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The Wave Hike in Arizona (Permits, Lottery, & Tips)

The Wave

The Wave hike is such a unique place to visit on this earth. There is a reason that there is such a high demand for permits to see these interesting geological rock formations. The sandstone formations are unworldly and will simply leave you in awe.

The Wave is located in Coyote Buttes North which is a small portion of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. While the hike starts in southern Utah, you actually end the hike in northern Arizona.

In this guide for the wave hike, we break down how to get permits via the advance lottery and daily lottery, hiking stats and tips, and everything you need to know for successfully hiking the wave.

The Wave Hike Stats:

  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation: 1,167 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: Out & Back
  • Permit: Yes, required
  • Bathroom: Drop Toilets at Wirepass Trailhead
  • Dogs: Yes

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Permits For The Wave Hike:


Permits are required for hiking the wave and are some of the hardest to snag. There are two different ways to apply for a wave permit. One being an advanced online permit and the other being a daily lottery permit.

Advanced online permits can be obtained 4 months in advance. Daily permits can only be obtained 2 days in advance. And you will need to be in the geofence area to successfully receive the daily lottery permits. Meaning you will need to already be in the surrounding area of The Wave Hike.

In the past, only 20 people were allowed at the wave per day. (Update: in February 2021, the Bureau of Land Management increased the daily permit limit to 64 people per day).

Now 48 permits are available in the advanced online permit system and 16 permits are given out in the daily lottery (more details below).

We are actually very grateful that there is a permit system because it makes this place even more special! It gives hikers solitude and protects the environment.

The cost of a wave permit is $7 per person.

You must obtain a permit from the Bureau of Land Management of Coyote Butte North.

Applying For The Wave Permit Online:


In order to snag a permit online, you need to plan well in advance! There is a non-refundable $5 fee when applying for the lottery online.

You are only allowed to apply once per month. If you apply more than once and your name gets drawn, you will forfeit your permit.

The lottery takes place on the 1st of the following month. For example, if you want to visit the wave in January, you must apply for the wave permit between September 1-30th. The lottery will run 9am MT on October 1st.

Whether or not your application was accepted, you will receive an email from the Bureau of Land Management of Coyote Butte North. You then will have 14 days to confirm your permit and send in your application fee.

Below is a calendar of when to apply for each month.

When To Apply For The Wave Hike Permit:

(The column on the left is for the month you desire to hike the wave. The column on the right is when you should apply for the wave permit).

If you want to go in:

January → Apply September 1-30

February → Apply October 1-31

March → Apply November 1-30

April → Apply December 1-31

May → Apply January 1-31

June → Apply February 1-28

July → Apply March 1-31

August → Apply April 1-31

September → Apply May 1-30

October → Apply June 1-30

November → Apply July 1-31

December → Apply August 1-31

How To Apply For The Wave Daily Lottery permit:

The “in-person” lottery has since changed, and is no longer a “walk-in” permit application. Rather each participant can apply via the mobile app (desktop or laptops will not work).

Daily Lottery Permits are available 2 days in advance between 6am-6pm. IMPORTANT: (The lottery system is based on the time in Utah and the Navajo Nation). During daylight savings in the summer months, Utah and Arizona do not share the same time.

Participants will be notified at 7:15pm the same day whether or not their application was approved.

If you were one of the lucky people to snag a wave permit, then you will need to head to the Kanab Visitor Center the following morning at 8am to pick up the permits. Following that, there will be a safety briefing, including a route map, photo guide and GPS coordinates along the suggested route to the Wave.

The following day (day 3) the permit is finally valid to use in the Coyote Buttes North Area.

Tips For Getting A Permit For The Wave:

If you know the dates of your trip well in advance, try entering the lottery online first. If you don’t get lucky to score some online, you can always plan your trip around trying to score the walk-in lottery permits.

If you’re staying in or near Kanab, always start your day by entering the lottery via the mobile app. Hopefully one of the days, luck will be on your side.


There are many other beautiful hikes in the area, so if you don’t get lucky, you have other great options to choose from.

Other hikes near The Wave Hike:

When Is the Best Time Hike The Wave:

The wave 1

Summer season (June-August) is the “busy” season for The Wave Hike. Your chances of getting a permit are much lower during this time because there will be many more tourists entered into the walk-in lottery.

The temperature in the summer can reach over 100 degrees making it less than desirable because there isn’t much shade out there. But while the temperatures are hot, the months of July-September are in monsoon season. So you can expect to get some heavy rain storms, potentially making the road impassible.

We suggest trying for Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-October) because there will usually be fewer people in the lottery and the temperature will be much more enjoyable.

For the best odds, going during the Winter season (November-February) will have fewer applicants but the weather might be a bit colder.

What Happens Once You Have A Permit To Hike The Wave:


Once you are lucky enough to get a permit, a ranger will then talk with you about the safety and how to navigate the trail. The ranger will share some landmark photos to help you navigate around the hike. You will want to pay close attention, and grab a map because it can be hard to find your way out there!

Getting to the Trailhead For The Wave Hike:

The name of the trailhead is Wire Pass Trailhead. Most of the time, you can get to the trailhead by a 2wd passenger vehicle. But, getting to the trailhead can be gnarly at times due to the soft sand.

The drive from Kanab, Utah to Wire Pass Trailhead takes about an hour.

It is down a dirt road that sometimes gets washed out by flash floods. So sometimes there are big drops in the road that only AWD or 4×4 high clearance vehicles can get through.

I would ask a ranger how the road looks at that time of year before heading out. If rain is in the forecast, the road may be impassable.

Start Of The Wave Hike:

Dirt Path Before Hitting The Sandstone Rock

For the start of the hike, you will need to cross the road and head North through Coyote Wash. This section is a little over a half mile, but trekking through sand.

You will then run into a sign that says “Permits beyond this point”. You will head East (“right”) and head down a dirt path with little desert bushes.

There will be many different sand paths, but they will all lead to the same point. You will see tall sandstone rock formations in the distance, and will want to head straight toward those.

Hiking Along The Sandstone Rock

Hiking The Sandstone Rock:


This is where the trail gets difficult, and the information from the ranger is really important. Once you have reached the sandstone rock you will be headed South.


You will notice in the distance a large rock formation with a crack down the center of it. This is a landmark for where you are headed. At this point, there is no longer a trail to follow, and foot traffic is harder to read.

It can be easy to get lost out there, so be sure to pay attention to the details provided by the ranger.

There are signs out there that will help direct you, but they can easily blend into the background of the sandstone rock.

You will have to go around different buttes and rock formations along the path, so it is not a straight hike to The Wave. There are different paths that can lead you to the same area, but the less foot traffic over multiple areas helps maintain The Wave’s natural foundation.

One Of The Awesome Rock Formations Before The Wave

Helpful Tips For Hiking The Wave:

Our suggestion is to look back occasionally and take pictures of landmarks of where you take big turns in the trail. This will be helpful for on your way back!

All Trails App:


We love using the GPS on the All Trails app to help guide us on difficult hikes.

There is a paid version for this app, but we find the free version just as helpful. You will want to download the map when you have cell phone service so that if you lose service before or during the hike, the map will remain on your phone.

The map will show up with a red trail from a previous hiker. Looking at the map near the trail, you should notice a blue dot. This is a GPS tracker of you. The blue dot will show where you are along the “red trail”. So if you keep the blue dot hovering over the red line, it will bring you to your destination.

Having a GPS tracker can be super helpful on a hike like this!

The Landmark Rock Right Before Getting To The Wave

Finally Making It to The Wave:

After climbing up the sandstone rock and encountering this yellow/red rock (pictured above), you have reached “The Wave”.


The wave is located around this rock to the right. You will know when you get there because your jaw will drop and well, you will see the famous sandstone rock formations that probably enticed you to go on this hike in the first place.

There are many nooks and crannies to explore when you arrive, so leave plenty of time. It’s nice to do a little exploring around and then just sit down and admire how cool the wave really is!


One cool thing about the wave is that only a limited amount of permits are given out per day, so you may have The Wave to yourself or only share it with a few others!

One Of The Beautiful Views Along The Hike

Hiking Back To The Trailhead:


This is where it can be super helpful to have taken pictures of landmarks to turn back. Or if using the AllTrails GPS, it will help direct you where to turn to head back to the parking lots. There are also signs that direct you back but can sometimes be hard to find.

Takeaway | The Wave Hike:


While the application process can be quite daunting, it can be the adventure of a lifetime. This hike to the wave is unreal!

An interesting fact is that you start the hike in Utah but end in Arizona. From the drive to the trailhead, to hiking the wash, to the adventure along the sandstone rock, this hike is one you will never forget.


Be super respectful of the area, and don’t go unless you have a permit. And remember to practice Leave No Trace guidelines to help preserve this natural wonder.

It is the desert and doesn’t have much shade, so pack plenty of water and properly protect yourself from the sun. This hike can be difficult, so be sure to absorb all the information from the rangers and ask questions if you have any.

Check out our Awesome Arizona Road Trip Itinerary or Southern Utah Road Trip Itinerary for more fun things to do in the area.

Things To Pack For Hiking The Wave:


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Thriving Tourist

Friday 6th of March 2020

Love this! Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing.

Emily Schroeter

Friday 6th of March 2020

Thank you, we appreciate your kind words! :)