Are you dreaming of visiting the otherworldly landscapes in White Pocket, Arizona? Planning a trip to this remote area of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument can be overwhelming!
Let me guess, you saw a photo of White Pocket on Instagram, or you saw the mind-bending white and pink rock swirls splashed across your iPhone screen as one of Apple’s newest stock wallpapers.
You know you HAVE to see this place for yourself, and now you’re planning your visit! AWESOME!
I remember that moment myself when I first heard of White Pocket and started researching how to get myself and Tim there. I was surprised by how little information I could find online about this place.
Vague driving directions and words like “deep sand” and “high clearance” and “flat tire” had me wondering:
Is it best to visit White Pocket with a tour guide?
We have traveled extensively in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument area, both on our own and with a tour guide. So if you’re debating whether or not to hire a guide to visit White Pocket, I’m about to make your decision a lot easier!
Should you visit White Pocket with a guide?
In most cases, YES! We think it is best to visit White Pocket with a guide, not just for a more enjoyable trip, but a safer one too.
We recently toured White Pocket with Dreamland Safari, based out of Kanab, Utah. After having toured the South Coyote Buttes without a guide last winter, we were eager to compare that experience with a guided tour in a similar location.
Even though we have a capable vehicle and sufficient wilderness experience to safely visit on our own, we found a lot of advantages to visiting with a guide!
Visiting White Pocket with a guide can be more enjoyable
Visiting with a tour guide is less stressful
If it isn’t obvious by now, visiting White Pocket on your own has some inherent risks. Even if you have the right vehicle and know-how, depending on your level of risk aversion, you might still have a better time with a guide!
Personally, as someone who travels with chronic anxiety, I have a hard time enjoying myself and being fully present if I’m also feeling anxious about the “what-ifs”. Visiting White Pocket with Dreamland Safari meant I didn’t have to worry about the logistics. Rather than stressing about finding all the spots I wanted to see, or whether I restocked the first aid kit, I got to relax, turn off my brain a bit, and just enjoy nature!
Tour guides can show you Hidden Gems
On our tour with Dreamland Safaris, our guide, Mel, also took us to a few hidden petroglyph panels in the area. We would never have known about these incredible spots without her sharing them with us.
By visiting White Pocket with a guide, you may also have the opportunity to see some hidden gems you wouldn’t have found on your own! It should be obvious, but don’t forget that tour guides are GUIDES, meaning they have expert-level information you can’t easily get for yourself.
Going with a guide unlocks more possibilities for what you’ll get to see and experience than if you toured the area on your own.
You learn about unique geology
We love to learn about the places we visit, whether it’s history or nature. In a place as geologically unique as White Pocket, having a guide will enhance your educational experience.
On our tour, Mel used a stick to draw in the sand a general history of how these strange rock formations came to be. We learned that what we were hiking on were actually petrified sand dunes, millions of years old.
Now, whenever we are driving through the southwest and see similarly-formed rocks, I geek out because I know what to call them now: petrified sand dunes! And that right there is a perfect example of the educational value of visiting with a guide!
Visiting with a guide is safer
Tour guides have the right vehicle
You need a 4×4, high clearance vehicle to drive to White Pocket due to deep sand on the road, as well as rocky areas.
If you don’t have a 4×4 high clearance vehicle or know how to drive in deep sand, you absolutely need to hire a guide to visit White Pocket!
To avoid getting stuck, it’s imperative that you only drive yourself if you have a suitable vehicle and experience driving in deep sand! If you get stuck, you may not have cell service to call for help. Once you do get help, expect a four-figure bill for the tow service to get your car out!
Dreamland Safari’s vehicles are equipped for this kind of off-pavement journey, and their guides know these roads intimately, minimizing the chances of getting stuck.
By visiting White Pocket with a guide, you can put driving risks into the hands of experts who know these roads and how to drive them.
Tour guides know the route
Wayfinding is difficult in White Pocket and in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument as a whole.
This is partly because cell phone reception is too scarce to rely on online maps. The dirt roads in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument also do not use traditional road names. Most of the roads are designated with four-digit numbers, indicated by small signs at the intersections.
If you want to visit White Pocket on your own, you absolutely must download driving directions in advance, or even print or write them out. This is not a place you want to get lost.
I don’t mean to scare you, but with the hot summer heat, risk of seasonal flash floods, and lack of access to water and food, getting lost in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is potentially life-threatening.
Tour guides are prepared if things go haywire
Many of the guides at Dreamland Safaris are certified Wilderness First Responders. In the event of an emergency, there is nothing better than being with someone who is literally a professional at getting people out of unsafe wilderness situations.
Visiting with a guide does good for the area
Hiring a guide supports the local economy
Kanab, Utah is a small but growing town. It is quickly becoming a popular destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. With this influx of tourism, the cost of living is rising in the area. Hiring a tour guide through local businesses like Dreamland (and tipping your guide!) is a great way to support the community.
Guides are well-versed in outdoor ethics.
Guides will often remind you of what is or is not okay to do in nature. For example, can you walk across a particular rock formation, or will that cause damage? Can you fly your drone at White Pocket (yes, by the way)?
Whether you’re new to the outdoors or not, we all benefit from being reminded of how to respect nature! If you’re new to outdoor adventures, start with a quick overview of the Leave No Trace principles to master the basics!
Do you NEED a tour guide to visit White Pocket?
There is no requirement to hire a tour guide to visit White Pocket at this time. People visit independently without a guide every day. With the right vehicle, driving experience, gear, and emergency preparedness, anyone is welcome to visit, anytime.
Of course, that’s a pretty major caveat! When it comes to going without a guide, your biggest limitations will be your vehicle and your wilderness experience! You can consider self-driving if you have a four-wheel-drive high clearance vehicle, are experienced in driving in deep sand, and have a means of navigating and communicating without cell phone reception (like a satellite phone and GPS or downloaded maps). We consider these to be the minimum requirements for a safe independent adventure to White Pocket!
That said, if you’re prepared for that kind of adventure, go for it!
Do you need a permit to visit White Pocket?
You do not need a permit to visit White Pocket at this time.
Two nearby locations in the Vermillion Cliffs, the North Coyote Buttes (where the famous Wave is located) and South Coyote Buttes, both require a permit from the Bureau of Land Management to visit. Permits are awarded by random lottery either online 4 months in advance or in person the day before you want to visit. Many predict that White Pocket will soon require a permit as well.
Definitely read about Dreamland’s other tours too – you’ll quickly see just how much there is to explore near Kanab, Utah, and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument!
We think there are huge benefits to exploring White Pocket with a tour guide! It’s more fun, safer, and is good for the area (and not just economically!). No matter how you see it, though, this geologically rich destination is sure to impress you.
Please note: Dreamland Safari Tours hosted us on their White Pocket tour in exchange for this blog post. As always, our opinions, thoughts, and experiences are our own!
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