Many of our guests here at Dreamland are familiar with the Wave, and with the story behind how it became famous. In a nutshell, this is the Wave’s history as a desert bucket list destination.

How the Wave became ‘A Thing’

Back in the 1990s, there was no permit system for the Wave – because the Wave was an obscure locals-only spot that not enough people knew about to want to go there. Then, the story goes, a European film crew captured footage of the Wave and it started to, pardon the pun, make a splash.  What really put the Wave on the map though, was its appearance as a wallpaper in the Windows Operating System in 2009. Today, the Wave is one of the most coveted hikes in the nation with what must be the most competitive recreational permit system out there: almost a quarter million people a year apply for only 7300 available permits, putting the odds of obtaining a permit at less than 3%.

Only a very small percentage of Wave hopefuls know, though, that there is an equally spectacular and much more remote destination a few miles east of the Wave: White Pocket. Just like the Wave back in the 1990s, White Pocket is not covered by a permit system because not enough people know about the destination or have the tools to get out there (it’s a long and challenging 4-wheel deep-sand approach drive, which is why we run guided tours to White Pocket).

Next up: White Pocket

White Pocket has recently started to make its own waves among outdoor photography circles – no surprise, given its amazing topography and colors. Just take a look at the photos below to judge for yourself.

White Pocket night photography

Lollipop Rock is one of White Pocket’s most recognizable photography motifs

The Wormhole, another classic shot

There is plenty of evidence of native American history at White Pocket – if you know where to look, you may find everything from pottery shards to arrowheads and petroglyphs here.  As a modern backcountry destination, though, White Pocket is rumored to have first been put on the map by ranchers in the first half of the 20th century as they followed wild horses across the Paria Plateau to discover the horses’ water source.  The horses knew exactly where they were going: multiple depressions at White Pocket hold water for much longer periods of time than any of the surrounding landscape on top of the stream-less, almost spring-less Paria Plateau — hence the name White “Pocket”. Since water is scarce on the plateau, it is easy to imagine that the ranchers were thrilled by their find; they added concrete dams to two of the main pockets on the formation in order to increase water retention capacity, and began using White Pocket as a watering spot for their cattle.

Tracks left behind by wild horses

Today, there are still remnants of cattle ranching to be observed at White Pocket – from parts of the two dams to old fencing and cowboy glyphs – but the formation’s main draw (for human visitors at least) is no longer its role as a water source; today, White Pocket is a world-class backcountry adventure destination with infinite potential for photography and exploration.

White Pocket is a terrific destination for both landscape and astro-photography; given its remote location, the darkness of the skies at White Pocket is nothing short of spectacular – that’s why we offer overnight trips and exclusive Milky Way photography clinics out there.

Milky Way & Lone Tree by Cody York

We here at Dreamland have long known that White Pocket parallels the Wave in wow-factor, photography, and adventure appeal.  And at this point, it seems like the world may be just on the cusp of catching on as well: in the fall of 2020, Apple decided to include White Pocket as the sole non-abstract stock wallpaper in iOS 14.2 for iPhones and iPads.  With more than 200 million iPhones sold annually, and over a billion devices out there that are compatible with iOS 14.2, there are all a sudden a lot of folks who are now carrying White Pocket in their pockets.

We’ve seen an uptick in visitation to White Pocket recently even prior to the iOS wallpaper being published; where a few years ago, a busy day at White Pocket was any day when you didn’t have the formation completely to yourself…. this year, we have seen several days where there are a dozen or (gasp) more vehicles in the parking lot.

White Pocket is the only non-abstract stock wallpaper option in Apple’s iOS 14.2 for iPhones and iPads

Fortunately for those who seek solitude, White Pocket is vast and it is easy to find peace and quiet out there even on a busy spring or fall weekend.  We won’t speculate for how long it’ll stay that way — but we’re grateful to have this gem in our backyard, and hope that the difficulty of White Pocket’s access roads will keep visitor numbers at a manageable level for a while to come. In the meantime, check out our White Pocket guided tours or read what White Pocket looks like from one of our guests’ perspectives.

See you out there!


White Pocket Sunset by Cody York, who leads multi-day landscape and astrophotography workshops at White Pocket for Dreamland Safari Tours.

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