Want to hike The Wave in Arizona? Check out this detailed write-up, mark the permit application deadline on your calendar, and cross your fingers you’ll be able to nab one of the lottery spots!
The Wave is one of the most stunning Sandstone rock formations in the world. Located in the North Area of Coyotes Buttes on the Utah/Arizona Border, this awe-inspiring natural wonder is visually impressive from every viewing angle.
The hike is 10km across unmarked, open desert with no formal trail signs or markers. There is very little shade and plenty of large rocks to walk over. The Rangers at the Visitor Center provide a selection of photos with visual sightings to help you stay on course but a compass and basic orientation skills are definitely helpful.
The most surprising aspect of this hike was realizing that in order to see The Wave we had to climb a huge Sand Dune at the end of the hike. We totally expected to see it in the distance on the final approach. Climbing the Sand Dune was a challenge of two steps forward, one step back, step and sink! Once at the top, it is a few more steps before turning a corner, and there it is, simply breathtaking! Without hesitation, it is worth every step of the hot trek through the desert, feeling like your suntan lotion is forever losing the battle with the Sun and wondering if you’re actually going the right way! (No trail signs or markers).
It’s a hike that keeps on giving, especially for photographers. Once you arrive, you will be rewarded with an artistic display of graphic lines, texture and colour that will take your breath away. The best part of this hiking experience was feeling like I had arrived at the most peaceful place on earth. The silence, the light and the energy were all consuming. Take your time when you get there, it is such a special place to ‘just be’. Walk around, tread lightly, capture those incredible images but then sit awhile and let the natural beauty and the silence envelop you. When it’s time to leave, be sure to take everything with you.
Planning & Preparation: The Lottery Permit
Hiking The Wave involves some planning and preparation. In order to protect this natural wonder, there are only a small number of permits given out each day.
To obtain a permit you need to apply online (four months ahead) or apply in person at the Kanab Visitor Centre, Utah. Applying online means offering up three dates and being prepared to hike on whichever date you are awarded your lottery permit. Applying in person means being at the visitor centre at 8.30am and being prepared to hike The Wave the day after your lottery permit is given. More information on permits can be found at www.blm.com. At the time of writing, each online lottery entry cost $7 USD. It took five attempts to obtain our permit, successfully winning online on New Years Day, for access mid-April. Best New Year’s gift ever!
Three litres of water min per person, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, hat, first aid kit, poop bags, compass and basic orientation skills
Set yourself up for a successful hike by spending some time in the Kanab Visitor Centre. Rangers will give you lots of helpful tips for your hike (there are no formal trails markers or signs). You are expected to bring everything out with you. Due to the high temperatures, start your hike early.
The most popular trailhead is the Wire Pass Trailhead, where you will find washrooms but no water at the parking lot.
Kanab, Utah also called BLM Center (Bureau of Land Management), and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Centre.
We stayed at the Best Western View of Lake Powell Hotel in Page, Arizona, approximately 1hr from Kanab and 1hr from The Wire Pass trailhead to The Wave.
Explore a Little More
There is so much natural beauty to be found in Arizona & Utah. If you decide to hike The Wave, check out nearby hikes that are also worth your time. In Utah don’t miss Bryce Canyon, it has a phenomenal display of Hoodoos and is a moderate hike. If you choose to stay in Page, Arizona check out Antelope Canyon (spectacular) and Waterhole Canyon, as well as Lake Powell and its impressive Dam. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (also close to Page), offers a short but sweet hike to Horseshoe Bend, often referred to as the East Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Linda Vellis Cunningham
Linda is a beach-loving professional photographer & yoga instructor, with a passion for adventure travel and living her best life on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
View her adventures on Instagram: @yogiphotographer.