Exploring the Lesser Known Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a hidden gem in northern Arizona (just south of the Utah border) waiting to be explored. It is home to a medley of geological wonders, including towering red cliffs, winding slot canyons, and striped sandstone spires. If you’re visiting Lake Powell or Grand Staircase Escalante, you’ll want to add this must-see location to your trip.

Top Things to See in Vermilion Cliffs

Some top things to see and do at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument include visiting The Wave, exploring the slot canyons in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, hiking to the top of the Vermilion Cliffs, and taking a scenic drive through the monument. Other top attractions include Marble Canyon, Coyotes Buttes, and White Pocket.

Marble Canyon 

One of the top things to see in Marble Canyon is the Navajo Bridge you’ll drive over on your way to the monument’s entrance. This historic bridge spans the Colorado River and offers breathtaking views of the canyon and surrounding landscape. The bridge is also a popular spot for thrill seekers who enjoy rock climbing and base jumping. It’s also a popular spot for rafting or kayaking the winding Colorado River.

The Wave in Coyotes Buttes 

The most popular attraction at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is The Wave. This unique, wave-like rock formation is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the monument and is known for its vibrant colors and swirling patterns in the red, orange, and white Navajo sandstone. The Wave is located in a remote area and requires a permit to visit, but it is well worth the effort. The best way to experience the Wave is to take a guided tour or hike through the area.

White Pocket

Utah’s best-kept secret, the lesser-known rock formation similar to The Wave, is located in a remote area accessible by ATV, 4×4 vehicles, or a private tour. It is a popular destination for those seeking a quiet, peaceful experience and does not require a permit to visit.

Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness

Another top thing to see at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This area is home to several incredible slot canyons, including Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. These canyons are known for their narrow passages and towering walls and are popular among hikers and photographers. To visit the slot canyons, you need to obtain a permit in advance.

Hiking in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

One of the best ways to explore Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is to hike the trails. There are many excellent trails in the monument, including The Wave, Cathedral Wash, Wire Pass, and Spencer Trail.

The Wave 

Hiking The Wave in Arizona is an experience you won’t soon forget. It’s one of the best hiking trails in the U.S. for its sandstone formations with a brushstroke appearance. Due to its popularity, permits are required to access it. A limited number of permits are issued through a lottery system to help preserve the fragile and beautiful desert area. The 6-mile round-trip hike has little elevation gain and is moderate in difficulty.

Cathedral Wash 

The wash trail takes hikers through a narrow canyon with towering walls and ends at the Colorado River. It requires some rock scrambling and wayfinding, which adds to the adventure. The 3-mile round-trip hike is a great option for those looking for a shorter trail with a little challenge.

Wire Pass 

Trek along Wire Pass into the famous gorge of Buckskin Gulch, one of the best places to explore slot canyons with narrow passages and towering walls. The hike is 3.5-miles round-trip, moderate, and dog-friendly!

Spencer Trail (Lee’s Ferry) 

This challenging hike leads to the top of the Vermilion Cliffs. The trail is 4.5-miles round-trip and has some steep and rocky terrain. However, the views from the top are well worth the effort, as you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Scenic Drives Near Vermilion Cliffs

If you prefer a more leisurely experience, there are scenic drives in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument where you can sit back and take in the incredible sights.

Honeymoon Scenic Drive 

Fall in love with this 20-mile stretch of scenic driving through the Coyote Buttes North area of the monument. It’s been in use since the late 19th century when Mormon settlers frequently traveled to and from St. George where many couples exchanged marriage vows. It’s a great option for those looking to experience stunning rock formations in the area.

Jacob Lake to Marble Canyon Drive

This 44-mile scenic drive takes you through the heart of Marble Canyon. The main highway traces along the base of the colorful cliffs. Take the road to Lee’s Ferry for a closer look and walk the banks of the Colorado River. There are many places from Marble Canyon west toward Jacobs Lake where you can get out and take a close look at balanced boulders and take photos of cliffs.

Where to Stay Near Vermilion Cliffs

Explore the splendor of the American Southwest with a stay at Under Canvas Lake Powell – Grand Staircase, less than an hour from Vermilion Cliffs. It’s also ideally located for exploring other popular destinations like Lake Powell, Grand Staircase Escalante, and Horseshoe Bend. Find plenty of adventures by day and retreat to your luxury safari-inspired tent for well-deserved R&R by night.

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