The Wave: Surf in Stone
The Wave of the Coyote Buttes in the Vermillion Cliffs is perhaps the most-famous geologic formation in the world. Carved by millions of years of wind and a touch of water, The Wave graces screensavers and tourism promo material the world over. The surrounding area, known as Coyote Buttes, contains some of the most spectacular and twisted scenery on Earth, and is a must-see for anyone interested in generally seeing cool things. Contained within the larger Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, The Wave of the Coyote Buttes is perhaps the singular defining feature of the the Desert of the Colorado and the Amerian Southwest.
Check out The Goat’s Blog for tips, tricks, and information about hiking The Wave, Coyote Buttes, and Vermillion Cliffs
The Wave Hiking Information
Distance: 2.5 miles one-way, plus addtional optional (read:absolutely necessary) side explorations
Difficulty: Moderate. The trail itself is not terribly difficult and is well-defined, but the terrain is rugged and the country can be hard to navigate. Summers can reach over 100 degrees routinely in the midday sun, and there is no water along the trail.
Best Season to Hike: Simply put, the date on your permit (see below) is the optimal hiking season. The Wave is located in the high desert, meaning summers are very hot and dry, and winters are cold with snow possible. The ideal season to visit The Wave is the spring or the fall.
Permits/Gear: The permit for The Wave is one of the most coveted hiking permits in the country, with just 20 people allowed per day. Ten (10) permits/day are available through the in-person lottery at the office of the BLM in Kanab, and 10 are available through the online lottery.
To win the online lottery, you must apply four months in advance of the month you want to go. You apply for a range of dates with your party size. The online lottery for The Wave has roughly a 4% success rate. People have been known to apply for several months in a row, in some cases for a year or more and not win. However, some applicants get in on their first try. It is a completely randomized luck-of-the-draw with hundreds, if not thousands of applications every day.
The in-person lottery presents better odds, however the permit must be used that day and there are still only 10 spots available. The lottery is held daily at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah, and can often see more than 150 people waiting for a permit at the 8am open time. See our blog for detailed information on applying for permits to The Wave.
**If you want to explore The Wave with a guide, you must have a spot on your permit for the guide. For example, if you intend to have a 3 guests, apply for 5 spot, 1 for yourself, 3 for your guests, and 1 for the guide.**
What’s the Deal?: The Wave, and Coyote Buttes at large, is one of the most fascinating, unique, stark, and beautiful geologic features and areas in the world. Located in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Coyote Buttes houses incredibly intricate rock formations in swirling reds, golds, oranges, and purples to create a tapestry unlike any on Earth. Coyote Buttes is divided into two sections, north and south, with The Wave being located in North Coyote Buttes. South Coyote Buttes doesn’t have The Wave itself, but contains features that are similar and much of the same highlights seen in Coyote Buttes North. Both areas require permits, with the north being one of the most coveted hiking permits in the country.
The Wave and all of Coyote Buttes is carved into the Navajo Sandstone, a jurassic-era deposit interpreted as a large sand sea, similar to the modern-day Sahara Desert in north Africa. It is thought to be the largest sedimentary deposit of its kind on Earth. See our blog one How The Wave was Formed for more information.
More Information: Call our office at 602-904-2536 for information regarding guides and hiking to The Wave.
How to Get There: From Kanab, Utah drive east on highway 89 to House Rock Valley Road. Turn right and drive down the dirt road. Be aware if it has rained recently, mud can present serious problems for passenger vehicles. It is wise to attempt this road with high-clearance 4WD in any weather conditions. Look for signs leading you to the Wire Pass trailhead. Park in the lot, pay the day-use fee (in addition to your permit fee), and start down the trail. Signs will lead you to the trail leading towards Coyote Buttes.
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