4WD Adventure at White Pocket, Arizona
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Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Northern Arizona
Bureau of Land Management
Gaining more and more popularity by the day, White Pocket’s awe-inspiring, windswept layers of orange, yellow and white slickrock were shaped by the elements and created over time by mineral deposits. To minimize impact when visiting this small area tucked inside of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
4WD is Required
When visiting White Pocket, a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle is required. There are countless photos and videos of vehicles stuck in the deep sand. Remember that All Wheel Drive (AWD) is not the same as 4WD. Know the difference, and know your vehicle’s rating.
These deep, sandy conditions led to us an adventure within an adventure. In order to have enough supplies for four people (Felipe, Mark, Ethan, & myself) on our one-week road trip, we took two vehicles. Our trusty Jeep Rubicon and a truck for easy loading/unloading of supplies and food. Unfortunately, the truck was not a 4×4. On our route to White Pocket, we met up with our friend Justin in Salt Lake City, UT who had been on the road for 180 days exploring the Wild Wild West. His vehicle was not 4WD either. We wanted to camp inside White Pocket for at least one night. We didn’t know exactly how we were going to do that with five people and only one 4×4 vehicle, but we still made our way there.
A few hours before we reached our destination, a lightbulb went off in Ethan’s head. Having never been there, he inquired how many miles of deep sand would we actually be driving. Felipe and Justin both agreed we faced approximately 10 miles of deep sand. Ethan then suggested we park the two non-4×4 cars as close as possible to the start of the deep sand and then load as much gear as possible into the Jeep. If needed, we’d caravan back to pick up any other necessary supplies to camp overnight. Because our camera gear took a lot of space, we ended up making two trips.
To find parking for our other vehicles, we did a little off-roading on a side road. Next, we released air pressure from the Jeep tires for better traction. On normal roads, the tire pressure is around 37/38 psi. For this trek, we dropped it to 19/20 psi. While a couple of us were releasing the tire pressure, the other three were consolidating and packing gear to get ready for the first trip in. After loading our gear, all five of us crammed into the Jeep and held onto what Felipe calls the “oh-sh*t” handles.
With the proper vehicle and experience driving in off-road conditions, the trek to White Pock is a really fun and adventurous ride. With Felipe’s driving skills and caution to avoid rocks mixed in with the sand, our ride felt like a roller coaster ride.
Once at the trailhead parking lot, we quickly unloaded the Jeep, and three of us headed back for the rest of our food and camping gear. With a lighter load, the drive back even more fun.
After setting up camp, we had about three hours until sunset. We cooked a quick meal prior to capturing some golden hour and blue hour photos. Mark, who is our official road-trip chef, whipped up chicken and rice. The chicken had been marinating in seasoning for four nights, so to say it was delicious is an understatement.
After dinner, it was time to stroll around to capture, create, and just enjoy the beauty that is White Pocket. Without a doubt, the saying “pictures just don’t do it justice” applies to this place.
When people say White Pocket looks like Mars or an entirely different planet, I can now say I 100% agree with them. All in all, we spent about 4-5 hours exploring and taking photos, including some astro and night photography.
White Pocket was a destination that Mark, Ethan, and I really wanted to visit, and we left the next afternoon with a sense of fulfillment. By following the proper guidelines and preparing with the right gear, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it, too!