Visiting the Grand Canyon is a trip packed with unexpected adventure. Even outside the park itself, there are countless ways to find entertainment and immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors.
If you happen to find yourself planning a trip to the North Rim, make room for an extra scenic overload, courtesy of the gorgeous Vermilion Cliffs.
Finding the Vermilion Cliffs
Perhaps because of their obvious visibility, the Vermilion Cliffs are largely unmarked, however they are easy enough to find by driving east from the North Rim on US Alt-89; the highway follows the base of this surreal geographic structure for miles on end.
Driving to or from the Grand Canyon, you are exposed to the southern boundaries of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The northern boundary lies along highway 89, straddled between Lake Powell and Kanab Utah, both of which offer a place to spend the night.
Why the Vermilion Cliffs?
This impressive geographic vision makes up part of the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau, delivering exquisite views of red, earthy contortions and impossible beauty.
Despite their magnificence, the Vermilion Cliffs often remain unexplored due to their lack of visitor facilities- most people just drive by, obliviously.
That being said, even driving along US 89A is in itself a scenic indulgence. From here, the perspective is that of the edges along the south and east of the plateau, revealing views of the cliff face itself. Note that this head-on view of the cliff face is one of the most expansive in the United States.
Things to do at Vermilion Cliffs
Many visitors simply drive past the Vermilion Cliffs to appreciate their beauty, however there are a few attraction stops to make and plenty of camping opportunities. The ultimate attraction is climbing to the top of the cliffs via one of three available routes.
If it’s a scenic road trip you’re set on, there are a couple of interesting places to make a quick stop. Much of the drive will consist of speeding past a vast, isolated region dotted with ranches and a couple of rock formations, but there are definitely some photo ops along the way.
The White Pocket
Believed to be the result of a massive sand slide, the White Pocket is the most popular of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument rock formations. The landscape is quite isolated, located on the southern edge of the Vermilion Cliffs.
Coveted by hikers and photographers alike, the White Pocket is characterized by a layer of ashy gray rock atop an arduous red sandstone layer. Undulating rock formations marbled with white creases, create the unique landscape that gave the area its name.
Coyote Buttes and The Wave
The Wave is a surreal fantasy landscape within the Coyote Buttes region of the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area.
Located along the northern edge of the plateau, on the slope of Coyote Buttes, The Wave is a gorgeous undulating landscape made up of gigantic sandstone rock contortions- thus, “the wave”.
Given the frailty and isolation of the region, the area can only be entered with a permit, so if you’re planning to stop by on a road trip, make sure you have the right permissions.
Paria River Gorge
Located on the northern edge of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, the Paria River Gorge is a beautiful deep canyon turned hiking trail.
If you’re just passing by, stopping by the sandstone cliffs and deep narrows of the Paria Gorge will have you coming back for a second trip, this time, a hiking expedition. At 38 miles (61 km), this region makes for a gorgeous 3-4 day hiking expedition, taking you from southern Utah to Lees Ferry.
Hiking to the Plateau
End your tour of the Vermilion Cliffs with an invigorating climb to the top of the plateau. You can access the trailheads via two small springs draining into the foot of the cliffs- Jacob’s Pool and Rachel’s Pool.
After enjoying expansive views of the Kaibab Plateau and Colorado River, you can finish off your exploration by taking a night to camp. The Escalante-Dominguez monument is a nearby location that offers a great camping location.