Hike The Wave Coyote Buttes North – Utah and Arizona Hiking

We have so much snow today that the district cancelled school, it’s slightly chilly in my house no matter how much I bump up that thermostat and in order to avoid having to plow my driveway, I thought this would be the perfect time to write my blog about my amazing adventure to The Wave.

The Wave Utah Arizona

If you haven’t heard of the The Wave, it is this neat little bowl of wonder hidden just south of the Utah border in the Coyote Buttes North wilderness.  You have to have a permit because they want to limit the amount of damage to this fragile natural formation.  Only 20 individual permits are issued per day – 10 of them are awarded in an online lottery four months in advance and 10 are awarded in a walk in lottery one day in advance.  I had been applying online for several months, but didn’t have any luck, so when my hiking friends and I planned a hiking trip to southern Utah, I expressed my deep and very strong desire to try the walk in lottery, and they agreed!

The Wave in Arizona

I wasn’t prepared for how many people would show up for the walk in lottery, my heart did literal flips as the tiny Visitor’s Center in Kanab Utah filled up with people of all ages, all languages, and all with the same goal as me.  My hands were sweaty as I filled out the application form and waited to take our seats in the lottery room.  We sat in the front row – I hoped that I could channel my energy to the bingo cage and make it drop our assigned  number – 9. The rangers mentioned that they had purchased a new bingo cage, a shiny gold one, and they were trying to decide if they should use it.  My group – Carrie, Crystal, JuliAnne and I encouraged them to use the new cage, we felt that maybe it could be lucky. The first number to drop was 1 and that group took 5 permits. This wasn’t looking good as now there were only 5 permits left and I was with a group of 4. They rolled the cage again and the next number dropped. My heart was thumping out of my chest, I think I held my breath and then they announced the number – 9. We screamed, we squealed, we said things that we don’t remember saying. And I caught it all on video:

We got asked to stay behind as we were given instructions for preparing for the hike. We learned the history and were taught about the fragility of the environment. It was all so fascinating. 

We woke up the next day while it was still dark outside and made the two hour drive to the trailhead. To get to it, you have to drive on a dirt road for a ways.  We were given a pamphlet with pictures of the trail route. There are no trail markers or cairns, so we had to rely on certain instructions to find our way there. It got hot fast and the sand at times was difficult to walk in. We got our energy from our extreme excitement and soon enough, we saw our destination in the distance.  You can’t actually see The Wave from far back, but you can recognize the outside landscape from the pamphlet.  In order to actually see The Wave, you have to climb a sandy hill and then drop down into the bowl, round a corner, and then there it is in all it’s glory. It was a moment I will never forget.

Hiking to The Wave from Utah to Arizona

We barely spoke above a whisper at first as we were the only ones there and we wanted to preserve the sacred silence of the moment.  Seeing it in photos and actually being there are two very different things. The red and white stripes curve and flow in a mesmerizing pattern. It doesn’t seem natural, yet it is. There are swirls and lines and ripples like a disturbance in water.  The orangey-red color is unreal with strips of white weaved intricately throughout. There are tangible hard ridges that cast short shadows and add texture to the formation.  We stayed for a few hours, taking pictures, exploring and sitting in awe that we were actually there.  It was an experience that is number 1 on my list of favorite hikes. 

Classic photo of The Wave in Arizona Coyote Buttes North

After a while, a ranger showed up and offered to take pictures of us with my camera. I am so thankful to Brent Chamberlain for taking the time to capture everything we wanted and for helping us document this rare experience (all of the pictures of the 4 of us were taken by Brent).

Surfing The Wave in Arizona

We had to drive home that day, and we talked a lot about our adventure. We talked about our luck and what the hike meant to each of us.  We were so very grateful for the opportunity to explore this natural wonder.  And we were especially grateful for the solitude we were able to experience while there.

I loved it so much that I’ve applied for the online lottery every month since I got back. I haven’t won yet, but I find that patience and faith eventually pay off. 

Hike to The Wave