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How To Visit The Wave

How To Visit The Wave

Did you know one of the coolest, most beautiful sights in the world is right here in America?!

We know you’ve seen in on Instagram and we know you want to go.

Heres how YOU can cross it off your bucket list:

It is the most highly sought-after hiking spot in the U.S. and if you can get in, you will be the envy of everyone and anyone who’s “in the know.”   Located in Arizona near the northern border with Utah and 40 minutes west of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, it’s called “the Wave.”  It is a sandstone rock formation situated on the slopes of what is known as the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon of the Colorado Plateau.  It is managed by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument visitor center in Kanab, Utah.

Despite the difficult hike to reach the insta-worthy spot, thousands of trekkers are willing to drive the mile and hike the strenuous trails to check this place off their bucket list.  Unfortunately, due to its fragile nature, the BLM has decided to restrict the number of people allowed to visit.  So they have set up a lottery system to dispense only ten in-person permits and ten online permits per day.  The online permits are scheduled four months out to accommodate out-of-towners.

The WaveThe Wave

The Wave

If you’re a local, you have some advantages, like being able to run over to Kanab and enter the lottery for a next-day permit.  Even in the dead of winter, this can be a challenge.  This last Feb, with heavy snow in the forecast every other day, there were reports of over 200 people milling around the Kanab visitor center before the 9 am drawing.  During winter hours, the Friday drawing is special because they draw for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  The anticipation of 30 permits drawn on the same day swells the number of hopeful applicants to a crazy number.

Many Hikers waiting to see if they will be the lucky winners!Many Hikers waiting to see if they will be the lucky winners!

Many Hikers waiting to see if they will be the lucky winners!


Move over Americans!  It is not only well known among U.S. hikers, since it appeared in a German documentary film and a nature show, European tourists are also dying to get in too!  Whym-ers have told stories of standing around the visitors center with tourists who fly to the U.S. and stayed in Kanab for weeks trying to snatch the golden ticket.  There ate no shortcuts or tricks to getting in, except a lot of luck and maybe choosing a less popular time year.

Even filled with snow its an incredible sight!Even filled with snow its an incredible sight!

Even filled with snow its an incredible sight!


The ideal time to visit the Wave is Spring and Autumn due to the heat of the summer months and the cold (and possibly snowy) conditions of the winter months.  Photographers from all over the world can’t get enough of this unusual and colorful scene and are always trying to get the perfect shot.  They have learned that the optimum time of day to shoot the Wave is the few hours around midday when there are no shadows in the center – although early morning and late afternoon angles make for dramatic photos too.  (Cool Tip: After a heavy rain, numerous pools form which make for great reflections.)


Catching the reflection is a beautiful thing!Catching the reflection is a beautiful thing!

Catching the reflection is a beautiful thing!

Okay so, how I you get there?  The closest major airport is Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) NV and it is a 3 1/2 hour drive (206 miles) east to Kanab from there.  The closest charter flights land in Kanab Municipal Airport (KNB), UT or Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Arizona.  Another option is to drive 242 miles from Scottsdale, AZ.  Once you get to Kanab, it is a 6 hour roundtrip hike to the Wave.  Make it 8 hours if you want to see the Wave, arches, alcove and dinosaur tracks.  Long story short- you get there with a lot of driving and even more hiking!

What’s the process?  You can apply for a “Coyote Buttes North” permit online up to four months in advance and you have an entire month to apply.  So if you want to go in May, you would get online in January at the latest. You’ll register for the total number of people in your party (cannot exceed 6) and pick your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice dates. The application fee is $5.  If you win, your permit will arrive 4-6 weeks after you pay the permit fee.  If you win the online lottery, you will be notified via email on the first day of the next month.  

If you’re in town and want to take the chance, show up early and put your name in for the lottery at the Kanab Visitors Center (745 E. Highway 89, Phone Number: (435) 644-1300).  The drawing is at 9 am sharp.  If you win, the BLM ranger will call your phone number.  You’ll probably jump up and down and dance around like a fool – which will alert everyone standing around waiting with bated breath that you won. Safe to say you’ll have a lot of jealous eyes on you!


Here’s a few tips from Whym if you decide to make the trek!

  1. Bring cash.  The cost of the permit is $7 per person per day cash only.  They are nontransferable, there are no refunds and no rain-checks.  You can take your kids and your dog, but keep in mind that there will be the same fee for them and it’s not the easiest walk.  It is rated a 7 on a scale of 1-10.  This is not for the faint of heart! 

  2. Take a picture of your license plate before going in the building if you don’t know it off by heart.  You need it for the application. 

  3. Arrive early because the Ranger will start giving their speech about the difficulty of the walk and and the drive.  Then everyone fills out the application at the same time.  Within 15 minutes, you are assigned a number and the random numbers are drawn. 

  4. If you win, lucky you!  Stay close.  If not, go drown your sorrows at Kanab Creek Bakery.  Yum!


Will I get lost?  It’s possible, Whym won’t lie.  Although the ranger hands out a detailed map of the hiking route, there is no established trail and weather conditions, like a flash flood, can close off certain routes.  If you’re not an experienced hiker with good map skills, seriously consider hiring a guide.  You can become so engrossed in following the route, that you miss the beauty of your surroundings – the proverbial not seeing the forest through the trees.  Several tour operators have been authorized by the BLM to conduct tours, but they are not cheap – around $185 per person for 9 hours.   But if you came all this way, why not get everything you can out of it, right?  They can lend insight and expertise on the geology and human history, show you where/how to get the best photos and point out other amazing sites, like the “Second’ Wave, the Boneyard, Sand Cove, the Top Rock Arch, the Dinosaur Dancefloor, the Alcove, and so much more.


When you come back the next day, you’ll need good, sticky hiking shoes, a GPS, loads of sunscreen, and at least a gallon of water per person during the summer months.  


Been The Wave before? Tag @whymtravel in your photos to be featured on our page! It’s nice to give some tips too.