat it with awe and respect then it might just stay that way…

_DSC2867_rw

Waves…

White Pocket Turret...

A turret-style formation typical of White Pocket…

Monolith...

Monolith…

Swirling rock...

Swirling Rock…

Morning Calm...

A still morning under a cloudless sky at the White Pocket…

Surreal Vista...

A final picture before heading out…

Cookout...

Breakfast before hitting the road again…

Breakfast...

Breakfast of champions…

Back in House-Rock Valley...

Back on the road in House Rock Valley…

House-Rock-Valley Road...

The long road back to the 89…

White Pocket is truly one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. The mind-bending geology combined with its incredible remoteness and difficulty of access make it a truly special place in the lower 48. It continues to be one of my favorite experiences on the road…



::: Download Trip KML :::

Rating: ★★★★★
Distance: It’s maybe about 50 miles or so from highway 89 out to White Pocket and all of that is on rough 4×4 roads that get progressively worse the closer you get. This is NOT a trip for passenger cars!
Time Needed:From Kanab or Page it takes about half a day or more to get out to White Pocket depending on conditions. I started from a basecamp at Stateline Campground and it took a few hours.
Difficulty: Difficult due to remote access, preparation and navigational challenges.

Special Considerations: I would advise against attempting the trip without a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle, an extra jerry-can of gas, a suitable jack for your vehicle, a few days worth of water and food, a map, and gps. Familiarize yourself with the area before venturing in and let people know where you are going. Know how to hike back to House Rock Valley Road if you get in trouble, as that is where you are likely to find passing adventurers. The ability to air-down your tires, and air them back up when finished, is a huge benefit on the sandy roads that lead away from the hard-packed House Rock Valley Road. A winch or a hand-driven come-along with strap and chain would also prove useful here, as the deep and sandy roads are punctuated by junipers that could provide easy anchors with which to winch yourself out of trouble. Traction mats would also prove useful in these conditions and I brought a pair along when I visited. Also make sure you check the weather before you head out and that it is all clear for the duration of your stay. These roads can literally melt away in a rainstorm. This is no joke.

Photo Tips: No unusal recommendations beyond the usual stuff: tripod, polarizer and your desired lens kit. The entire area is amazingly photogenic and you’ll find a pretty uniform density of compositions throughout. My favorite area was the abrupt westernmost edge of the formation – which has a number of high vantage points that you can use to capture the whole area. This area would be SPECTACULAR for astrophotography.

Logistics: The information at thewave.info is absolutely invaluable and is the best I have found when planning a trip to this area. Grab the .kml files or .gpx files and load them into your gps. Be sure to check in with the ranger station in Kanab for last-minute information before heading out. Treat this area with the respect that it deserves so that others may enjoy it.

white pocket, white pocket az,

white pocket backpacking

, white pocket gps, white pocket kml, bwhite pocket camping, white pocket