Vermillion Cliffs NM, Arizona
White Pocket, hidden within the desert expanse of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near the Arizona/Utah border, is a phantasmagorical collection of colorful crossbedded cliffs, where the formations heave and drip like some kind of geological ice cream sundae melting in the sun.
Erosion carved, painted with warm hues, and utterly breath-taking, the landscapes that surround White Pocket eventually show up on every outdoor enthusiast’s life list—and the Natural Born Hikers are no exception. The enchanting geology of the area around Page, Arizona has enticed us over and over again—having traveled to that corner of the world numerous times, we finally ventured into White Pocket in May 2009. Seeking adventure and following our never-ending quest for the perfect photograph, we booked a driver through Overland Canyon Tours to take us to the seldom visited White Pocket—it is possible to drive yourself to the area if you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle and if you have experience driving in deep sand over steep, rough terrain.
In from Ohio, we were not equipped to transport ourselves to this remote area, so we contacted Charly Moore, owner and operator of Overland Canyon Tours in Page, to arrange for an all day excursion into White Pocket—allowing us to shoot both sunrise and sunset among the mystical geology of the remote wilderness. Our guide, the renowned photographer Jackson Bridges, picked us up at our hotel in Page at 2am in order to arrive at White Pocket for the sweet light of sunrise. A few hours later, post adventurous driving along House Rock Valley Road, Lone Tree Reservoir, and Poverty Flat Ranch, we found ourselves hiking in the pre-dawn light up a sandy path to our first view of the slickrock wonderland known as White Pocket—words cannot describe the moment of your first glimpse into this fantasyland.
There is no formal trail established in this wilderness, but Jackson expertly led us to each of the more prominent features in the area—allowing us to return on our own throughout the day, wandering and exploring in any direction at will—truly a hiker’s paradise.
Before setting off to explore the colorful sea of sandstone, take a minute to pinpoint a few key landmarks that will aid in your navigation—in particular, take note of the towering mesa to the west, this is White Pocket. White Pocket is a protruding butte with a unique feature on its summit—a circular white depression that gives the rock and the area its name—check it out on Google Earth.
Following Jackson’s lead, we began our exploration amid a collection of white domes decorated with polygons—hidden within this area was a lone juniper tree that was a lovely subject for photography. While photographing the juniper in the early morning light, the sun began coloring the distant buttes and mesas with a golden glow—our cue to drop into an adjacent area of swirling red sandstone.
Our exploration continued across the landscape of brain rocks, alcoves, hoodoos, and well-defined crossbedding—you can literally spend hour after hour discovering new and exciting destinations.
When we returned from our mid-morning excursion, we rested near Jackson’s red Jeep Wrangler while we awaited the arrival of Charly—when he arrived, with a few other photographers, he began preparing lunch and a camp for those who were overnighting in the area. Lunch consisted of cold cuts on delicious whole grain bread, chips, cheese, apples, and cold beverages—a nice midday diversion. After lunch we headed back out to White Pocket on our own for a few hours of hiking and photography—returning to camp just in time to join up with the rest of the group for a sunset tour.
Once again, Jackson led us to some of our now favorite formations—we are especially fond of the areas and formations dubbed (by us or other photographers) Lollipop Rock, ET, Star Wars, Whimsical Hill, Stegosaurus Ridge, Rock Garden, and the Alcove Hanging Garden.
Setting off on our third excursion was like seeing the area for the first time—the golden light of sunset added an entirely new layer to the familiar formations.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the landscape took on a subtle pastel tint, shaping the gnarled, twisted, polished rock into a quiet cathedral—its vastness and splendor forever etched into our memory.
Click any thumbnail above for a complete photo gallery of over 200 images.