White Pocket is such a cool area – it feels like you’re walking on another planet! The ribbons of orange, yellow, and white layers of rock formations are just incredible and unlike anywhere else on the Earth. These were created over time by mineral deposits and then shaped by the elements.
The domes, swirls, and ridged rocks that are known as White Pocket cover roughly a square mile. It’s easy to see how this place got it’s name – there’s nothing else around as far as the eye can see and then all of a sudden there’s a pocket of white and colored sandstone in the middle of the desert.
Visiting the area REQUIRES 4×4 high clearance vehicle as you’re going to be off-roading and driving through deep sand with patches of sharp rocks. You’re basically driving out into the desert on a series of jeep/ATV roads until you come upon the oasis of White Pocket.
There are no developed trails at White Pocket itself when it comes to hiking. You’re welcome to explore and go wherever you’d like.
Is White Pocket in Arizona or Utah?
White Pocket is in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which is on the boarder of Arizona and Utah. White Pocket itself is just over the boarder into Arizona, even though you get there from the Utah side, which is why most people think that it’s in Utah.
Do you need a permit to go to White Pocket
No, no permits are required to visit White Pocket. There really aren’t any restrictions at all when it comes to going to White Pocket. It’s first come, first serve in terms of parking. There’s no “entry station”, no hours, etc.
Can you go to White Pocket without a tour?
Yes absolutely! While there are several tours that go to White Pocket, you are totally welcome to go there on your own. You must have a suitable vehicle – a 4×4 high clearance vehicle – and you should be comfortable driving that through deep sand.
If you don’t have a vehicle like this of your own, you can rent one from Turo. But given that this is a fairly remote area, there are only a few rental options nearby. You might have to go to the nearby “big town” of Hurricane to find one.
If you’re not able to rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle, or are not comfortable driving one in deep sand, then you should probably go with a tour company to make sure that you don’t get stuck.
Can you camp at White Pocket AZ?
Yes, you can camp at White Pocket. It’s on BLM land, so all of the standard regulations about camping on BLM land apply.
- You cannot camp in the same spot for more than 14-16 days.
- Campsites have to be at least 100 feet from any stream or water source – which there are none in White Pocket.
- You cannot camp in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads – which there are none at White Pocket.
There are no facilities at the parking area at White Pocket – no toilettes, no water etc. As always, leave no trace and try to make as minimal impact as possible on the land. Use existing campsites, bury human waste 6” deep, pack out all your trash, including food scraps and toilet paper. Do not damage trees or collect firewood.
It’s a popular spot for car camping for photographers to get great shots of the night sky and the sandstone formations at sunrise or sunset, so could at times be a little crowded.
The Wave vs White Pocket
The Wave is right next door to White Pocket and sometimes in photos, they can be confused. While the Wave is more “iconic” and has that view that has become Instagram-famous, White Pocket covers a larger expanse of varied terrain. Plus it has more variety of colors in the stones.
Most importantly, White Pocket is much more remote and difficult to get to, which means, lots less people. The Wave has gotten so popular that it not only requires a permit to visit, but those permits are distributed through a lottery system that is extremely competitive. Chances are, you’re not going to get one. Whereas White Pocket has no permits, no lottery system, and is open for anyone to visit at anytime.
How to get to White Pocket
Just in case you missed it above, I’ll reiterate – a 4×4 high clearance vehicle is REQUIRED to visit White Pocket (use Turo to rent one if you don’t have one). The majority of the road to get there is just a rocky dirt road that any vehicle (including passenger cars) could pass and you’ll be wondering why you needed this vehicle. But the last 10mi is deep sand and you will need a 4×4. We were able to make it just staying in 4WD Hi without needing to go into Lo.
It takes approx. 2 hours to get to White Pocket from House Rock Valley Road. Google Maps can get a little wonky around here, so it’s best to follow the driving directions with landmarks below. To give you an idea of the overview:
The road to White Pocket is House Rock Valley Road (BLM 1065), which is a rocky dirt road. The most direct way to get there is from the North.
From Kanab, UT, take Highway 89 east for 38 miles and then turn right onto House Rock Valley Road (this is just before a big curve, with arrows, in the road).
From Page, AZ, take Highway 89 west for 36 miles and then turn left onto House Rock Valley Road (this is just after a big curve in the road).
You could also approach from the south where House Rock Valley Road intersects Highway 89A, 13.5 miles east of Jacob Lake, AZ.
From the North, after you’ve turned onto House Rock Valley Road/ BLM 1065, continue on this road for 20mi, or about an hour. You’ll pass the trailheads for several hikes (including Wire Pass), and will cross the border into Arizona. This road is packed dirt and rocks and is prone to wash outs.
After approx. 20mi, you’ll come to an old corral on your right (this is a big corral, not the small one that you’ll see earlier), turn left here onto Pine Tree Road/Road 1017.
There are no signs indicating the road number, but if you have service, you might be able to see it on Google Maps.
Continue along this road (east and slightly south) for approx. 6mi. Avoid all other side roads. The condition of this road is pretty similar to House Rock Valley, but it does start to get a little more sandy.
After approx. 6mi you’ll come to an old farm house/ranch known as Pine Tree Pocket Ranch. It has the tower of what looks like it once was a windmill and there is no parking allowed at the old ranch.
You’ll go left just after the ranch onto Road 1087 (again there are no road signs), but there is a BLM sign here to point you to White Pocket.
Continue on this road, bearing to the left and crossing a cattle guard. The road will now head north/north east. From roughly this point on, for the next 10mi, until you get to the parking lot, the road will be sand. This is where you really need the 4×4 vehicle. Some sections are deeper than others and there are also plateaus of jagged rockets from time to time too.
There will be a cattle fence that crosses the road as you’re getting close to the parking lot. As the sign says, please make sure to close the fence behind you.
From here it’s only a mile or two until you reach the parking lot.
The parking lot is gravel, so don’t need to worry about getting stuck in the sand. Once parked, there are two main areas of White Pocket that you can explore.
There’s a sandy train leading west from the left side of the lot which goes to some of the more iconic formations, or you can venture along a footpath to the less-visited formations towards the north.
If you get stuck
I was surprised that there was actually perfect service at White Pocket itself. Service to get there along the road was at times spotty, but overall, not too bad. If you get stuck and no good samaritan is able to help you get out, then call the BLM visitor’s center: 453-688-3200. They should be able to organize a truck to come get you, though it may be hours and hours before they arrive.
When we were at the visitor’s center picking up our permit for a nearby overnight hike, one of the rangers took a call from someone who had gotten stuck on the way to White Pocket and it was going to be several hours before they were able to get someone out to them.