The Wave, near Kanab, Utah, a sandstone rock formation painted with shades of red and orange. A dream destination for hikers, photographers, and movie makers. A place so different and pristine, you might think you are on another planet. A place of incredible beauty, guarded by harsh weather conditions and strict visiting regulations. How to see it? Credit Card TravelingMom offers these insider tips on how to hike The Wave in Coyote Buttes, Arizona.
How to Hike The Wave in Coyote Buttes, Arizona
The Wave was first widely publicized in Germany by the movie “Faszination Natur” in 1996. Soon after, its images spread around the world, and The Wave became an instant mecca for photographers and hikers alike. I discovered The Wave on the Internet while planning a spring break trip to Arizona. I knew it would be the perfect destination for our group – two couples, each with a teenage son. There was only one problem: to visit The Wave, we needed to win an entry lottery! Surprisingly, we did!
Where is The Wave Located?
The Wave, or Coyote Buttes North, is located in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, near Utah and Arizona border. The closest town is Kanab, Utah where you can find a variety of hotels, dining, and adventure tours.
Is hiking The Wave in Coyote Buttes right for you?
Before investing your time in getting a permit, ask yourself if hiking The Wave is right for you. In perfect conditions, it is not a physically demanding hike, about six miles round trip, but you must be aware of potential hazards such as extreme heat, deep sand, and flash floods. There were deaths reported on this hike, mostly associated with the heat of summer.
The trail is not marked. You must choose your own route across the open desert. On the day of the hike, you will receive a map and description of the trail, but that is all you can count on. There is no cellular phone service. If this sounds too risky for you, consider using a guide service, available through the Bureau of Land Management website.
How can I get a permit to hike The Wave in Coyote Buttes?
If you decide that this hike is right for you, the first thing to do is to obtain a permit. In order to protect the environment, the Bureau of Land Management has placed restrictions on access to The Wave via a permitting system. Start with contacting BLM for the latest requirements.
Currently, only twenty permits per day are issued. Ten of them are available in advance by an online lottery conducted four months before the month for which the permit is sought. The remaining ten permits are available by lottery the day before the intended hike. The walk-in lottery for permits into Vermillion Cliffs National Monument at North Coyote Buttes (The Wave) is conducted at 8:30 a.m. during days of operation at Kanab Visitors Center, 745 East Highway 89 Kanab, UT 84741
Summer Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 P.M. Sunday – Saturday
Winter Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 P.M. Monday – Friday
For our group of six, chances of getting the permit did not look great, but all six of us entered the online lottery, at $5 each. We all could request three different dates, restricted by our one week vacation. Luckily one of us won, and luckily again, one winning ticket allowed an entry for up to six people. We planned the rest of our vacation around the winning date.
With more than 160,000 people per year applying to hike the Wave, and that number consistently growing, many are trying for years to get their chance. If you get lucky, the current permit’s costs are $7 per person.
When is the best time to visit The Wave?
We visited in late March. I cannot imagine better weather for the hike, sunny and lower 70’s. Spring and autumn are the most popular due to milder weather. The shortage of permits means that many hike The Wave in the middle of summer. I would not advise doing that. It could get extremely hot and with no shade in sight, it is a very dangerous trek. People die from the heat there.
What should take to hike The Wave?
These are your basic essentials for the hike: GPS, compass, map, plenty of water, layers of clothing, hat, good hiking boots, camera, food, flashlight, sunblock, sunglasses, hiking poles. Always think the worse possible scenario and be ready for it. If something goes wrong, you should be able to survive at least another day.
Where do I go to start my hike to The Wave in Coyote Buttes, Arizona?
You will start your hike from Wire Pass Trailhead located in Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area of southern Utah and northern Arizona, about halfway between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. Located about 8.3 miles south of US 89 along House Rock Valley Road on the Utah side of the Utah-Arizona border in Utah, the road is normally accessible in a passenger vehicle, though the dirt road turns slick and muddy with rain
How will I be able to navigate my hike to The Wave?
A formal guide to The Wave is now provided to every permitted hiker by the BLM. The guide is designed for use with compass, GPS, and visual navigation. There is no official trail after passing through a fence a short distance down Coyote Wash. The BLM provided a guide sheet with a number of photos and directions to the Wave. No overnight camping is allowed. Dogs are allowed. Campfires are prohibited. Trash must be packed out, including toilet paper.
Description of our hike to The Wave
Our friend, who won the permit for us, did not get to see The Wave. His rental car broke and he needed to fix it before our next day departure back home. Among five of us remaining, I was definitely the weakest link. I would normally be, but it was also because I walked with a walking stick, or a cane, due to a recent leg injury after a skiing accident.
It was a sunny crisp day with a blue sky accentuating red rocks around us. We had no problem navigating the area. We were exposed to the sun during an entire hike. I can only imagine how hot it must be in the heat of summer. I suggest looking back once in a while to remember the trail for your return hike or even to take photos – on the way back your surroundings will look differently!
The scenery around us looked like surreal paintings. When we arrived at The Wave it only got better. It is truly one of a kind place, simply beyond imagination. For a long time, we had the area to ourselves to take it all in. We saw few other hikers later on.
When is the best time of the day to photograph The Wave?
Start your hike early in a day since most likely it is going be your chance of a lifetime. Take a full advantage of it. Also, remember to allow yourself plenty of time for your return hike. You do not want to hike in a dark.
For photography reasons, the best time is just a few hours around midday when there are no shadows in the center, although early morning and late afternoon shadows can also make for dramatic photos.
Where is the best place to stay for the hike of The Wave in Coyote Buttes?
The little town of Kanab, Utah sits right in the southernmost reaches of the state — a stone’s throw from the region’s prime destinations, including multiple national parks, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon. It is a perfect base for your hike to The Wave. There are around 30 hotels available in the area ranging from popular chains to rustic cabins.
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