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Lost The Wave Lottery? Visit White Pocket, Arizona Instead

Lost The Wave Lottery? Visit White Pocket, Arizona Instead

The Wave hike is considered one of the most exclusive hikes in the world. Located on the Utah-Arizona border, is a popular bucket list hike that you have to enter a lottery to experience. Unfortunately, only a hadful of online tickets are available, and reports estimate that only around 3% of people who enter the lottery obtain a permit. 

They award an additional 16 permits daily via walk-in, with a 13% success rate. If you end up leaving without access to The Wave, you have a few other options. One of the best alternatives is heading to White Pocket, Arizona. This is exactly what we did, and you can too!

Photographer at white pocket
Yes, you get to walk through this crazy landscape at the White Pocket!

The Wave vs. White Pocket, Arizona

The Wave and White Pocket, Arizona areas compare in many ways. While The Wave receives much attention, many people name White Pocket as their favorite of the two. 

Tom and Cait in White Pocket
We lost The Wave lottery, but that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time in White Pocket.

People love The Wave for its dramatic angles and flowing rock formations. Once you see it, you will understand why it has become a social media icon. It is fun to explore and makes for great pictures. 

You can’t access the area without a permit, limiting the number of hikers allowed daily. To get to The Wave, you’ll need to hike around six miles before arriving. 

Man hiking in The Wave.
The Wave and White Pocket are both stunning places to explore in Arizona.

White Pocket, Arizona, does not have the singular dramatic wave feature, but many smaller rock formations. White Pocket has no permit requirements making it accessible to anyone who wants to visit. 

The Wave is only about one acre, whereas the White Pocket area encompasses 20 acres. While you won’t need a permit to access White Pocket, you will need a 4x4 vehicle and an experienced driver to get to the trailhead. Once you get to the trailhead, you will need to hike a 1.5-mile loop

Arizona Road Trip to White Pocket and Beyond (An alternative to the Wave)

Do You Need a Permit to Visit White Pocket?

No, you do not need a permit to visit White Pocket. The general public can visit without making any sort of reservation or giving advance notice. 

However, you do need a way to reach the hard-to-access trailhead. Most choose to book a tour that takes them to and from the hike. 

tour to white pocket
A number of tour companies offer 4x4 access to White Pocket

How to Get to White Pocket, Arizona (4x4 Required)

One mistake that visitors make is not having a properly equipped vehicle. The road to the White Pocket, Arizona, trailhead has deep and soft sand. Your rental car won’t make the trip. 

If you attempt to access White Pocket without the proper vehicle, you will get stuck. You’ll then head home with a hefty tow bill, which is likely not the souvenir you want. Do not attempt the pocket in a low ground clearance vehicle even if it is all-wheel drive. The sand is very soft and you will get stuck. It’s best to have some soft sand driving experience as well or even a well-equiped vehicle could get stuck on this trek. We have 13 inches clearance and still dragged our differential at times.

The road to white pocket
The road to the White Pocket is a deep sandy one. While our expedition vehicle did not have any problems, it would be a challenge for some vehicles. A high clearance 4x4 is recommended. We have 13 inches clearance, and we wouldn’t attempt this if you have less than 8 inches.

There are a few ways to access the white pocket but one particular route is the easiest and you will find signs pointing the way. While other trails are optional they will be even more difficult.

To access the White Pocket trailhead, take House Rock Valley Road (also known as Bureau of Land Management 1065) 23.5 miles south of Hwy 89 or 9.3 miles north of Highway 89A, turn onto BLM 1017. 

Drive east on BLM 1017 for 6.2 miles and proceed northeast on BLM 1087. Continue on BLM 1087 until it splits into BLM 1086. Stay left to follow BLM 1086 to the White Pocket Trailhead.

Overland vehicles in the desert
You’ll need a vehicle with off-road capabilities to access White Pocket, Arizona. We were the largest rig out there by far.

Pro Tip: Unsure What Is BLM Land? We uncovered what exactly it is and how you can camp there!

What to Do in White Pocket, Arizona

You want to make the most of your time while visiting White Pocket. So here are a handful of things we suggest you do while there.

Let Yourself Wander

Give yourself permission to wander around and take in the environment. You don’t often get the chance to stand in such an incredible and inspiring place. If you need to stray from the crowds to enjoy the landscapes fully, then do it. The white pocket does not have any trails and the best way to experience it is just to wander. Make your own path and you will find and discover tons of amazing rock features.

Bella hiking in Arizona
Spend your day exploring White Pocket in Arizona and make sure to bring your adventure pups along for the hike!

When you wander, you typically won’t rush. So make sure you prepare for the conditions, so you don’t have to leave in a hurry. This is one place you’ll want to take your time and explore. 

hiking the white pocket

Bring Your Camera

Whether you have a camera on your phone or a large DSLR camera, bring it with you. You’ll want to take hundreds of pictures of the exotic rock formations. The bright contrasting colors between the blue skies and the rocks make great shots.

Tom in White Pocket, AZ
Don’t visit White Pocket without a camera!

Challenge yourself to take pictures of the landscapes and snap a selfie or two of you and your fellow adventurers. Your Instagram followers and friends will likely want to see your face too. So show those pearly whites and snap away.

Camp Overnight

You can experience White Pocket, Arizona, by camping overnight. Whether you want to capture breathtaking shots of the stars with your camera or just gaze up at the dark starry sky, you can have amazing views day and night.

Some adventurers choose to car camp nearby, but you can also take photography camping expeditions through local vendors. You can schedule your trip with them and bring your photography gear. They’ll supply the rest. You won’t have to worry about the rough 4x4 driving or getting lost; they handle it all.

Night Photo White Pocket
While I’m not much of a photographer, capturing the Milky Way is pretty easy here because there is so little light pollution. The sky above the red rocks is incredible!

Take a Safari Tour

If your not comfortable wandering on your own one of the best ways to experience White Pocket is through a safari tour. You can experience the fantasy landscape with a knowledgeable and experienced guide. 

So you’ll have plenty of facts and information to post along with all of the pictures you’ll take on this incredible tour. Make sure to charge your batteries and free up storage for all the images you take.

White Pocket rock formations
Soak up the stunning views in White Pocket, Arizona.

Pro Tip: Looking for somewhere to stay while exploring White Pocket and Arizona? We found the 10 Best Places to Go Boondocking in Arizona

Is White Pocket Just as Scenic as The Wave?

While The Wave is truly a one-of-a-kind geological anomaly, White Pocket deserves more respect for its scenery. If size matters, The Wave is less than 1 acre. Compare that with the over 20 acres at White Pocket. 

Tom hiking White Pocket, Arizona
Whether you’re visiting The Wave or White Pocket, late spring and early fall are the best times for your adventure.

The landscape at White Pocket provides a tremendous variety of nooks and crannies for you to explore. So while it is hard to say one is better than the other, they’re both impressive.

rock formation at the white pocket
There are so many small crazy rock formations at White Pocket, it will take you a whole day to explore them.

When Is the Best Time to Visit White Pocket, Arizona?

You’ll want to visit White Pocket, Arizona, in the late spring and early fall. This helps avoid extreme temperatures. Even though you won’t get too many crowds, you won’t have to deal with many others. 

In the winter, temperatures can get into the 20s and even snow. In the summer, you can experience temperatures in the 100s. So make sure you prepare for the weather to enjoy yourself and stay safe.

brain rock at the white pocket
We called these formations brain rock or elephant skin. No idea if they have a real name

Should You Skip The Wave Lottery & Visit White Pocket Instead?

Seeing The Wave can be a rare experience. It’s an incredible sight that not many get the chance to enjoy. 

So instead of skipping the lottery, make White Pocket, Arizona, your backup plan. If you don’t win the lottery, you have an excellent adventure that likely won’t disappoint.

You may feel frustrated and disappointed not to get the chance to experience an adventure because you didn’t get selected in the lottery. However, instead of letting your loss ruin your trip, keep your chin up and visit the next best option.

Cait in White Pocket, AZ

Who knows, maybe you’ll hit the jackpot and get selected in the lottery and get to experience both of them.

Have you ever been chosen in a lottery for an adventure? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Jerry Pillarelli

Friday 8th of April 2022

I was surprised to win the lottery to the wave on my very first try, the text on my website will explain my situation: https://pbase.com/jfp_photo/2021_az_vermilion_cliffs_wave

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