I am always amazed at how much ground my family can cover in a few days. It helps when you get up really early to start your day. That wasn’t our plan, but the bed at the Marble Canyon Lodge was like sleeping on cement, so mom and dad didn’t rest well. Serves mom right! She forgot my big, cushy doggy bed! I had to sleep on a tiny matt. Okay, I was fine. Heck, I sleep on the floor a lot. I just like giving mom a hard time. Ha!
Anyway, we were up and at ‘em early. Just as well because dad said we had a drive ahead of us. We ate breakfast on the go as mom packed stuff suitable for the car ride. Our destination today from Marble Canyon was the White Pocket, a very remote part of Arizona that most people haven’t explored.
I’m taking a risk sharing this with you. If you go, keep it a secret so it doesn’t get ruined by mobs of people! But first, we have to get you there, and it isn’t easy. The White Pocket is located on the Pariah Plateau, which is on top of the Vermillion Cliffs, a 280,000-acre national monument that borders the Kaibab National Forest and the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.
Our hotel looked at the Vermillion Cliffs, and they live up to their name, which my mom looked up while we had cell service. Vermillion means red pigment, and apparently, it is derived from the French word vermeil, meaning red dye. In Latin, vermiculum was a red dye made from the insect Kermes vermilio. Who knew it was named after a red bug! These cliffs range in elevation from 3,100 feet to 7,100 feet.
Now, if you program your GPS to find the White Pocket, it will send you on a long and scenic route – close to 3 hours from Marble Canyon. If you look it up on the internet, the directions are extremely vague. We will do our best to give you accurate directions, but you will need a 4-wheel drive with high clearance. This is not a road you want to take a car on unless you want to get stuck in the middle of no where with zero cell service!
Okay, take 89A from Marble Canyon and head north until you come to House Rock Road and head north. This turn is very easy to miss – look for the house in the middle of nowhere. It will feel like you are going to visit them, but you drive by their property. Before you continue on, we recommend you air down your tires a bit. This road starts off bumpy with lots of washboards but then turns to thick sand. If your tires are filled too high, it will be an uncomfortable ride for you. Note: If you air down, you will need to have the ability to inflate the tires before you head back on pavement.
You are at the base of the Vermillion Cliffs and will go 9 miles into the Corral Valley, again known for its color. Look for Pine Tree Road or #1017 and head east. You will be on this dirt road for a while. Hold on to your hats! I hunkered down in my doggy house. What you are doing is climbing up to the Pariah Plateau, which is at the very top of the Vermillion Cliffs you were looking at down below.
Traveling will be slow, but in about 6 miles, you will come to a ranch and see a sign for “White Pocket.” You’ll go straight and take an immediate left onto FR#1087. Watch out for FR#1086 and connect with it, which is where the sand begins. If you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle, you will get high centered. This is definitely not a road you want to be on during the rain as it would get muddy and extremely difficult fast!
When you come to the gate, someone needs to open it and then close it after driving through. We are allowed to use this land, but ranchers still have cattle in the area. You’ll see cow poop around and maybe even a cow or two.
Continue on until you see the sign for the parking lot. White Pocket is free and dogs are allowed. It is rocky and sandy and would be hard on small dogs. Pay attention to the temps as it can get hot here, and there isn’t much shade.
All in all, it takes about 2 hours from Marble Canyon. Mom and I don’t like bumpy roads, but Sirius XM had special 80s dance mix going on Channel 33 that made the trip go faster. You won’t get any radio out here or cell service. It is remote!
Yet, a few people from California were camping in the parking lot. It’s permitted, but dad said he’d prefer in the trees rather than a gravel parking lot. To each his own! Okay, we were here, and I was ready to stretch my legs.
Dad had a big camelback of water for me along with our picnic lunch, so off we went! White Pocket sits about 7,100 feet and is swirling, multicolored rock. I haven’t been to the moon, but this sure looked like it! All around are formations of Navajo sandstone, including domes, hoodoos, gullies and potholes.
You’ll follow a short, sandy trail to the rock, but once there, you won’t find any designated trail. You are on your own to explore. Between the elevation and getting out early, we had nice, comfortable temperatures in the 70s to start. I had pent-up energy to burn and bounded up that rock!
It isn’t slick or rough; it is just right! You can walk on it easily, but if you wanted to check out the slot canyon, you’ll need to do some rock climbing. We opted against it since we had done that at the Willis Creek Slot Canyon.
Just a few people were out, and they tackled the big, white mound of rock to your left. We chose to go toward the right so we could see the Coyote Butts in the distance, home of the infamous “wave.” By the way, the White Pocket is super close to the Utah border and is accessible from there. If you didn’t want to stay in Marble Canyon, another option would be Paige, Arizona.
We walked for about an hour and then found some shade to sit and have lunch. We had great views and enjoyed the silence. This is very remote, and you will feel it once you get on the rock. I think you could easily get lost in here, so pay attention to the route you take so you can find your way out. In some cases, you will be walking and run into a ledge that isn’t passable. You’ll have to find another route.
We ate and cooled off. We hiked for another hour and found some pools of water as a result of the recent rains. That was fun for me. I never pass up an opportunity to splash! The temperatures rose to the 80s on the way back, and we were glad it wasn’t hotter. The rock absorbs that heat and traps it, so it feels warmer. Keep that in mind and come prepared with lots of water!
It was still pretty early when we got back to the truck, so we decided to take on another adventure. You’ll have to wait until next week to hear about that one. We did stop to take more pictures of the Vermillion Cliffs as they look different throughout the day depending upon the light. They are quite impressive!
Remember, you’ll have 2 hours of rough riding back. Mom and I decided it was worth it, though. This is unlike anything you have seen before and is worth the effort. Stay safe!
My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith, is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. My mom is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, executive recruiter, business consultant, coach, fitness expert, and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever!
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Get outside! You never know what you’ll discover, and our paths just might cross. Happy tails!