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Hiking the Wave

745 US-89, Kanab, UT 84741, USA 745 US-89, Kanab, UT 84741, USA
Nature
Hiking the Wave. Kanab, United States
Note

Hiking The Wave: Trip Report

Following the lottery, the ranger gives a spiel on safety, navigating the region, etc for those who were successful. Make sure to also grab a map since the path to the Wave isn’t as well-defined as a typical hiking trail.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

Since our permit was for the following day, we took the opportunity to explore other amazing locations in Southern Utah. Since we had already come from Zion National Park the previous day (camping along the river at Mount Carmel Junction), we made our way back north to check out the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and then up to Bryce Canyon National Park for the day. The proximity of all of these places to Kanab is 1-2 hours drive time, so when you plan to test your luck with the Wave lottery, be sure to allocate time for other side adventures around it. On the Arizona side of the border you can also make a quick trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon or over to Page and Lake Powell, where you can camp for free at Lone Rock Beach.

After camping up at Bryce Canyon and witnessing an incredible sunrise over the majestic hoodoos, we packed up shop and headed back to Kanab to begin our journey to the Wave. The drive from Kanab to the Wire Pass Trailhead is roughly an hour, with the last 8 miles along House Rock Valley Rd (a dirt road that can be impassable at times due to the flash floods that hit the region). We were lucky enough to make the drive without any problems, even though it had rained the night before. Once we reached the parking lot, we strapped on our shoes, checked our packs for water/snacks, applied needed sunscreen, and hit the trail. To find the main trail you need to cross the road and enter into the river wash, heading back north for a half-mile or so until it winds to the east (where eventually you will see this sign).

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona
After passing the sign to the Coyote Buttes North Area, you will stay to the right (the left goes down to Buckskin Gulch) and you soon find yourself hiking along this sandy/desert terrain.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

This is the point in the journey when the map provided by the ranger came in handy. Here, in particular, we headed toward the first big mound off in the distance, just to the right of center in the image.

Once we crossed over the ridge, the landscape changed to hard sandstone (which made it much easier to hike along). There were some signposts along the path leading up to the Wave to help steer us in the right direction. To head in the right direction, look for these type of buttes in the distance, and head towards the two in the middle, passing them just on the right side.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

After that pass, the terrain open ups and you’ll see a large rock face in the distance with a fissure/crack vertically down the face…that’s your destination. Other landmarks to look for along the way are white streaks along the sandstone you’re walking on, following that in between two small sand dunes in the distance. Having these small reference points along the way made it so that it was nearly impossible to lose your way (although historically hikers have gotten lost and deaths have occurred due to heat-stress and other related causes….so make sure to bring plenty of water!)

After passing between the small dunes, it’s a final push to reach the site of the Wave. The anticipation and excitement build as you drop down in to another river wash and then begin the final climb in the sand to your destination. With the sun blazing down on us and the sweat building up, we couldn’t wait for the moment to arrive and rest, but as soon as we arrived the last thing we wanted to do was sit down. It was time to play and explore.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

Thanks to the storm that passed through the night before our adventure, we were lucky to be able to experience this beautiful place in such a setting, with an amazing reflection bouncing off a pool of water right at the entrance (and many other pools throughout the site). This larger wide-lens view of the Wave perfectly depicts the incredible striations of the windblown sandstone.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

After passing by the pool of water at the main entrance to the Wave, we looked back on this series of pools that collected water from the storm. The contrast of the red rock and the blue sky was absolutely perfect.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona
We continued to meander around and through the site for 30 minutes or so before ever stopping for a rest. We soon found ourselves perched up above the Wave and figured that it was the perfect spot to relax and get replenished with food and water.

Now that we fueled up we were ready for some more exploring. We headed to the top of the sandstone cliffs to the south, catching the vast landscape of the desert in all directions. All in all, we probably spend a good 3 hours at the site to gather as many vantage points as possible of this once in a lifetime visit.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona
Nearing the end of our journey, we caught an amazing view of the Wave from the south end looking north. This just so happened to be the perfect location for us to drop in and snap some pictures of us surfing this desert wave.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona
The trip to the Wave was absolutely epic! To date, we haven’t been to any place in the world as remarkable, serene, and uniquely beautiful as this site. The privacy and exclusivity of this site make it all the better. While it’s tough to get a permit, the lack of crowds makes it that much more enjoyable. In silence you can admire the awe and wonder of the creative processes of Mother Nature.

Learn about the trail, permits, and gear in this detailed guide to hiking the Wave in Arizona

Now, month’s later, as we look back on this trip it’s almost as if we wished we had done more with our time there. If you decide to venture further past the Wave, there are a bunch of other cool features including a couple of Arches that would be worth taking some additional time to explore.

Who knows if we’ll ever get lucky enough to go back again. As there are proposals to change the in-person lottery to an online system (two days before the visit date), one would only think that more and more people will be applying if those changes are put into effect. But now as a firm believer in luck, we can only hope that luck strikes again.

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