(Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs & Coyote Butte Permit Area)
There is a place called "The Wave" just over the Utah border into Arizona that I read about in Reader's Digest a long time ago. Only 20 people are admitted into the entirety of the parks listed above per day with only two options for getting permits: Gamble on a 4-month advanced purchase lottery OR drive all the way down to Kanab to camp out at the BLM office and elbow your way past two smelly hikers to get the last available day-of, walk-up slots. The first time I went there the lottery was just a dream. Instead the option was to glue yourself to the park website three months in advance and not blink at midnight when the open slots were posted. After three months of lost sleep and clicking "refresh" on the millisecond, an available slot appeared and I grabbed up the five remaining permits for the far-off month of February.
It was totally worth it!
Getting to Kanab from wherever you are is only the beginning of the journey (I'd recommend getting to Kanab the night before your hike so you can get up bright and early ready to make tracks in the wilderness). A relatively luxurious 40 miles on the highway leads to an 8-mile long dirt road that leads to a sandy wash that leads to your destination. The hike to the Wave itself is 6-8 miles depending on whether you go over or around the obstacles in your way. The BLM provided map is labeled "moderate" but the cartographer's view of moderate may have been dreamed up behind a desk somewhere. Well, okay, it is a long hike, but a long hike on slick rock so not as hard as it could have been (if you've never hiked on slick rock, I'd highly recommend getting out and trying it!).
Speaking of the map-it's more 1900's wagon-train than 2000's GPS technology. Straight from the BLM office, the map I was given consisted of only 6 photos and 6 white arrows. The brief description of the photos said, "When you are standing here and can see this, look at the next photo and head towards what you think might be it in the actual landscape around you." I am not exaggerating. I was carrying the xerox pages around looking like a fool, until I figured out that a friend had glanced at them, committed them to memory, and could almost assuredly get us the rest of the way there (he did, and I'm willing to rent him out if the people in your group are navigationally challenged)
The Wave truly is AMAZING!!!!! The colors change as the sun moves throughout the day and the striated sandstone changes shades of red, yellow, & green as the day passes by. Sometimes the rocks look like they've been smeared with ketchup and mustard and other times like they've been spray painted in pastel pinks. Depending on what time of year you go the landscape could also be enhanced with small amounts of remaining snow and green plant life, making it even more beautiful no matter where your eye lands. And because you're only of 20 people inhabiting thousands of acres, there's very little chance of another human soul marring your view.
Hiking to the Wave can be a possibility for almost any hiking ability. It's a serene place to sit and ponder, but blink twice and the adventurous and daring in your party will be slithering across thin sandstone ledges 100' in the air and jumping down into the narrowest of slot canyons. Pictures will never compare to what your eye will see and you'll forever be able to point at Grandma's calendar and ramble on telling her about the day when you were there.
Directions and Information:
The directions, maps, and information for this hike really are comically bewildering. Rather than add to the confusion by giving directions based on my own blurry memories, I'm going to link you directly to the BLM websites you'll need...
General Information: North Coyote Butte-The Wave
Lottery Info and Form: How To Obtain a Permit (The Wave is In Coyote Butte NORTH)
Obtain A Permit (4-month advance Lottery, $5 non-refundable fee)