There are three main sites in or adjacent to the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument:
- a recently-popularized region containing eroded rocks of many colors and forms, including 'The Wave
'. In summer 2008 a dense group of over 1,000 dinosaur footprints was identified nearby.
- once the site of an actual ferry across the Colorado River, this small settlement near the Paria River confluence is now popular for camping & hiking, and is the starting point for raft trips down the Grand Canyon.
- this forms a lengthy narrows section through reddish Navajo sandstone, starting just south of US 89 in Utah and meeting the Colorado River at the start of Marble Canyon. The majority falls within the national monument, downstream of the confluence with Buckskin Gulch
The Vermilion Cliffs
Besides these three areas, most people visit Vermilion Cliffs National Monument when driving along US 89A between Lees Ferry
and Jacob Lake
on the Kaibab Plateau - 40 miles of impressive scenery with the cliffs on one side and the vast, level plains around Marble Canyon and House Rock Valley
on the other, followed by a steep climb into pine forest at the edge of plateau. Apart from the Ferry, the road passes just one other settlement, Cliff Dwellers
, which consists of a few adobe buildings nestled amongst crumbling rocks and oddly shaped boulders, including a restaurant, lodge and gas station. There are plenty of places for free primitive camping along dirt tracks either side of US 89A, mostly on the southeast side, for example near milepost 548 where a short side track leads to a corral, also used as the trailhead to Soap Creek
. Apart from camping beneath the cliffs or just driving past them, one obvious goal is to climb to the top, but the sheer Navajo sandstone restricts easy routes to just three, one at Bonelli Spring
, reached by a side track near milepost 561, and two a few miles away near Jacob's Pools
, one of which is described below.
Hike to the Plateau
Jacob's Pools and nearby Rachel's Pools
are a series of small springs at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs that were once used by, and are named after, the family of John D Lee
who founded Lees Ferry. The area is reached by a 2 mile side road that leaves US 89A between mileposts 557 and 558, near a historical marker commemorating the Escalante-Dominguez expedition
of 1776. The road passes through an unlocked gate and ends at an abandoned stone house dated 1951, next to an old corral and other relics, which is a good place to park, or camp. The shortest route from here to the top of the cliffs is to walk eastwards along a disused track parallel to a fence, across then beside a small drainage and up to one of the springs - an area of dense bushes and trees from which a small stream flows. A trail begins when the track ends, leading up a slope left of the springs, across a flatter rocky area then ascending a longer slope of increasing steepness. It trends right, climbing more gradually then sharply once more to the base of the sheer Navajo sandstone layer, finally cutting back northwest along a cairned track to the foot of a narrow crack in the top of the cliffs, which has a number of petroglyphs and inscriptions of early travelers etched on the rocks at either side. The path continues up the crack then fades away once at the top. This part of the plateau is mostly sandy apart from scattered rocky outcrops, mostly eroded beehive/teepee formations. Views from the edge encompass countless square miles of the Colorado River valley and the more distant Kaibab Plateau
, though all this expanse is rather featureless and the scene is not particularly good for photography.
The nearest towns with hotels close to the Vermilion Cliffs are Page