The Wave

Most people are familiar with the image of the Wave but may not know it by name. This is often the case when I ask our tour members if they have heard of it. Most haven’t but as soon as I show a photo they immediately recognize it.

I first learned of the Wave in the early 1990’s while working at Brian Head Resort. The owner of the local mountain bike shop was an avid hiker and invited me to go explore it with him. Back then there wasn’t a lottery to get in, there weren’t masses of tourists either posting photos on social media. Secret places were still pretty much secret, to most.

Until last year it had been more than 25 years since I last visited Coyote Buttes in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

It’s not easy to get in! One must be selected in an online or stand-in-line lottery. Only 20 permits are issued per day, so it really does feel like winning the lottery to get selected. During the best months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 150 people applying for the ten daily permits. In the other months, you usually have less than a 50% chance of getting one at the daily lottery. Your chances are better if you’re going alone, or in December – February.

A friend who grew up in Kanab who knows his “backyard” intimately was our guide for the day. He took us on a more indirect route that included places that, in my opinion, were as impressive as the Wave itself. From what I could calculate we hiked an additional three miles.

Directions from Kanab:

Take Hwy 89 to Houserock Valley Road (38 miles east). From the turn off it is 8.4 miles south to Wire Pass Trailhead.


This is a very remote and primitive area with few trail markers. It’s important to get a lay of the land. A mistake some hikers make is to not look behind them when hiking to unfamiliar areas on in-and-out trails. Get familiar with the landscape all around you so you’ll recognize geographical markers on your return hike. People get in trouble on this trail when becoming disoriented. A GPS may come in handy!

Take plenty of water especially during the hot months of summer. There is little shade and relief from the heat. Plan on spending a good part of the day on this hike.

The majority of the hike is on combinations of soft sand and sandstone, which is pretty common for southern Utah hikes. I love hiking on Sandstone! Soft sand, on the other hand, is my least favorite surface to hike on.

I’ll let my photos tell the rest of the story.