From twisting sandstone with magical colors to fascinating hidden alcoves, The Wave is one stellar hike to add to your bucket list

Called The Wave, this impossible sand production is tucked midway between Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah, in a remote part of the North Coyote Buttes Special Management Area in Arizona’s Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. It is no secret either, other than the mystery it invokes on its rapt witnesses.

Hike in The Wave
A visitor to The Wave explores the main chamber of the feature.Jan Nesset

The Wave is a design of sandstone hallways sculpted by wind erosion, set in a palette of some of the Southwest’s most defining colors. Shades of coral, pink, red, creams, and berry are stacked in twisted sandstone layers, giving an impression of swirled soft ice cream. The Wave is indeed a delicious place, but giving it credit as the only magic in Coyote Buttes North is akin to attributing a Super Bowl win to one player.

Hidden alcove above The Wave
A steep hike to the sandstone features above The Wave reward a visitor with colorful discoveries.Jan Nesset
Along the Way

Natural beauty chaperones the entire distance from the Wire Pass Trailhead to The Wave, about a 3-mile hike. An array of the twirled sandstone cones accompany the hike soon after entering the realm of sandstone east of the sandy western hills. Across the wash west from The Wave, numerous dinosaur tracks can be found stippling the sandstone.

Above The Wave

Scrambling to the top of the steep sandstone just south of The Wave, impressive views treat the effort. Hidden around a corner is an amphitheater holding a tawny sand dune. Look around, there’s much more.

Hiking The Wave
The out-and-back hike to The Wave crosses a landscape of sandstone and sand.Jan Nesset
Permits

Finally, if the Wave has just landed on your bucket list, your ticket to it is by means of a permit drawn either through the online lottery or with luck in the walk-in lottery. Competition for a permit is stiff for the 20 permitted slots per day. A slot is recognized as a visitor, with 10 slots issued online and 10 issued as walk-ins.

The lottery opens up four months prior to an expected visit. To visit The Wave in January, for instance, you need to apply this month, in September. Due to the popularity of The Wave, potential visitors are allowed to apply once a month.

Driving Directions

From Highway 89 midway between Kanab and Page, turn south on House Valley Rock Road between mile markers 25 and 26, at a big curve in the road. Drive south 8 miles on this well-graded dirt road to the Wire Pass Trailhead.

Walking Directions

The hiking route is provided in the permit information. In general, follow the trail from the trailhead east along the creek and over sandy hills to the sandstone hills. Scramble through a low point in the sandstone and trend south toward the obvious big notch and rock (Top Rock) in the distance.

Permit Information

For more information about permits or to locate available dates or to reserve a permit, visit the web at www.az.blm.gov/paria.  You can also contact the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District directly at 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790-6714; (435) 688-3200 or blm_az_asdoweb@blm.gov.

dinosaur track
A dinosaur track revealed in the sandstone on the hike to The Wave.Jan Nesset