The White Pocket and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Directions to the White Pocket

It is quite difficult to get to the White Pocket, and a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle is definitely needed due to deep sand. The White Pocket is often combined with a trip to Coyote Buttes South so I will give directions from there as well. Due to the bad roads after shooting at the White Pocket I recommend camping at the trailhead overnight and driving out the next morning.

Best Route

If you are coming from the North take House Rock Road about 20 miles to BLM 1017 (called Pine Tree Road) on the Google map below, in green. After about three miles bear right and continue on Pine Tree Road (in blue). 6.1 miles from the intersection with House Rock Road reset your odometer and turn left. The general direction of the road you are traveling on is NNE. Go through the gate and continue 3.9 miles where you will bear left. Continue another 5.4 miles and you will see the main White Pocket parking area on your left. Alternatively you can continue straight for another .3 miles down a sandy hill to a second flat rocky area where you can also park. If you are camping this second area offers more privacy but the last sandy hill will present problems for some on the return.

From the main parking area just head due West on the well defined trail to the White Pocket.

Notes for your return - 0.5 miles after you leave the White Pocket bear right, the left fork goes to Hole in the Rock arch. 1.4 miles after you leave the White Pocket you will reach an intersection, bear left here to retrace your route. If you go right you will soon hit a steep up hill which could be troublesome for some cars. As of August 2011 the road was almost impassable in the uphill direction.

Route from Coyote Buttes South

From Pawhole take the "Shortcut" Road East from Pawhole 2.8 miles to Poverty Flat. The road is shown in red on the map. This road has a steep uphill near Pawhole and can be difficult in dry conditions. Then follow the Poverty Flat directions below.

From the Cottonwood Cove trailhead take the road in blue 2.4 miles South to Poverty Flat.

From Poverty Flat take the Red Road Northeast, then East 4.5 miles, then bear left and continue 1.4 miles to the White Pocket trailhead. This road has a steep downhill about 4 miles from Poverty Flat. The road is much easier to traverse going to the White Pocket than from it.


Directions to Other Areas in the Sand Hills / Vermilion Cliffs

Caution - The first three areas shown below are very remote and see little visitation. They are much more remote than the White Pocket which sees visitors almost every day. If your vehicle get stuck, or breaks, if you injure yourself, or if you get lost you may die. I strongly recommend that if you visit these areas you go with another vehicle or at least let someone know where you are going, have a good spare and extra gas and water, and have a satellite phone or PRB. A GPS will also help keep you on the right road.

Joe's ranch and the Cowboy Hat

Joe's Ranch and the Cowboy Hat- From House Rock Road take BLM 1017 about 6 miles to "Pine Tree Pockets". At Pine Tree Pockets BLM 1017 continues southeast becoming what is known as the Loop Road, shown in a red orange color on the map (with a lavender section at the end to close the loop). The entire loop is over 20 miles in length. The road is very sandy and occasionally difficult to follow. The road near Joe's ranch is particularly sandy. Joe's ranch and the Cowboy Hat can be reached from the loop road via short spur roads which are in even worse condition. Joe's ranch is right off the spur road, to get to the Cowboy Hat park where I've indicated on the map and hike east .3 miles or so. The hat (top of the rock formation) is visible from where you park so it is easy to find. The Cowboy Hat is best near sunset and there are many moqui marbles at its base. Please do not take them.

Soap Creek Tank and the Beehives

From House Rock Road take BLM 1017 about 6 miles to "Pine Tree Pockets". At Pine Tree Pockets continue straight on BLM 1017 13.6 miles and turn right onto a sandy track. Take the Sandy track 4.1 miles and park just before a short steep hill. I suggest you do not continue up the hill, it is easy to get stuck on it. After parking I suggest you explore the areas to the south and east, there are many good photo opportunities here, and some of the most unusually colored rocks I have ever seen. Soap Creek Tank itself always has water in it.

Soap Creek Tank can be easily combined with a trip to Joe's Ranch or The Beehives. The Beehives are a small formation with some hillside ruins and pottery fragments. To get to them proceed on the loop road as above to the sandy track leading to Soap Creek Tank. After about 2 miles on the sandy track you will see a road going off to the left with a road closed sign. Park here and continue on foot via the closed road to The Beehives. The hike is about .4 miles one way.

Rainbow over Soap Creek Tank in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Soap Creek Tank

Wrather Arch Overlook

With a span of 180 feet Wrather arch is one of the longest arches in the US and is considered the least accessible of US major arches. It is found in a short tributary of the Paria river and the normal route to it requires a five day backpacking trip down the Paria. An overlook of the arch can be found on the northern rim of Sand Hills. The best way to get to the overlook is to follow the directions to the Cowboy Hat trailhead. Continue due north past the trailhead 4.4 miles to the road's end. The road is shown as green in the map below. At roads end hike off trail ENE about 2.3 miles to the overlook. The track I took is shown in red on the map below. Michael Kelsey's book Hiking the Paria 5th edition indicates that it is possible to descend down the cliffs in the vicinity of the overlook to the Paria River/arch. A guide I talked to indicated that the trail is very difficult and should not be attempted unless you are a climber.

For the adventurous offroader there may be an alternative route to the overlook that involves little hiking. The road parallels the route above slightly to the east. The road is shown in lavender on the map below. There was quite a bit of vegetation at the beginning of the road when I last saw it and I suspect it has not been used in some time. I choose not to take it on my visit to the overlook. The road appeared to be open, or at least there was no "closed" sign.

Wrather Arch in the Paria River Drainage

Wrather Arch Overlook

Pinnacle Valley

This is the largest basin in the Sand Hills. There is an old cabin there and a windmill, several nice hoodoos, and The Pinnacle, a large butte covered with Brain Rock. There are three water pockets on top of The Pinnacle, one of which usually has water. The others contain many pottery fragments. Please leave them alone. To get to Pinnacle Valley from Pine Tree Pockets bear right at the turnoff to The White Pocket, continue 5.2 miles and bear left. After an additional 1.4 miles you will reach the cabin and windmill area. The Pinnacle is a 1/4 mile hike east, and can be climbed via its northeast side.

Cabin and Windmill in Pinnacle Valley

Pinnacle Valley

Double Barrel Arch

This arch is easily seen from House Rock Road just south of BLM 1017. From the north take Highway 89 to House Rock Valley Road (HRVR) which is between mileposts 25 and 26. Proceed south on HRVR 20.5 miles and park on the side of the road. To get there from the south proceed 9 miles on HRVR and park. You should be able to see the arch off to the east. Hike east through the sage field to the arch. There is no trail. The hike is about .9 miles one-way. About half way through the hike there is a great deal of clay based soil which is difficult to walk on when wet, so I suggest you do this hike in dry weather. Double barrel arch can be easily climbed from its south side. The east side of the arch is inaccessible. The arch is best lit at sunset. Sunrise works as well, the underside of the arch gets a nice red glow, and sunbursts are possible. To shoot a sunburst set the aperture at f/22 and exposure bracket. HDR works well to bring out the colors of the arch at sunrise. A wide angle is needed to best photograph the arch.

I am told there is another small arch on the same rock formation as double barrel arch.

Double Barrel Arch in Vermilion CLiffs National Monument

Double Barrel Arch

Vermillion Arch

This alcove arch is just below the rim of Vermilion Cliffs. It cannot be seen from either House Rock Valley Road or the 4x4 road going to One Mile Spring. Vermilion arch has a reported span of 34 feet. The arch appears in the World Arch Database as Vermillion Arch (with two l's). Vermilion with one "l" is the preferred spelling on both sides of the Atlantic, and is the spelling used in "Vermilion Cliffs National Monument". The images in my album were shot about four hours after sunrise which seems to be a good time to shoot them. You could combine a trip to Vermilion Arch with a visit to Double Barrel Arch. Shoot Double Barrel at sunrise and then go on to Vermilion.

The "trailhead" to Vermilion Arch is off of the 4x4 road to One Mile Spring. From the south One Mile Spring Road is 5.5 miles from the intersection of Highway 89A and HRVR, from the north it is 24 miles from the intersection of Highway 89 and HRVR. Turn east on One Mile Spring Road. You will immediately come to a fork. The road to the left goes to Two Mile Spring and is signed "Administrative Use Only". Go right and proceed 0.6 miles to a small parking area on the left (north) side of the road. The road past this spot is narrow and quite rough. Reportedly there are petroglyphs near the parking area, and even some degraded ruins. I didn't see either but I wasn't aware of them when I hiked to the arch. From the parking area the hike to the arch is all off-trail and about one mile long. You'll need to ascend two escarpments. The first is best climbed by following the cliff to its left (west) side until you come to a break. For convenience I have shown my actual route on the map below. During the hike you'll probably see the remains of an old water pipe. This was likely used to pump water for cattle to the top of Vermilion Cliffs. The pipeline is probably 70-100 years old. In some places you'll even see the cairns used to provide a guideline when the water pipe was installed. The terrain near the arch is quite fractured, be careful, an immobilizing injury here could prove fatal as you will not see anyone for a long time.

Vermillion Arch from below

Vermillion Arch


Google Map and Directions

The following map covers an extremely large area and is a work in progress. It covers most of the Vermilion Cliffs NM. Vermilion Cliffs NM is BLM land and is open to the public. There is some state owned and private land in the area, click here to see the large scale official BLM map showing ownership and to place the map in context.

Caution - Some of the roads shown have not been driven by me and may be closed or impassable. The main routes to Coyote Buttes South and The White Pocket have been verified however.

The map below not only covers The White Pocket but also Coyote Buttes South and the entire Sand Hills area. The map has many layers. Layers can be turned on or off to zoom in on areas of particular interest. I suggest you view the map using the View larger option below. Then use the check boxes at the left to turn on and off particular features of interest.

Note that the new Google maps engine does not show you the latitude/longitude of waypoints or points of interest, elevation, or the distance between two points on the map. The engine also does not show track or route elevation profiles. If you need these I suggest you download the KML or KMZ file for the map and load it into Google Earth or another mapping tool.

Photo Map

The following map shows the locations of all of the geocoded photos in my White Pocket Gallery. Click on any image to display a cropped thumbnail, the GPS coordinates, elevation, and focal length used when shooting the image. Click on the cropped thumbnail in the upper left corner to display a larger uncropped image.

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

The map can be downloaded by clicking here.

 



USGS 24K Topo Maps

Vermilion Cliffs and vicinity is largely covered by 16 USGS 24K topo maps. The White Pocket is covered by the Poverty Flat Map. The roads to it are covered by the Coyote Buttes, House Rock Spring, and One Toe Ridge maps.

The table to the right contains the topo maps in a variety of formats. KMZ overlay files can be opened with Google Earth, and Oruxmap files can be opened with oruxmaps, a free mapping app for android phones and tablets. USGS topo maps contain a white border (called the collar) which contains information such as the map name, names of neighboring maps, date the map was created, latitude and longitude reference lines, ... While collars are very useful on printed maps, the information on the collar is much less useful for computer use. Maps with the collar removed can also be downloaded in the table to the right.

For reference here is an image showing the names of all 16 topo maps and their location. The topo maps can be downloaded to the right of this image.

Vermilion Cliffs Index Map

Map showing locations of Vermilion Cliffs Topo Maps

Contact Us

Brain Rock at Joe's Ranch in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Joe's Ranch

The Cowboy Hat rock formation in Vermilion Cliffs NM

The Cowboy Hat

Rainbow over Soap Creek Tank in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Soap Creek Tank

Wrather Arch in the Paria River Drainage

Wrather Arch Overlook

Cabin and Windmill in Pinnacle Valley

Pinnacle Valley

Double Barrel Arch in Vermilion CLiffs National Monument

Double Barrel Arch

Vermillion Arch from below

Vermillion Arch

USGS 24K Vermilion Cliffs Topographic Maps

Vermilion Cliffs 24K Topographic Maps

The Swirl Rock formation in The White Pocket wide-angle

The Swirl

North end of the Monolith at sunrise

The Monolith at sunrise

The Swirl mid-telephoto

Storm Clouds over The Swirl

Tree at sunset in The White Pocket

The Second Tree

Late light at The Citadel in The White Pocket

The Citadel

Moqui Marbles at The White Pocket

Moqui City

Ponderosa Pine The White Pocket

Lone Pine

Milky Way over Brain Rock at The White Pocket

Milky Way and Brain Rock

Lace Rock on The Monolith at The White Pocket

Lace Rock

Reflection of The Citadel at The White Pocket

Citadel Reflection

After sunset at The White Pocket

Blue Hour

Brain Rock at Joe's Ranch in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Joe's Ranch

Pinnacle Valley Hoodoo in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Pinnacle Valley Hoodoo at sunset

Window at Joe's Ranch in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Joe's Ranch Framed

The Cowboy Hat rock formation in Vermilion Cliffs NM

The Cowboy Hat

Pinnacle Valley Windmill in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Pinnacle Valley Windmill

Soap Creek Tank and Rainbow in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Soap Creek Tank

Vermilion Arch in Vermilion Cliffs NM

Vermilion Arch