Why Not Walk to Arizona?

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 system 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.

Coyote Butte

It was totally worth it!

Layers of sandstone
Red Sandstone
Layers of Sandstone

Getting to Kanab from wherever you are is only the beginning of the journey and I'd recommend getting there 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 out of town leads to an 8-mile long dirt road, then a sandy wash that culminates at 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.  That's an important decision...the BLM map is labeled "moderate" but the cartographer's view of moderate may have been dreamed up behind a desk somewhere. 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!). Just prepare to do a little bit of climbing and scrambling.

Kanab, UT

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) 

Sand and shadows

The Wave truly is AMAZING!!!!! The colors change as the sun moves throughout the day and the striated sandstone illuminates 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. 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. 

A Local Wander

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 

                                   Vermillion cliffs/Paria Canyon, Coyote Buttes Permit Area

                                   Hiking the Wave (ebook affiliate link)

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)

Map The Wave


  1. Your photos were so stunning that I decided to make your article a spotlighted article in the Byteful Travel blog carnival. Congrats!

    It's amazing that they only let 20 people in at once, but it looks like the photos speak for themselves.

    So anyway, it goes without saying that this article is going to be included in the 7th Byteful Travel Blog Carnival! It goes live July 26th at Byteful.com, and I’ll be sure to mention @ALocalWander in a tweet about it. If you could retweet and help spread the word, it would mean a lot. :)


  2. What a gorgeous place! I can't wait to head out west some day soon!


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