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The Wave (Coyote Buttes) in Arizona

Apply for a lottery and be one of the lucky few to hike this gorgeous red sandstone formation at the Arizona/Utah border

Best time: September–May (avoid summer months)

The Wave (Coyote Buttes)
The Wave (Coyote Buttes)

The Wave is an iconic red sandstone formation at the Utah/Arizona border in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. This wonder of nature, officially known as Coyote Buttes, was created during the Jurassic age by wind and water but gained special attention when it became a popular desktop wallpaper on PCs all over the world. Since then, the Wave has become the number one destination for competitive travelers with a lot of patience.

Thanks to careful land management, the wave has remained a pristine and awe-inspiring rock formation. All because only 20 lucky people a day can win a lottery for the access permit. This policy protects the Wave from degradation due to overuse.

Getting a permit for the Wave

There are two ways to obtain a permit: an online lottery a few months ahead and filling out an in-person application at the BLM Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah, the day before the hike. Each day, half of the lucky visitors are picked from the online applicants' list (odds about 1000-1) and the other half from the queue in the visitor center (odds about 50-1). This competition adds exclusivity to this destination as well as the Wave-hiking experience and ensures its beauty for many years to come.

Best time of year to hike the Wave

April to November is the most popular time of year to visit, so the chances of winning the permit lottery are at their lowest. Also, these months are the hottest in this region. The air temperature can reach 100 °F (38 °C), which creates discomfort for exploring the area. For the best chances of winning your permit, enter the lottery in January or February, but keep in mind that during this time, the weather can be unpredictable. All in all, aim for the months between September and May to enjoy bearable weather and try your luck.

Hiking details

The lottery winners are rewarded with a 6.4-mi (10-km) out-and-back trail with breathtaking views. The strenuous hike starts at Wire Pass Trailhead and usually takes 2–4 hours. You should bring a good map (both digital and paper version) and be experienced with backcountry navigation. Also, consider the dry desert conditions throughout the hike, so drinking water, sun protection, and appropriate clothing are a must.

Other Hikes near the Wave

Tried to get a permit but didn’t get it? No worries, there are plenty of other things to do in the area: Paria Canyon, Lake Powell, the Cottonwood Wash Narrows, or Coral Sand Dunes State Park.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit The Wave?

The ideal time to visit The Wave is from September to May, except for the summer months due to the high temperatures. Although it is the busiest time of the year, the chances of winning the permit lottery are low. Show more

Where is The Wave located exactly?

The Wave is positioned in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument which is located between Utah and Arizona. It's a 6.4-mile out-and-back trail and starts at Wire Pass Trailhead. Visitors can get there by car or RV, and the nearest places for accommodation are in Kanab (Utah) or Page (Arizona), but both are still a significant distance away. Show more

How many people are allowed to visit The Wave per day?

A permit to visit The Wave, received through a lottery system, is restricted to a total of 20 hikers per day. Half of the permits are designated to online applicants, while the remaining half are allocated to walk-in applicants in Kanab, Utah, the day before the hike. A limitation on visitor numbers is essential in preserving the natural environment from overuse. Show more

What do I need to prepare for the hike?

Hikers planning to visit The Wave should carry plenty of water, at least 1 gallon per person, and suitable footwear with good ankle support. A hat, hiking poles, sun-proof clothing, first aid kit, and a map of the route are also necessary. Hikers should be knowledgeable about backcountry navigation and understand the desert's dry environment. Show more

What are some alternative destinations around The Wave to visit?

Nearby destinations to The Wave include Paria Canyon, which can be reached via the White House Trailhead, Lake Powell, a human-created water body approximately an hour's drive away; Cottonwood Wash Narrows, a slot canyon near Lake Powell, and Coral Sand Dunes State Park, a park with coral-colored sand dunes close to Kanab, UT, approximately an hour away from The Wave. These destinations offer a similar thrill with unique experiences. Show more

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