Arizona Trails

Walk Otherworldly Terrain at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

It looks like Mars, but this scenery is all Earth.

The quickest way to Mars: a trip to this trailless expanse of 20- and 30-foot-tall, multicolored formations in northern Arizona. White Pocket, which is still blissfully off the radar, was likely formed by a huge earthquake and subsequent sand slide, which petrified over millions of years. The rocks have the same swirly, layered look as the Wave, a popular sandstone slope just northwest of here in the Coyote Buttes, but, unlike the Wave, you can camp here and don’t have to deal with any permit hassle. From US 89A, take House Rock Road 10 miles (high-clearance vehicle required) before splitting east onto Pine Tree Road for 15 miles to the parking area. The drive is a haul—make sure you have a shovel and a full tank. Photographer John Fowler recommends overnighting in the drive-up campground (free; first-come, first-serve): “If you do, you’ll have White Pocket all to yourself.” Midwinter temps can drop into the 20s, so pack warm. (Tip: Check out the beer list at Lee’s Ferry Lodge on the way back.)