They Really Exist: The Rainbow Mountains of Arizona

Jessica Peterson

Rainbow Mountains, Arizona

I’d seen pictures of the rainbow mountains of China and the strata of Iceland’s Landmannalaugar range, but nothing prepared me to step inside a rainbow on the border of Arizona and Utah. In fact, I didn’t know this landscape existed until I saw it for myself.

In May, I booked a hike to White Pocket, Arizona. After an awe-inspiring day hiking through Dr. Seuss-like rock formations, I was tired. However, the tour wasn’t over. Our guide had saved the best for last.

We pulled off the dirt road two hours outside White Pocket, and started walking. The dirt path became narrower as got nearer. The muddy wash gave no indication of what we’d see when we emerged from the dirt trail.

There it was — a theatre of rainbow-striped hills

Our guide instructed us to watch our steps to avoid damaging the pristine landscape. This painted desert looked virtually untouched and there was no one around for miles. Known as the Vermilion Cliffs, the name literally means a brilliant red or scarlet pigment originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar.

The colors became even more brilliant as the sun revealed itself. I was serenely happy in that moment.

Learn more about the tour company I used and watch my Arizona film.

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What’s the most awe-inspiring landscape you’ve seen?


  1. Kate Carter Hickey
    Kate Carter HickeyReply
    November 2, 2016 at 3:16 am

    This is #1 on my North American bucket list! I would be so happy to check these out. Is it as rough a climb as they say?

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:53 am

      No climbing to get to these mountains. They’re more like hills. You’ll just need a guide to get you there.

      • Barb M
        Barb MReply
        November 1, 2017 at 10:08 pm

        Can I ask how you found your guide for this adventure? What would you suggest to others so that we can carefully and respectfully hike in to see them?

    November 2, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Amazing colours! I knew about a few in the world. I hiked Landmannalaugar in Iceland since I lived there for a couple of years and I’m heading to Perú early next year where you can find another “rainbow mountain” nearby the city of Cusco.
    However, never heard about this one at the USA before… Thanks for sharing and being guilty of increasing my bucket list 🙂 I love hiking, and although I’m not in a super very good shape, I always try to find a perfect path where to spend the day walking wherever I go!

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Hi Marina. What an amazing experience to hike Landmannalaugar! I didn’t get to do that in Iceland. Was it a difficult hike and what season was it?

  3. Television of Nomads
    Television of NomadsReply
    November 2, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Such vivid colors! It’s really amazing what nature can create.

  4. Television of Nomads
    Television of NomadsReply
    November 2, 2016 at 11:25 am

    The colors are so vivid! Not just the mountains, but the sky and even the trees, too. All of it combines for quite a beautiful scene.

  5. Janine Good
    Janine GoodReply
    November 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    This is so incredible. Who would think there would be rainbow coloured mountains in Arizona. I know this state is renowned for incredible natural wonders, but this one is hardly ever promoted. The cactus is marvelous as well, adding a touch of greenery to the arid surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and your blog as whole is so impressive.

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:51 am

      Thanks, Janine. I know! Maybe Arizona wants to keep them a secret.

  6. Nadine Smith
    November 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Wow! This is TOTALLY awe-inspiring! I have heard of the Rainbow Mountain in Peru before but this the Rainbow Mountains of Arizona are new to me. I would love to see this in person!

    Nadine Smith |

  7. Juliette @ Snorkels To Snow
    November 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard of this before – these mountains are incredible! I can’t believe the different colours. Great photography too. Nature can be pretty amazing!

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:51 am

      Thanks, Juliette. I had no idea they existed until I saw them with my own eyes!

  8. Tracy Chong
    November 2, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Wow..the formation and the colors are amazing! Gonna put this to my bucket list for next year. It is really a hidden gem especially knowing that we have to go through such inconvenience path just to get there. Love it! 🙂

  9. Natalie Tanner
    Natalie TannerReply
    November 2, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    This hardly looks real it is so amazing! We travel with a geologist (hubby) and always hear the most fascinating information on sights like these! Gorgeous and now high on my bucket list!

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:50 am

      Thanks, Natalie. Yes, my guide was quite knowledgable about the geology which makes it that much more fascinating.

  10. Sydney Fashion Hunter
    November 3, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Stunning photography but I guess it’s easy with such a spectacular subject. I’ve visited Arizona a couple of times but missed the rainbow mountains which is such a shame. Top of my list for next time ?

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 5, 2016 at 12:49 am

      Thanks, Sydney. The hills are a little off the beaten path and easy to miss.

  11. Jennifer Morrow
    Jennifer MorrowReply
    February 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Arizona has some of the prettiest and unique rock formations. I grew up there and love it when people come out to explore “my” desert. Gorgeous photos to capture the rainbow of colors!

  12. Anna H Dabney
    Anna H DabneyReply
    January 7, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I am in fairly good shape for a woman my age (almost 79). I would love to see the Rainbow Mountains/Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona. I know how to use trekking poles efficiently, and I can hike probably a total of 4 miles, 2 miles in and 2 miles out. Is the road really rough getting to the trail are by guide? I do have a problem with my low back if I am jostled too much. Is this trip beyond my capability? My son would be with me. He is strong and a good hiker. He and his wife would be interested in seeing this on their own, if it would be inadvisable for me to try it.

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