White Pocket, Arizona Will Blow Your Socks Off

Last Updated on March 21, 2024 by foxintheforest

An often-overlooked alternative to The Wave, White Pocket, Arizona is a hidden gem in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness area. These unassuming lumps of rock hold a tremendously beautiful secret. You’ll find unbelievably fragile rock formations, stunning displays of color, and killer views at White Pocket.

Accessing this desert gem takes a little bit of know-how and a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to reach, which makes it a bit of an adventure. However, if you’re able to navigate miles of deep-sand driving, White Pocket in Vermillion Cliffs is a spectacular sight.

Looking to explore the desert like a local, not a tourist? Then you’re in the right place. I’m a literal pro at outdoor desert adventures. As an expert in exploring places like White Pocket, I’ve written about desert travel for big-name outdoor companies like REI and Backpacker Magazine.

Every year I spend up to 6 weeks exploring the far reaches of the American Southwest, collecting stories for my work as an outdoor writer and for this amazing blog. You won’t find any better info about White Pocket, Arizona anywhere else on the web.

About this Guide to White Pocket, Arizona

As one of the most amazing Arizona hikes, White Pocket is a must-see spot! Inside this comprehensive guide to White Pocket, Arizona, you’ll find:

  • What the heck is White Pocket anyway?
  • Where to find White Pocket and directions about how to get there.
  • Hiking White Pocket
  • Nearby camping
  • Photographing White Pocket
  • The best tour of White Pocket
  • Additional things to do nearby
  • What to pack
  • Where to stay
  • Additional desert planning resources
white pocket arizona

What is White Pocket?

I’ve gotta admit, when I first heard of White Pocket I thought what in the heck could that be? It turns out, the name White Pocket is pretty descriptive. White Pocket is an obscure (and large) patch of white-capped rock formations found in seemingly the middle of nothing.

Nestled deep in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, this hard-to-reach patch of Navajo sandstone features colorful and unique rock formations. Capped by cauliflower-like white puffs of rock, White Pocket is simply a pocket of white rock in an otherwise unassuming desert landscape.

What makes this place so special is its unexpected nature, large formations, and sherbert-colored rock found throughout the formations.

How Big is the Pocket?

The area is about 1 mile across and a quarter mile wide – which is larger than you think! White Pocket is really unique because it’s surrounded by sandy, sparse desert on all sides. It’s really quite phenomenal and feels a little “random and out there.”

Where is White Pocket Located?

White Pocket is deep in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona south of the famous Coyote Buttes. You can find the road to White Pocket, Arizona in between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. Also known as House Rock Valley Road, this is where you’ll find other famous attractions such as Buckskin Gulch, Wire Pass slot canyon, and The Wave.

Pro Tip: White Pocket, Utah is not a real place. This area is a bit blurry since the state line between Arizona and Utah is located in the middle of a dirt road where you don’t get cell phone service.

To keep it simple, if you’ve passed the parking lot for Coyote Buttes North (access to the Wave and Wire Pass), you’re on Arizona time. But keep in mind, Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings and is typically 1 hour behind Utah. So, remember this when doing top Kanab hikes.

How Do You Get Into White Pocket

There are two primary ways to reach White Pocket. The closest towns are Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona respectively. These, as well as the tiny village of Big Water (near Page) make for a great home base.

First, you ABSOLUTELY need a 4WD (read: NOT AWD) vehicle with decent clearance to get to White Pocket. A Subaru won’t cut it. You’ll be driving for over an hour on deep, rutted sand. Getting stuck is a real possibility.

Pro Tip: My husband and I are very experienced off-road drivers. We had zero issues making it to the trailhead with a stock 4Runner and all-terrains, but again, we drive 4×4 roads all the time. However, we saw many people struggling. You don’t need a fancy lifted Jeep, but you’ll want at least a stock 4Runner or equivalent.

Map of the drive from Page to White Pocket with the route outlined in blue.

Getting to White Pocket from Page – The Best Route

If you’re coming from Page, it’s about a 2 hour and 40-minute drive to White Pocket. Head east on Highway 89 until you reach an unassuming dirt road exit for House Rock Valley Road. Head south on House Rock Valley Road.

You’ll drive this road for 34.7 miles (about an hour). Remember, once you pass the South Coyote Buttes parking area, you’re in Arizona, so change your clock.

Continue until you reach Pine Tree Road or BLM Road 1017. Follow 1017 until you reach Road 1087 (left hand fork). Take 1087. From here you’ll start to see a lot of private property signs and annoying little messages. The road also turns to deep sand for the remainder of the trip.

Head north (left) at the 1086 Junction. You’ll pass through some ranching outpost and a gate, then you’ll reach White Pocket.

Pro Tip: This is a DIFFERENT way than what Google Maps will tell you to do. Google Maps attempts to take a short cut but it is a bumpy, high-clearance, rough road with plenty of obstacles that will take you forever to navigate.

white pocket vermillion cliffs

Accessing White Pocket from Kanab, Utah

From Kanab, you’ll simply take Highway 89A south out of town and turn left (east) onto BLM 1025. This eventually links up with House Rock Valley Road, about 10 minutes or so from the Pine Tree Road turnoff. Head south on House Rock Valley Road, then follow the instructions above from Page.

Accessing White Pocket from Coyote Buttes South

In short, don’t go this way.

If you’re coming from Pawhole, the “shortcut” road heads east from Pawhole 2.8 miles to Poverty Flat.

I do not recommend this route unless you are a seriously experienced 4×4 driver. It has a difficult, steep uphill section that is rugged on the best days and completely impassable after precipitation. It’s technically a one-way road heading in the opposite direction, so you’re driving the wrong way down a treacherous road.

After the deep sand debacle, you’ll reach a junction. Head north for 2.2 miles until you see a corral, then head east on BLM road 1322. You’ll reach a T-junction with the White Pocket Access Road. Head north until you reach the trailhead.

Overall, I’d avoid this route.

How Long is the Drive?

From the time you leave Highway 89, it’s about a 70-minute drive to White Pocket down dirt roads. The going can be slower if House Rock Valley Road has had recent rains and hasn’t been re-graded.

How Hard is it to Get to White Pocket?

This is not a hard 4×4 driving road, but if you do not have experience in driving through deep sand, seriously consider hiring a guided tour. The sand can be exceptionally deep and it’s easy to get stuck if you don’t know what you’re doing or yo do not have clearance.

A stock 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler is sufficient to make the trek. We didn’t air down our tires at all and didn’t have any issues. However, we are very experienced desert drivers.

In terms of hiking, it’s a quick 5-minute sand walk to the rock formations. This is a very easy route, but it does not have any paved or hard surface accessibility so keep that in mind when planning your trip.

White pocket arizona in early morning light with large sandstone rocks and a clear sky reflecting off of a still pool of water.

When is the Best Time to Visit White Pocket?

First, the roads to White Pocket become completely impassible when wet. So if there are storms in the forecast either the day before or the day of your visit, reschedule. You WILL get stuck and getting a tow out there is going to cost well over $1,000.

So the best time to visit White Pocket is when there isn’t any precipitation in the forecast.

Winter can be an excellent time to visit White Pocket if you don’t mind the cold and want to avoid the crowds. Spring is excellent as well since the weather is warmer but it’s not insane yet. Summers should be avoided. There are not only monsoon storms almost every afternoon (remember what I said about storms), but it’s hot and crowded. Fall is like spring, but the wind is less and precipitation chances are even lower.

For photography, dawn, dusk, and overnight during a new moon are great times to shoot this incredible landscape.

Can You Walk to White Pocket?

Visiting White Pocket, Arizona is half about getting there and half about the incredible landscape. There aren’t trails at White Pocket, but you can freely hike around the rock for several hours.

Some people who don’t want to make the drive claim you can hike from Paw Hole for a 7-mile round-trip hike. However, I haven’t done this so I don’t know how feasible it is. Not to mention, getting to Paw Hole is much harder than reaching White Pocket so you might as well just drive.

Hiking White Pocket in Vermillion Cliffs

Once you reach the parking lot, you’ll see an obvious sandy path that leads toward White Pocket. Take the path until you reach slickrock and you’re there. You’ll see divots in a walking pattern on the rocks. These are actually from cows coming to White Pocket in search of pooling water. How crazy is that!

From here, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure. There are lots of things to discover at White Pocket. You’ll find a Wave-like formation, a delicate rock swirl, and so much more here.

In total, you’ll probably spend at least 2 hours here, more if you’re shooting photography. Total distances will vary but you’ll walk anywhere between 2 and 4 miles at White Pocket.

Just remember, there are no facilities (toilet included) so you’ll need to be prepared to pack out your human (and dog) waste. You’ll also want to pack all of your water and food for the day since the closest services are over 2 hours away.

How Long is the White Pocket Hike?

There is no official trail except the 5-minute walk through the sand to reach the rocks. I’d expect to walk between 2-4 miles depending on how much you like to wander, where you go, and how much you backtrack.

Overall, it’s not that long and the hiking is really easy. Think of it more of a gallery of rocks that you can wander around and choose your own path.

white pocket

Is White Pocket Free?

Yes. Visiting this area is completely free and no permits are required. However, given the increase in traffic over the last couple of years, I’d expect to see this area requiring permits in the near future. It’s insanely fragile and there is no cell service or services here.

Do I Need a Permit for White Pocket, Arizona?

No, this area is completely free to visit so no permit is required to visit White Pocket. This makes it a great alternative to the nearby Wave hike, where permits are hyper-competitive. However, this area is extremely fragile, so just because there is no permit requirements doesn’t mean you should ignore Leave No Trace principals, touch or trample delicate rock formations, or ignore private property signs.

Visiting Responsibly

Here’s the thing about White Pocket, it’s an extremely fragile place. In fact, some of the rock formations are so delicate that they would easily break if you just touched them. In order to keep White Pocket in Vermillion Cliffs a stunning place for years to come, do your part to be responsible and learn how to be an expert desert hiker. Here are a few ways to do your part.

Don’t touch the fragile rock. There’s one formation in particular (see photo) you shouldn’t touch. If it looks fragile and thin, it is!

Pack out your trash. Pack a trash bag, even for day trips. There are no services here so do your part to pick up dog poop, food wrappers, fruit peels, and other trash. This includes toilet paper and human waste. Carry a WAG bag (human waste disposal bag) for emergencies and go to the bathroom before you visit.

Don’t bust the crust. The raised, bumpy, black soil you see is a living thing called cryptobiotic soil.

Pack in your water and snacks. There are no services and the desert is a dry place. Be sure to bring at least 3L of water per person and plenty of snacks for a long day out.

Keep your dog on a leash. White Pocket is dog-friendly (for now), but keep your dog on a leash. Dog’s don’t know what’s fragile and what isn’t so definitely be in control of your animal.

White Pocket Vermillion Cliffs Arizona
These wafer-thin rock flakes are exceptionally fragile!

Safety Tips for Visiting White Pocket, AZ

It’s really important to keep this in mind – and I keep emphasizing it – but you are responsible for your own safety. A tow here can easily cost you at least $1,500 and rescue will take a substantial amount of time given how remote you are.

Come prepared! Here are a few quick safety tips:

  • Download offline maps before you head out and study the route.
  • Check your vehicle for gas, oil, leaks, etc before setting out.
  • Carry an emergency communication device, such as a Garmin InReach.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning. Set a check-in time and follow up when you return!
  • Pack plenty of extra water, layers, headlamp, first aid kit, food, etc.
  • Drive with an appropriate vehicle – a 4×4 vehicle with ample clearance and low gears (ie not your Tesla or crossover SUV)

What Type of Rocks are at White Pocket?

There are countless different types of sandstone in the desert and what you see depends on the elevation and erosion levels. Here at White Pocket, you mostly have Navajo Sandstone. This sandstone is typically white, rough, and very porous. At White Pocket you’ll see different staining from the different oxides of compounds found in the rock.

Do You Get Cell Service at White Pocket?

This question obviously carrier-dependent, but in short – no. Don’t expect to find any cell service in the desert. Every time we venture down House Rock Valley Road we quickly lose service. You should always be prepared for the unexpected. Carry extra food, water, a sleeping bag, a spare tire, appropriate jack, and an emergency communication device such as a Garmin InReach when you travel through the desert.

Are Drones Allowed at White Pocket?

Technically there are no drone restrictions (shame, honestly). Drones are exceptionally annoying to almost every hiker and visitor so consider others if you pack a drone. Also, be aware that east of the trailhead there are no drones allowed since it’s a part of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. Drones are never allowed in Wilderness Areas.

Camping Near White Pocket

There are various places for dispersed camping near White Pocket. You’ll find quite a few spots along Pine Tree Road and the offshoots. There are also a few camp spots just past the White Pocket Trailhead (high clearance required).

You can also find a few camp spots along House Rock Valley Road – although there are fewer than you would think and they fill up fast (get there early).

These spots are all first-come-first-served and are dispersed, or boondocking style. This means you will have to have your own bathroom kit, bring your own water, and all other supplies.

Related: Camping in the desert is a real treat – especially when it’s free. Never pay for camping again. Get the exact method I used to find free camping near White Pocket with my Find Free Camping Anywhere Course.

The Stateline Campground, along House Rock Valley Road, has 8 spots and bathroom facilities (no fresh water). If you’re lucky, you can snag one of these spots for the night.

Do You Need a Permit to Camp at White Pocket?

No, no permit is required. However, keep in mind that there are NO services and you are responsible for your safety and keeping the area clean. Be prepared to pack in all of your food and water and pack out all of your trash including wrappers, dog poop, toilet paper, fruit peels, and other trash.

Do not collect firewood as wood here is extremely scarce. Bring your own firewood or don’t have a fire. Firewood collection is illegal.

Photographing White Pocket

Photographing the stunning scenes of Vermillion Cliff’s White Pocket is a real treat. It’s certainly a photographer’s dream. There are plenty of ways to get creative here.

You’ll want to bring a tripod, all of your lenses, and plenty of cleaning equipment. Wide-angle lenses let you get more landscape but will dwarf some of the rock towers. If you’re shooting at night, a low-aperture lens is a must. And if you truly want to take unique shots, there are a surprisingly good amount of areas for macro photography.

Most people opt to camp right near White Pocket for photography, since the spanning views and other-worldly formations are best shot at dawn, dusk, and night.

white pocket arizona

Tours of White Pocket, Arizona

Don’t wanna bother with some white-knuckle driving? You can go on a guided tour of White Pocket. There are several different trips available, from family-friendly day trips to overnight photography trips. I’d highly recommend Dreamland Safari Tours in Kanab.

This woman-owned business delivers top-notch trips to Vermillion Cliffs and beyond.

Another option is Grand Circle Tours. This highly-rated tour company offers an amazing day at White Pocket for a reasonable price.

Should I Do a Self-Drive or Guided Tour?

If you’re a capable 4×4 desert driver with experience on sand, there is no need for a tour of White Pocket unless you want to know some more unique history of the area, see other sites, and generally not have to worry about navigating.

You can absolutely do this yourself. But tours are a great way to relax on the journey and get local insights. The choice is yours!

Additional Things to Do Nearby

Looking for exciting things to do near White Pocket? There is a whole slew of activities and attractions nearby. A few notable places to check out include:

  • Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch. Easy canyon hiking in the world’s longest-known slot canyon. Advanced $6 day pass is required.
  • The Wave. A famous rock formation in North Coyote Buttes. Advanced permits are requied and done in a lottery system.
  • Paw Hole. Unique red rock formations with a bumpy, wild 4×4 drive.
  • Horseshoe Bend. Located just outside of Page, Arizona. An easy trail leads to an iconic overlook dubbed “the start of the Grand Canyon.”

Where to Stay

Page, Arizona has plenty of hotel and lodging options ranging from the uber-luxurious to the usual affordable chains. Kanab has plenty of AirBnBs and smaller lodging options.

However, if you want to stay close to White Pocket, but you don’t want to camp, check out Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast in Big Water. It’s a beautiful place with a stargazing deck and delicious meals.

White pocket sunset

What to Pack

Here’s a look at the essential items you’ll want on your trip to White Pocket:

  • Plenty of water – I like to use a water container for the car. Budget at least 4 liters per person per day, more if you’re out in the summer months.
  • Sunscreen, sunhat with a wide brim, sunglasses
  • Sunshirt
  • First Aid Kit with tweezer (for cacti)
  • Noncotton socks
  • Breathable footwear that you feel comfortable wearing all day
  • Non-cotton shorts for hiking
  • Non-cotton, lightweight pants for hiking. Pants protect you against aggravating foliage.
  • Non-cotton, breathable t-shirt for hiking (the sun can really beat you up if you wear tank tops, so be aware)
  • Electrolyte powder
  • A water bladder capable of carrying at least 2 liters of water.
  • Salty snacks
  • Camera
  • Camera clip to strap to your back
  • Beanie – the desert can get cold at night so warm clothes are great to have
  • Glove liners
  • Fleece layer (fall through spring)
  • Puffy layer (fall through spring)
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • A hiking pack. I love the REI Flash series for something mutli-use and economical
  • A toilet kit: shovel, WAG Bag (most national parks require this), hand sanitizer, TP/baby wipes, a small plastic baggy to pack out TP and sanitary items
  • Pee funnel – optional
  • Pee rag – optional
  • A plastic baggy for trash (wrappers, fruit peels, etc). I like to use compostable dog waste bags.
  • Headlamp
  • GPS navigation 
  • emergency communication device
  • Wind/rain layer
  • Pocket knife

Additional Desert Road Trip Resources

Planning a trip to the desert? Check out these handy resources:


If you're looking for an alternative to The Wave in Arizona, White Pocket is an amazing option and one of the best hidden gems of Arizona. Here's what you need to know about hiking White Pocket in Arizona.
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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

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Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.