White Pocket: Arizona’s otherworldly adventure

White Pocket: Arizona’s otherworldly adventure

White Pocket is a geological marvel in the middle of the desert in Arizona.

White Pocket

The photos are beautiful, but they don’t do this amazing, unique place justice. We were in awe walking up to the site shortly after sunrise, and our disbelief stayed with us until the sun set.

White Pocket

White Pocket pops out of the desert in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, just south of the Utah border in Arizona, and really only became widely known 10 years ago, after a feature in National Geographic.

White Pocket

What exactly is going on here?

Geologists can’t really agree on what caused this landscape, which looks otherworldly. They seem to agree that it formed during the Jurassic Period, as sand turned to rock, and earthquakes helped shape the layers and waves we see today.

White Pocket Arizona

Bright red, orange, and yellow sandstone is covered by a layer of a whitish-grey sandstone. The dramatic color variations in the rock layers are the result of iron oxidation.

People have used all kinds of analogies to describe White Pocket and its fascinating features.

Some say it looks like the Grand Canyon covered in icing. Some say the white formations look like brains or cauliflower. The weaving waves of sandstone have been compared to a marble cake. Others call it "Candyland," suggesting the formations resemble the graphics on the old board game. And others have said it looks like a frothy soda fountain drink.

White Pocket Arizona

One area which is often photographed is a stark white setting. It features a series of waves of white stone with an interesting geometric pattern seemingly-stamped on top. A single tree grows from the rock. It’s basic, and beautiful.

The landscape is mostly barren, aside from a few small groupings of struggling shrubs and trees.

White Pocket Tree

The weather

White Pocket, while stunning, is rarely visited. Only a few other SUVs were in the large parking lot during our time there.

One tour group from Page, AZ, showed up midday, along with another group based in Kanah, UT.

A couple other photographers joined us, walking around in stupors, baffled by the landscape.

White Pocket Arizona

We drove through the sand to get there on a perfectly cool, dry day. If it’s raining, avoid the drive. Ruts develop quickly, and even the 4-wheel drive won’t be enough to set you free.

Monsoon season (late June through the summer months) is especially tricky in this part of the state. Any of the slot canyons can flood quickly, and the BLM roads can wash out in a strong storm.

It actually snowed pretty hard on our drive out (in late February) and it gets extremely hot in the summer months. Most of the day we were blasted by sand in 50mph winds.

White Pocket Sand storm

Weather predictions are difficult in this terrain, because it’s such a distance from any major town. Keep checkin the radar, when cell reception allows!

White Pocket Arizona

Staying in Page, AZ

White Pocket is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Page, AZ, in good conditions. We usually stay at the Hyatt Place in Page for four reasons:

1. Their barista is up before dawn brewing coffee to take with you for your pre-dawn drives.

2. If you “sleep in” until 6am, you can load up on eggs and bagels on the breakfast buffet.

3. Their kitchen is open late, so you can stay at your destination until sunset (for most of the year) and make it back in time to order dinner.

4. A lot of the rooms have lounging areas with big couches to relax on (or in our case, work on).

White Pocket

Getting There

A word of warning: don’t follow the Google Maps directions. White Pocket doesn’t even come up on Apple Maps (as of right now).

How to get to White Pocket

You’ll lose cell reception for much of the drive. Randomly, you’ll be able to pickup signals as you walk around, but don’t count on it.

You’ll need a 4-wheel drive, and there are a number of Jeep rental places in Page. They’ll cost upwards of $200 for the day.

How to get to White Pocket

We followed directions from the Bureau of Land Management, which include heading south on House Rock Valley Road (whether you’re coming from Page, Arizona, or Kanab, Utah, on Highway 89).

You’ll pass parking lots for other trailheads like Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass (check out my separate blog on that amazing spot!)

The BLM has really improved the signage on these rural roads.

The main dirt and rock road (House Rock Road) has been nicely groomed on our two drives down. Most vehicles should be able to make the drive, going very slowly.

Again, you’ll need 4-wheel drive to go off the road toward White Pocket. It’s necessary.

From House Rock Valley Road (on the road signs as 1065) 23.5 miles south of Hwy 89, you’ll turn onto BLM 1017.

How to get to White Pocket on BLM roads

You’ll see a sign for White Pocket, which is directly across from this large old horse corral or stable.

How to get to White Pocket Arizona

You’ll head east on 1017 for 6 miles, before you turn onto 1087. Again, you’ll see a sign for White Pocket.

This road will split, and you’ll follow 1086 to the trailhead.

It’s a very slow drive, through deep sand ruts. We went in perfectly dry weather, and still spun out in our rented Jeep a few times.

White Pocket sand

White Pocket Arizona

White Pocket Arizona

I can’t wait to go back and maybe spend the night to get both sunset and sunrise. It’s a spot I could return to year-after-year, and each time… find new, interesting pockets to explore.