The following is an excerpt from the February issue of National Geographic magazine:
It's hard to believe that a national monument girded by towering cliffs -- their color burning through the spectrum as the day advances -- could be so little known. Yet few people have heard of this place. One reason is that Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is upstaged by its neighbors, which include some of the most famous national parks and monuments in the US: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and more.
Another reason is the ruggedness of the terrain. Though located only a few miles from Lake Powell, the 300,000 acres encompassed by the monument are no place for the fainthearted or unprepared.
"Exit the car, enter the food chain," quipped one official with the Bureau of Land Management, which administers the monument.
The predators here are sun, heat, thirst, ignorance, isolation and rattlesnakes, not necessarily in that order. There are almost no marked trails, only a few signposts and none of the assurances, warnings, or rangers found in national parks. Here your cell phone doesn't work, you camp where you can, and the only water is what you carry.
Read the full article in the February 2012 issue of National Geographic, available on newsstands now.
All photos ©Richard Barnes/National Geographic.