Gold Butte National Monument ~ Whitney Pockets

Gold Butte National Monument ~ Whitney Pockets

The first time that I visited Whitney Pockets was back in 2012 before Gold Butte became a National Monument. Six years later I revisited Gold Butte after trading a Dodge muscle car in for a Jeep, so I could drive on the dirt roads once again. Only a few changes could be noticed since this vast wilderness area was given National Monument protection.

The changes that occurred after National Monument status was designated were easy to see after a long lapse of time. The old antique roadside signage was defaced by vandals along Gold Butte Road by the Virgin River, while new National Monument signage was added throughout the park. The condition of the paved section of Gold Butte Road has deteriorated to the point of being dangerous. The crumbling old blacktop and the potholes can severely damage small cars and even driving this road in a Jeep is a rough ride. Once a visitor crosses the official National Monument border, the dirt road section of Gold Butte Road is now better maintained and much smoother than it used to be. Inside the park, old Gold Butte Road is now called the Gold Butte National Back Country Byway.

Other than these few changes, the Gold Butte wilderness area is still just about the same as it always was. The exception is Whitney Pockets, where many of the old BLM campsites next to the red rock outcrops have been closed. These old campsites were popular with the winter season RV camper crowd, so it is a bit of a loss.

As can be surmised, a two wheel drive car with high ground clearance can do the trip to Whitney Pockets on Gold Butte Road, but a 4×4 ATV or Jeep will have a real advantage. The dirt trail side roads in Gold Butte that go to points of interest are definitely too rough for an average two wheel drive automobile, because there are areas of deep loose sand in some of the dry wash ravines. In order to do any of the dirt trail riding in Gold Butte, a Jeep or 4×4 ATV is the safest choice, because Gold Butte is a place where a vehicular breakdown can quickly turn into a survival situation.

The reason why the right kind of vehicle for the trip was mentioned is because Whitney Pockets is in a very remote location and it would be a long walk back to civilization if the vehicle breaks down. For this same reason, it is best to pack a two day food and water supply, because modern communication devices are useless in this area and help may be slow to arrive.

The Gold Butte Road section and the new Gold Butte National Back Country Byway section leading to Whitney Pockets is pictured in the photo slideshow. These photos may provide insight into whether the vehicle that you choose can do the trip or not. The drive going into this National Monument is as scenic as can be, so this helps to take the bite out of dealing with the deep potholes.

Whitney Pockets was for the most part was only known by the local people in this region for a long time. For the local people in Las Vegas, Whitney Pockets and Gold Butte were just places on the other side of Lake Mead that were cool to go to in a Jeep on the weekends. Until Gold Butte achieved National Monument Status a few years ago, few outsiders had ever heard of this place.

On a modern map, Whitney Pockets now appears as the name “Whitney Pocket.” The singular context makes no sense, because there are dozens of large red rock outcrop pockets that stretch over a vast amount of land in this named region. For this reason, most of the locals still refer to this destination in a plural sense and so do I.

One look at the majestic scenery at Whitney Pockets is all it takes to make the jaw drop! The colorful red, white and yellow sandstone rock outcrops are spread out all over the slopes that gradually run downhill to Lake Mead in the distance. In a way, the red rock outcrops look like islands in this vast barren desert landscape and each has its own unique character. Whitney Pockets is a beautiful sight to see, so be sure to bring a good camera along!

There is now plenty of navigational signage where Whitney Pockets Road intersects with the Gold Butte National Back Country Byway, so this destination is easy to find. To see even more of this rock outcrop landscape, just follow the Whitney Pockets road uphill. There are many hidden canyons along this road and the panoramic views of the Virgin River basin down below are spectacular to see! There are also some very creepy looking caves along this road that are well worth checking out too!

There are still several campsites in the Whitney Pockets region that have remained open, but only a few are now located next to the red sandstone islands. Camping falls under Bureau Of Land Management primitive campsite rules and off-road ATV vehicles must stay on designated trails or dirt roads.  Other than that, a visitor could spend days exploring Whitney Pockets by foot, so on-site camping is the best option.

When exploring the vast terrain of Gold Butte National Monument, Whitney Pockets will be an important landmark to remember. Most of the dirt roads are marked, while others in very remote sections are not, so a GPS system or a good paper map will be needed for navigating the trails in this place. From Whitney Pockets it is easy to get to several points of interest in Gold Butte National Monument and all that it takes to get to the neighboring Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument is to follow Whitney Pockets Road uphill over the mountain to the Arizona Border, which is only six miles away.

Gold Butte National Monument is an adventure like no other and the majestic Whitney Pockets is a great place to start an outdoor adventure! Whitney Pockets is one of the easiest points of interest to access in Gold Butte, but the roads can be rough, especially after a rain storm. Like always, it is best to plan in advance, pack survival supplies and leave a detailed excursion plan with friends, family or the local BLM Office, just in case the unexpected occurs. Gold Butte is one of this nation’s newest National Monuments and it is well worth exploring this pristine Mojave Desert wilderness area, especially while the weather is relatively cool!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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