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The Wave Tour

Fully Guided Tour

Photography Paradise!

Interesting Geology!

Single Travelers

Please do not book online if you are a single traveler unless you have consulted us first. We have a two adult passenger minimum. It works much better if you call us or send us an email to discuss your options and find out which tours are running during your date window.

We go out of our way to open the wonders of the West to EVERYONE.

We are permitted, licensed, and insured.

Dreamland Safari Tours holds Special Use Permits from the Grand Staircase Escalante National MonumentGrand Canyon National Park, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument/Paria WildernessKanab Bureau of Land Management and Arizona Strip Bureau of Land Management.

All Day Tours are 2 adult minimum. A single passenger must pay for two seats if there is not a scheduled tour. All daytours 50% off for children 15 and under. Some Day Tours are not appropriate for small children.

Tour departure times are chosen at reservation. All daytours are booked on demand with departure options to fit your schedule. Tours do not run on each departure time or everyday. For Sunset or Sunrise at our more remote locations please consider a scheduled or custom built overnight or multi-day tour. We do not provide Sunrise or Sunset Daytours except the Sunset Safari.

All listed tour durations and pickup times are approximate. Please allow 10-20 minutes of pickup time flexibility for unforeseen circumstances and varying pickup logistics. Water and snacks are provided on all tours. A lunch meal is included on all tours of 6+ hours. Vegetarian option available.

We reserve the right to fill all empty seats. Cancellation / Reschedule / Weather policy applies.

Please familiarize yourself with our FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS before contacting us.

To contact us with other specific questions or begin Making Reservations click the “Book Now” Button on each tour page or click Contact Us for info on how to give us a call or shoot us an email.

See all tours at a glance with our

The Wave Tour guides you through one of the most photographed, visually surreal, and world-renowned geologic formations in the Southwestern United States.

Price

$185.00 for adults
$92.50 for Children (15 & under)

Tour Length

9 Hours

Departure Times

8am, 9am, 10am, Sep-May 6am, June-Aug

Difficulty (1-10)

7

Recommended abilities

Not Recommended for small children. Not Recommended for the elderly (75+). Please note that ignoring these recommendations and the harsh realities of the Wave hike, especially in Summer, could lead to serious injury or even death. If in doubt of age and abilities DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS TOUR. Not only will you be taking serious risks, but you will also negatively affect the outing for the others on the tour.
NCB permit is required for this tour.

Location

Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness

Attractions

North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon Wilderness, The Wave

Special Interests

Geology, Photography, Wildlife, Flowers
What is included on your tours?

Daytours include pickup and dropoff from local hotels, off-road transportation, natural history narration, guided hiking, photo advice, snacks, water, and lunch on tours of 6 hours or more. Our multi-day tours include all of this plus camping equipment, camp management, three excellent meals, stargazing, sunsets and sunrises for the photographer, and lots more time outside.

How soon should we book?

This depends on several factors, but our best advice is to book as soon as you finalize your plans. We do fill up, and if you have a limited window of opportunity, you may miss out. The smaller your availability window and the tighter your schedule, the earlier you need to book in order to ensure availability. The larger your group, especially if it involves more than one of our trucks (>7 passengers), the earlier you need to book.

Can it just be my group on the tour?

We reserve the right to fill the truck. There is always a possibility it will just be your group, but it is not guaranteed. Requests to make a partially filled tour private are considered on a case by case basis and are based on buying a flexible number of additional seats. Additional fees will apply. Customers booking standard fares and tours should never expect that the tour will be private. We can and will fill the seats to capacity if possible. The max is 5-8 depending on the truck and destination.

What is your weather policy? What is your cancellation/reschedule policy?

These policies are all found on our Policies Page. PLEASE NOTE: Because of the constantly changing weather, targets moving over the whole region (our trucks), unpredictability of weather forecasts, the complexities of different road surfaces in different areas, the variable nature of storms as far as coverage and volume in this area, and the fact that some of the best photography weather is often on days with a chance of rain, we do not reflexively cancel tours without solid information. However, as your safety is always paramount in situations where incontrovertible evidence leads us to believe that potentially dangerous situations are probable, we will cancel tours if necessary. We will assume tours will run until departure time. We do not cancel tours until departure time as the most relevant information is at hand. Also if we know of a particular area or time that will be a problem we will often consult with all parties on the tour as to how best to go about re-routing, postponement, or cancellation. Trying to manage this on the phone hours before the tour is nearly impossible. If a party decides to cancel prior to departure time for reasons of weather forecasts, the cancellation will be subject to the standard policy. Cancellations made by us at departure will be accompanied by a full refund if no other solution can be reached. Also the information we have at any given time is often incomplete. For example, we do not know if the Wave is covered in snow or if the route is hikeable, whether roads are impassable in a given location etc….as we do not have a webcam at these remote locations. We do try to network to get better information if we can. Sometimes incontrovertible evidence is only found once the tour has begun. Guessing, followed by reflexive cancellations, we have learned, produces more poor results for everyone involved, than the strategy we take. It is very, very complex making these decisions. We are always monitoring the weather and have many years of experience managing the logistics that are affected by weather in this area. Please trust us to act in both our best interests.

What kind of vehicles do we tour in? Do you offer ATV/Jeep Tours?

All of our tours are run in Chevrolet Suburbans or Crew Cab Silverados for comfort and safety. We do not offer ATV or Jeep Tours.

What do I need to bring on a daytour/overnight?

The biggest things you need to remember on a daytour are a small pack to carry your own water (essential especially on tours with more hiking), jacket for warmth and rain (essential), boots or high top sneakers (optional but optimal in sand), any essential medication, and camera. Other items include extra layers when cold, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, chapstick, and other typical daytime sundries. For scheduled overnights bring all the same except an extra layer or two. You do not need a change of clothes. For overnights in April or October bring a warm hat and gloves. For custom multi-day trips just add a change of clothes or two. On all tours we provide water and snacks. On daytours of more than 6 hours and multi-days more than 24 hours we provide lunch. On scheduled overnights of 24 hours we do not provide lunch so please eat before you come.

What is the weather like there at various times of year?

You can find average monthly temperatures and precipitation for Kanab HERE and also read our BLOG POST on the topic.

Do you offer sunrise or sunset tours?

Due to the remoteness of many of our tours, there is no practical way for us to offer tours with sunrise photo shoots. If you are interested in a sunrise shoot, we suggest one of our overnight tours, specially designed for photographers. Sunsets can be experienced on our Sunset Safari Tour or can sometimes be accommodated on a case by case basis by request usually during Winter or at locations near Kanab. Remote sunsets in Summer require tours not returning until midnight and remote Sunrises require departures of 3:30am, both of which are impractical.

Is tipping the guide customary?

In the United States tipping is not required, but it is the socially accepted norm. When a service has been provided to you, tipping of the immediate providing individual is customary. Tipping of tour guides is typically around 10% of the tour cost. Tips are never expected, but always greatly appreciated by our guides.

Where do you pick up/meet? Do you pickup in Page, AZ?

We pick up anywhere in Kanab for all tours. WE DO NOT PICK UP IN PAGE. Other meetups or pickup locations are possible depending on tour logistics and are determined on a case by case basis. Pickups, meetup locations, and exceptions are purely at our discretion. If you are staying in Page, and wish to avoid backtracking, and are doing a Wave, White Pocket, or South Coyote Buttes, or a variant of these tours, we often arrange to meet people at the intersection of House Rock Valley Rd and Hwy 89. For those staying in Kanab but travelling on to Page or other AZ destinations that evening, guests sometimes follow in their own cars from Kanab and park them at an appropriate place to avoid backtracking. Many people travelling through or who have just arrived opt to meet us at our location: 4350 E Mountain View Drive Kanab, UT 84741. Parking and Storage are available here.

How hard is the hike to the Wave, really?
The round-trip hike is just under 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) if you take the most direct route to the Wave and back. Our tours typically cover about 8 miles so we can visit other spectacular sites.

Fit, experienced hikers would probably consider this a hike of moderate difficulty. There are long stretches of deep sand to trudge through and an elevation gain of about 500 feet on the trek. There are a few steep inclines with loose footing, and often you will be hiking on uneven sandstone with one foot higher than the other while you hug the side of a steep sandstone ridge. Folks with knee injuries may find the uneven footing and loose sand particularly challenging. Elevation is also a factor. Many visitors come from sea level. North Coyote Buttes is above 5,000 feet or 1,500 meters in elevation. Decent cardio fitness, leg strength, some amount of endurance and good balance are needed. Practice walking in deep, dry sand on a beach for at least 1.5 miles to get a sense of the difficulty of the sandy sections.

Wind and harsh weather are other factors. This is a particularly windy spot that makes the winter chill even colder. Ice and snow make the uneven hike quite slippery. Falls are common, even among the sure footed when it’s slippery. Summer heat really packs a punch. The sun is relentless, heating the ground until the radiant heat rises from the earth while the sun shines from above. There is little shade.

There are harder hikes in the desert Southwest, but because the Wave has become famous, it attracts all sorts of visitors, not just avid hikers who are used to cross-country travel where there are no signs or marked trails. Stories of rescues in North Coyote Buttes of those who got lost, ran out of water or showed signs of heat stroke are not uncommon. Cell phone service is spotty and you can’t count on finding a park ranger around every corner like at the national park.

Guest Experiences on the Wave Tour

Steve Southam at Dreamland Safari Tours guided 6 Senior Photographers on a great hike to The Wave on the AZ – UT border. With his knowledge and guidance we saw and photographed things most Wave hikers never see. The weather cooperated and Steve pushed us to keep going and see the best The Wave had to offer. Tough hike and it is not for everyone. Will and the office staff were first class. Well worth the cost and preparation. Thank you!

croderique – June 8, 2019
TripAdvisor

We had a great guide, Rich. Not only did we see The Wave, but he showed several other areas we would not have even known to see. We strongly recommend using a guide service, and Dreamland is a good choice.

Seaside39985049827 – June 5, 2019
TripAdvisor

We were a 4 people group (my friend and I and a couple). Steve was great at evaluating our speed and skills and adjusting accordingly. He took us through some “short cuts” were we were able to see dinosaur footprints, balanced well our time at the wave and other parts of the hike, was happy to add on wirepass into the hike, and did a good job of making sure we were all having fun and enjoying the adventure. He was fun, knowledgeable and very flexible. Great guide for a hike of a lifetime!

c0rintians – June 5, 2019
TripAdvisor

We had an amazing time with Steve at the Wave. He was very knowledgeable and showed us areas of the Wave we didn’t even know about. We absolutely recommend Dreamland and Steve to anyone!

emilybeis – May 28, 2019
TripAdvisor

Dreamland Safari Tours is simply excellent in all aspects. They entered the lottery for The Wave on our behalf, informed us promptly after we were lucky enough to win the lottery, and provided an unforgettable guided tour the next day. The Tour Leader, Steve, knows The Wave inside out. He was patient and courteous. He walked with us at our pace, allowing us ample time for enjoying the beauty of various scenic spots and taking photos. I would also like to mention that the sandwich provided for lunch was of very high quality. We enjoyed the tour so much.

Augustus Y – April 13, 2019
TripAdvisor

Single Travelers

Please do not book online if you are a single traveler unless you have consulted us first. We have a two adult passenger minimum. It works much better if you call us or send us an email to discuss your options and find out which tours are running during your date window.

Get the most of your Wave experience! If you are lucky enough to get your paws on a permit to hike the 6-8 miles of Coyote Buttes North and the Wave, consider The Wave Tour guided by Dreamland Safari Tours.

White Pocket Photo

Until a few decades ago only a handful of people knew about the Wave in North Coyote Buttes of the Paria Canyon Wilderness on the border of Utah and Arizona. Today there is a lottery to determine who gets in. Phenomenon is the word. Nothing else does it justice.

The undulating strata and spectrum of colors found in the sandstone walls of the Wave date back to the Great Pangean Desert of the Jurassic Period about 160-180 million years ago. Wind and water erosion carves, smooths, and reveals the layers of sand left here in great dunes and then compacted and mineralized (colors) into stone. While the Wave is a smooth, polished bowl of striped wind-swept sandstone, the same exotic rock is displayed in numerous forms, shapes, colors, and patterns throughout the guided hike to the Wave in North Coyote Buttes.

With the Wave Tour you get all of the following:

  1. Comfortable, safe, year-round, high clearance, 4×4 transportation for up to 6 passengers on rough, unpredictable House Rock Valley Road
  2. A homemade picnic lunch.
  3. Knowledgeable tidbits about the geology, ecology, and history of the area. Guided Hiking through the easiest and most scenic routes to the neatest alternate and subtle Points of Interest including Dinosaur Tracks, Fatali’s boneyard (Lace Rocks), Sand Cove, Second Wave, Cheeseburger Rock, and other bizarre and colorful rock formations. These are areas the unguided rarely see. We do not go up to top rock or top arch. There usually isn’t time and some people are not capable.
  4. Guided photography and tips at dozens of locations.
  5. Personal Safety- We help prepare you, keep you on track, and make sure you are safe in the Paria Canyon Wilderness. Our guides have basic Medical Training and satellite communications in case of emergency.

Elevation change, uneven footing, and sand make the terrain on The Wave Tour more difficult and the distances are some of our longest at around 8 miles. Please be prepared for hiking in the sun in general. Daypacks are necessary especially in summer when our guide alone cannot carry enough water for everyone to safely complete the hike. Boots are highly recommended. Please carefully consider your age and physical abilities especially during the hottest months of the year: June, July, August. This tour is especially difficult in the heat.

SPECIAL PERMITS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE WAVE TOUR AT NORTH COYOTE BUTTES. DREAMLAND DOES NOT PROVIDE ADVANCE PERMITS OR HAVE AN UMBRELLA PERMIT. ONLY OUR GUIDES ARE COVERED BY OUR PERMIT. WHEN OBTAINING PERMITS ONE DOES NOT HAVE TO ADD OUR GUIDES TO THE TOTAL NUMBER. IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, UPON REQUEST, AND WITH AN ALTERNATE TOUR PLANNED, DREAMLAND MAY BE ABLE TO ATTEND THE LOTTERY IN YOUR STEAD. THIS IS PROVIDED AS A COURTESY TO OUR GUESTS ONLY WHEN STAFF IS AVAILABLE. PERMITS ARE NEVER GUARANTEED.

Wave Permits are not easy to get, but odds can vary at different times of year. To find out about everything you need to know about Wave permits and lottery strategy check out the Permits page. There are alternative tours available in case no permit is obtained – the most popular alternatives are White Pocket and South Coyote Buttes or combination.

If you’re interested in a great alternative to hiking the Wave, consider a trip to White Pocket. Read all about how White Pocket compares to the Wave in our BLOG.

Fully Guided Tour

Photography Paradise!

Interesting Geology!

We go out of our way to open the wonders of the West to EVERYONE.

We are permitted, licensed, and insured.

Dreamland Safari Tours holds Special Use Permits from the Grand Staircase Escalante National MonumentGrand Canyon National Park, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument/Paria WildernessKanab Bureau of Land Management and Arizona Strip Bureau of Land Management.

All Day Tours are 2 adult minimum. A single passenger must pay for two seats if there is not a scheduled tour. All daytours 50% off for children 15 and under. Some Day Tours are not appropriate for small children.

Tour departure times are chosen at reservation. All daytours are booked on demand with departure options to fit your schedule. Tours do not run on each departure time or everyday. For Sunset or Sunrise at our more remote locations please consider a scheduled or custom built overnight or multi-day tour. We do not provide Sunrise or Sunset Daytours except the Sunset Safari.

All listed tour durations and pickup times are approximate. Please allow 10-20 minutes of pickup time flexibility for unforeseen circumstances and varying pickup logistics. Water and snacks are provided on all tours. A lunch meal is included on all tours of 6+ hours. Vegetarian option available.

We reserve the right to fill all empty seats. Cancellation / Reschedule / Weather policy applies.

Please familiarize yourself with our FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS before contacting us.

To contact us with other specific questions or begin Making Reservations click the “Book Now” Button on each tour page or click Contact Us for info on how to give us a call or shoot us an email.

See all tours at a glance with our

Experiencing The Wave, Arizona

Surrounded by vast deserts, brilliant sandstone cliffs, enchanting slot canyons and majestic Ponderosa pine forests, how did one stone formation that’s just an acre or two in size become so iconic? Visitors to this area of the Southwest can explore two expansive national monuments, two national forests, several national parks and seemingly endless BLM land. Yet, in 2018, 200,589 people vied for just 7,300 permits issued to enter North Coyote Buttes to view the Wave. Only 20 people per day are allowed entry to North Coyote Buttes, where the Wave is situated, to protect the delicate sandstone in this designated wilderness area, and also to ensure a high-quality experience for those who make the 3-mile trek each way out to what is actually a fairly small formation. Learn all about how to get a Wave permit and how we can help you get permits on our permits page.

Just 3.6% of applicants were awarded a permit in 2018. Thousands of visitors have sacrificed valuable vacation time to enter a permit lottery at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, usually with low chances of actually winning a permit. Why?

There is just something mesmerizing about this incredible piece of sandstone – the smooth, flowing shape and striking red and yellow stripes that people find intrinsically beautiful. Like a brilliant rainbow or an ocean sunset, every human grasps the allure. Limiting entry to 20 people per day allows a quiet, high quality outdoor experience where each visitor can truly take in the natural wonder, escape the every-growing crowds of nearby national parks, and start to ponder life’s deeper questions.

There is another, less significant and less romantic reason some people are drawn to the Wave. Limited entry increases demand for highly-sought permits. One guide calls this the “Cabbage Patch Doll Phenomenon,” in which some people want something simply because it’s hard to get. Please don’t let this be your sole motivation for seeking permits. Be curious about the geology and captivated by the beauty and the wonder of the natural world. Go ahead and take photos, take a selfie even. But allow time for quiet contemplation, too. There is so much more here than Instagram photos and bragging rights about being a lucky Wave permit winner. Online fame is insignificant compared to the actual experience of just being in the wilderness, appreciating what so many generations past have also admired, and asking how do you fit into this creation? And while the Wave really is special, you can enjoy a true, significant wilderness experience in many other places in the Southwest.

The Wave, Arizona, a Geologic Wonder

The Wave got its start in the early Jurassic period about 190 million years ago when Northern Arizona was much closer to the equator than it is today and a huge, wind-swept dune field comprised the landscape. This Navajo sandstone formation has two troughs that were first carved into the sand by running water. Wind has continued the erosional process.

The cross-bedded sandstone reveals the wind direction 190 million years ago as sand stacked up layer upon layer and sand dunes were slowly blown across the landscape. Groundwater soaked through the sandstone, carrying various minerals such as iron oxide, manganese and hematite. These minerals cemented the individual grains of sand together and gave them their brilliant color. Differential erosion leaves some layers – the harder layers – of stone sticking out farther than others. The masterpiece known as the Wave is the result of blowing wind and seeping water millions of years in the making.

A history of the Wave’s fame, a rise in celebrity

The Wave in Arizona remained largely unknown except by a few cowboys and southern Utah locals until the 1980s. In the ‘80s, more people began to discover The Wave, but they only shared the secret with others whom they could trust not to publicize the magnificent feature. In the late ‘80s, a permit system was put into place which would issue free permits to 8 visitors per day with no more than 4 in a group. This occurred after the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area was designated by Congress as part of a larger wilderness bill in 1984. In the 1990s, a European film crew illegally produced a video of the area, increasing interest among foreign visitors, and several guide books also began to publish information about the Wave. In 1997, there was a sudden need to manage the area and the Bureau of Land Management instituted a $5 per permit fee with the 8-person per day limit intact. A website was developed that allowed hikers to obtain permits up to a year in advance. Four permits for each day were awarded online and 4 were given away in person on a first-come, first-served basis. In 1998, now that this was a special management area, a map outlining North and South Coyote Buttes was created. In 1999, a Salt Lake City television crew created, with permission, produced a news clip about the Wave. An overwhelming public response caused the permit website to crash. In 2002, the number of in-person permits was increased to 10 to accommodate some extra visitors who were in Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. This increase was supposed to be rescinded, but it never was. In 2003, the BLM started handing out flyers with pictures of the route to permit holders because hikers were getting lost. Complaints about no marked trails among those not accustomed to hiking in wilderness areas were becoming common. Notoriety of the Coyote Buttes areas kept increasing, with websites giving names to many features near the Wave, and increased visitation to South Coyote Buttes. It was during this time that White Pocket, another area on the Paria Plateau in Arizona that did not require permits, started gaining attention also. Microsoft released its operating system, Windows 7, in 2007, which included a default desktop photo of the Wave and now the world wanted to see this iconic rock. Also in 2007, the current online lottery system was initiated in which potential Wave hikers can apply online four months in advance for 10 permits awarded for each date. The in-person lottery was moved from the Paria Contact Station to the BLM visitor center in Kanab, Utah, where more space could accommodate larger crowds. Recent lotteries have drawn as many as 395 participants. Currently, the BLM is considering increasing the number of permits issued to as many as 96 per day. This could usher in an end to the wilderness experience entirely.

Don’t hike to the Wave without a permit

People who sneak into the Wave without permits suck. That’s what we think. The 20-person per day limit is in place for good reason. Bootleggers just make it more crowded and spoil the experience for the good people who follow the rules. Also, the trailhead and North Coyote Buttes are often patrolled by rangers who will check for your permits. We get checked about half the time we go to the Wave, Arizona. Don’t want a trespassing charge on your criminal record? Get a permit or hike somewhere else.

Is the hike to the Wave as hard as everyone says it is?

The round-trip hike is just under 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) if you take the most direct route to the Wave and back. Our tours typically cover about 8 miles so we can visit other spectacular sites.

Fit, experienced hikers would probably consider this a hike of moderate difficulty. There are long stretches of deep sand to trudge through and an elevation gain of about 500 feet on the trek. There are a few steep inclines, loose footing, and often you will be hiking on uneven sandstone with one foot higher than the other while you hug the side of a steep sandstone ridge. Folks with knee injuries may find the uneven footing and loose sand particularly challenging. Guests who live at sea level feel less energetic during the 5,000-foot elevation hike. Decent cardio fitness, leg strength, some amount of endurance and good balance are needed.

Wind and harsh weather are other factors to consider. This is a particularly windy spot that makes the winter chill even colder. Ice and snow make the uneven hike quite slippery. Falls are common, even among the sure footed when it’s slippery. Summer heat really packs a punch. The sun is relentless, heating the ground until the radiant heat rises from the earth while the sun shines from above. There is little shade. Start hiking at dawn in the summer.

This is by no means the most challenging hike in the desert Southwest, but we see a lot of Wave visitors who overestimate their ability. Because the Wave has become famous, it attracts all sorts of visitors, not just avid hikers who are used to cross-country travel where there are no signs or marked trails. Stories of rescues in North Coyote Buttes of those who got lost, ran out of water or showed signs of heat stroke are not uncommon. There are rangers and volunteers who patrol the Wave, but they are not there every day. Do not expect help. Also, remember that cell phone service is very spotty. We have heard of at least four hikers who died in North Coyote Buttes. When you obtain permits in person, you will attend a safety briefing and learn all about the hazards of hiking to the Wave. Please listen to the rangers. They are not trying to scare you, they are trying to keep you safe.

How to prepare for a hike where there is no marked trail

If you are not used to route finding and exploring wilderness on you own, you will probably feel more comfortable with a guide. Take the map given to you by the BLM and study it. Trace your route on Google Earth and gain an understanding of the landscape. Download a hiking GPS app for your phone and practice with it ahead of time. Download maps now, you won’t have phone service there. Mark a waypoint for the Wave before you start your trip. Mark your car and waypoints along the way. Don’t rely on this entirely, but it can help you find the shortest route on the way back. While you’re hiking, look up, pay attention, take occasional pictures of the route looking back the way you just came from and think about how you will find your way back. If any of these instructions sound intimidating, do the smart thing and hire a guide.

Because the BLM will give good directions with your permit, we won’t rehash those details here. We will direct you to an excellent Wave website with good directions and lat/long points to help you find the Wave and various points of interest in the area. It’s the best resource for visiting the Wave that we have seen.

Getting to the Wave trailhead

Just about everyone who hikes to the Wave starts at the Wire Pass trailhead, which is on Houserock Valley Road. Here is a fun fact. The Wire Pass trailhead is in Utah in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But along the route, you will cross into Arizona. The Wave is actually in Arizona, in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Most of the time, we access House Rock Valley Road from the north, from Highway 89 about half way between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah and drive about 8 miles of dirt road to the trailhead. This 8-mile section is usually passable in a normal car, though flat tires on the gravel are more common than on pavement, so check your tools ahead of time, especially if you are driving a rental. (Also keep in mind that off-pavement driving often voids car rental contracts). If the road is wet, driving gets really exciting. The northern stretch of the road is hilly, curvy and we cannot express just how slippery it gets. If the mud is thick, getting stuck is a real risk. On the way to the Wire Pass Trailhead, House Rock Valley Road crosses Buckskin Gulch. Rain many miles to the north can make Buckskin Gulch flow, which makes crossing dangerous to impossible. And you might get stuck in the mud there, too. The good news is, this is the desert and wet weather is uncommon. Avoid the road when there is melting snow, and be careful during the summer monsoon season. The road starts dry, but a storm can make a real mess. Occasionally, when Buckskin flows or the north end of the road is impassable, we will approach the Wire Pass trailhead from the south end of House Rock Valley Road off Highway 89A. But this means you’re driving off pavement for more than 20 miles, and there are still some nasty clay sections that turn to ridiculous mud to contend with going that direction.

At the Wave trailhead

Display your parking pass in your windshield and sign in at the trailhead before heading out. I know you’re excited, but take a second to check your pack to be sure you have what you need. When you’re ready, cross House Rock Valley road and start heading up the wash. You’re on your way.

  • A gallon of water
  • Plenty of food, especially salty snacks
  • Sturdy shoes with good traction and ankle support
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Rubber tips for your walking poles if you use poles
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Permit
  • Flashlight or headlamp if there is any chance at all you will be out after dark
  • GPS unit of phone with GPS app (know how to use it)

What’s the best time to visit the Wave in Arizona? Is there a season when Wave permits are easier to get?

Spring and fall are the best seasons for hiking here. Read all about local weather before planning your trip. Road conditions can be unpredictable in the winter and when it snows, the trail is slippery, as explained above. In the summer it’s HOT. That being said, your best chances for obtaining permits are usually in the off season, in winter and mid summer. The chances of winning the in-person lottery on given day on average are 11% and chances of winning online are 2%. We have seen the odds as good as 50% on a December day in 2018, as good as 25% in late July. Generally speaking, in the heat of the summer, odds are normally around 1 in 4 of winning in person. In the winter, odds are typically somewhere around 1 in 3. In the spring and fall, odds are 1 in 10 or worse.

When is the best time to photograph the Wave?

We have seen spectacular shots of the Wave at sunrise, sunset and even in the dark of night with a starry sky overhead. Generally, though, mid day is the best time to photograph the Wave, when the sun is overhead and not casting a shadow. This is for the most common image you see of the Wave, standing above it and looking down into the Wave. A wide angle lens shows this angle best, but it’s not necessary. The feature can also be photographed to the southwest where a narrow slot glows in the refractive light and accentuates the rock’s red color. Fun shots can also be found facing east, were you can include the Wave’s texture and stripes with an incredible view of the Vermilion cliffs, the Cockscomb and the Grand Staircase in the background.

Exploring North Coyote Buttes – there’s more to see than the Wave

The iconic Wave is only one small feature among a stunning sandstone landscape at North Coyote Buttes. Photographers have given whimsical names to many of the features at North Coyote Buttes, and our tours visits several of these spots. We will refer to commonly used names for some of these features, but we ask you do not name new features. Any time a rock or a site gets a name on the internet, it attracts attention and we see increased traffic there. When visiting the Southwest, be creative, there is beauty everywhere you look, not just in places with names.

In fact, the hike to the Wave skirts many gorgeous sandstone buttes to your right that are unnamed. The route we take to the Wave also passes by dinosaur tracks that were left by three-toed dinosaurs in the early Jurassic Period when this area was wind whipped sandy desert. Those ancient dunes are now the incredible rock formations you are hiking on. We also visit Fatali’s Boneyard, a particularly colorful locale made famous by photographer Michael Fatali. Chunks of lace rock have fallen from cliffs above and landed on intensely colorful rock that looks like a neon striped leopard in places. The creepy looking lace rock “bones” lie strewn across the rock, providing endless photographic opportunity. Next, we pass through the sand cove that is also marked by stunning, striped rock. From there, we poke into a brilliant red slot canyon before heading to the Wave. When folks are finished photography the Wave, as time allows, we take the short trek across yellow brain rock to view the cheeseburger rock, or half-a-hamburger, then we spend some time at the Second Wave that is known for its very defined shape and gorgeous pastel colors. There is an easy way to walk to the frontside of the Second Wave. Do not climb over the Second Wave. It is fragile and easily broken, and we have observed hikers climbing up and down the Second Wave, breaking rock under their feet. Skirt the edge of the cliff and go around it.

Step on the edges, break the ledges

A post about the Wave wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t offer some advice on conservation. Concern for damage to sandstone is one of the reasons permits to North Coyote Buttes and South Coyote Buttes are so limited. What took millions of years to form can be damaged instantly with a single footstep. Watch for thin bands of sandstone and avoid walking on these areas, or make sure you place your feet well away from the edge of the bands. People travel from all over the world to admire and photograph the thin, fragile layers of sandstone. The interesting shape and striking color of the Wave has made it recognizable worldwide. That’s why it’s so essential to be careful with sandstone formations. If the rock looks breakable, it is. Don’t test it to see whether you can break it, because you most likely can.

Obviously, follow other leave no trace principles. Pack out all garbage – including organic trash such as orange peels and especially toilet paper. If you have to poop, do it in an out of the way place and bury it good. Or poop in a specially designed bag for human waste. They sell them at the Kanab BLM Visitor Center. Don’t bury T.P. Pack it out. Otherwise, it will become uncovered in the wind to blow around the wilderness area. Also, avoid wading in any potholes. These contain life that can be upset by chemical changes in the water.

Where to stay if you want to visit the Wave

For hotels, vacation rentals and RV parks, the obvious choice of accommodation is in Kanab, Utah, so you will be near the in-person lottery. Page, Arizona is the next closest town to the Wave. There are several camping options that are closer, including the State Line Campground, which is a first-come-first served campground about a mile from the Wave trailhead. Others choose to camp at the White House Campground near the BLM Paria Contact Station. You can also check with the Bureau of Land Management about dispersed camping in the area. Call the Kanab Visitor Center at (435) 644-1300 for information.