The Wave (Coyote Buttes)


This page is dedicated mainly to The Wave. The Wave is not a mountain but it is located in a rugged region known as Coyote Buttes in The Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness of Southern Utah/Northern Arizona. The Wave is a famous hollow (or gully depending on how you look at it) of striated sandstone that visitors typically make reservations to visit seven months or more in advance. If you are lucky enough to have seen The Wave then you know what I mean. If you haven't seen The Wave, then you can obtain a permit through the website listed below or show up at the Paria Contact Station out on US-89 the day before (they reserve a certain number of daily permits in this way...for walk ups, as it were; but there is a lottery system in place now, as of at least 2009). More good info in tarol's post here. Permits cost $7.

To be sure, The Wave is not a large area (it could fit within the space of an acre) but it is definitely a sight to behold. I've heard it is at its best on an overcast day when sun shadows don't create too much contrast between light and dark. I was there on a sunny day, so I cannot say. Yet, even on a sunny day it is truly spectacular. You can visit the The Wave at any time of day. The position of the sun in the sky changes how The Wave appears to the eye. I was there in late afternoon/early evening. Most persons visit The Wave in the morning when it is cool since it is a 5-mile round-trip hike over hot rock and sand to get there. However, If you can stand the heat, I might suggest going in there in the late afternoon (but not too late else the sun will have dived below the higher mountain to the west thus attenuating your light). In late afternoon there probably won't be anyone else there to get in the middle of your camera frame. This was how it was for me. I was the only one there. Thus, all my photos presented here with the exception of two timer shots and two silhouette shots will show The Wave in its pristine state.

There is a set of pillowed buttes next door to The Wave that are also a spectacular sight to behold. These I have called The Welter for lack of a better word. One last note, I would recommend wearing sunglasses with an amber tint. This tint brings out the fantastic colors that much more.To the north of The Wave and the Coyote Buttes is a slot canyon known as Buckskin Gulch/Wire Pass. This is in Utah. (The Wave is about a 3 tenths of a mile into Arizona.) The fee for this canyon is a separate $5 ($7 now?) payable at the trailhead. You can visit the canyon on the way back from or on your way to The Wave. On the west side of the narrowing northern end of the Coyote Buttes there is a wash that butts up against the bare red rock of the buttes. Follow this wash north then east then northeast for about seven tenths of a mile as it winds down to the canyon. The wash meets the canyon (Wire Pass) at a section where it is only 15 feet deep. You can get into the canyon by walking west slightly. Go east into the canyon for the best parts. Wire Pass drains into Buckskin Gulch at a confluence of slot canyons a short distance to the east. Give yourself 45 minutes to an hour to visit the confluence and hike back out to the car by way of Wire Pass canyon. Watch out for rattlesnakes and other monsters of the desert.

There is a Second Wave a few hundred yards south of the Main Wave that is worth a visit too.

Getting There

To get to the Coyote Buttes/Wire Pass area it is highly recommended that you visit the Paria Contact Station on US-89 first. This BLM station is located about 40 miles west of Kanab, UT (or about 30 miles west of Page, AZ) on the south side of the road. The Forest Service Ranger Station in Kanab can give you better directions. The Kanab ranger station is located east of town on the north side of the road. The Paria Contact Station has no customer phone number but a ranger at Kanab can make a cell phone call to the Contact Station for you (the cell number is not given out to the public)--especially to inquire as to whether or not any permits are still available for the next day. Note that permits for the day-of are not given out. That is, you can only acquire permits for the next day, not the current day even if not all have been utilized.

Wire Pass & Buckskin Gulch

Pictures of the slot canyons:

Red Tape

NOTE (2016):  I have heard the rules have changed once again.  It is best to contact the authorities or look on official government sites rather than use this information below.

To get a day-use permit for the next day in the event that you happen to be in the area, visit the Paria Contact Station the day before you intend to go in there and hope they still have permits left for that next day. See the "Getting There" section above for more information.

To get a permit way in advance:

Good additional information can be found in tarol's post here.

To quote the first link above:
"The first thing you will have to do is to find what days are open for additional hikers. You can do this by calling the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association at 435-688-3230. Once you have obtained a date, you will have to make a reservation and pay a fee (presently $5 per person). The application and fee should be mailed to Paria Permits, NAU, Box 15018, Flagstaff, AZ 86011. Or FAX with a credit card payment to 520-523-0585. You may also reserve a permit in person up to seven days prior to the available date at the Paria Ranger Station on Route 89, just west of Page, Arizona. Check links below to see if online reservation system is operational yet."

Another possible method:
Coyote Buttes Paria Permits
Bureau of Land Management
Kanab Area Office
318 N. 100 East
Kanab, UT 84741

When To Climb

You can visit The Wave at any time of day. In the morning it will be cooler but there will be other people there to possibly ruin your solitude. In the afternoon it will be hot hot hot if it's summertime but you may get to partake in the beauty all by yourself. You can also visit The Wave in the winter if you want it to be cool. Whether or not you get an overcast day is really just a game of chance. More likely it won't be overcast for you (unless there's a thunderstorm brewing overhead, in which case you've got other problems). It goes without saying that you should avoid the slot canyons if there is any sign of inclement weather--specifically upstream of the canyons. Albeit, on a sunny day, the slot canyons will be a cool place to visit (cool as in not hot). Getting to and from The Wave would not be too particularly dangerous if it were raining. From the trailhead, you do have to walk in or skirt a wash for about a quarter-mile. From there, you climb out of the wash by way of an old dirt road. Once onto the bare rock of Coyote Buttes your bigger worry would be slipping on wet slabs. There is a small wash to cross just before arriving at The Wave but it probably wouldn't be that inundated. It could be muddy though. But there is a bigger problem if it is raining: the access road from US-89 to the trailhead is impassable when wet. There are a number of signs warning of this. If it isn't the road surface itself that gets muddy then it is the many washes the road crosses that would make for some interesting if not impossible fords.


Camping is available at the Paria Contact Station. I think there is a well here for water. There is a small fee for use of this campground. There is a free campground about 2 miles south of the Wire Pass/Wave trailhead along a dirt road. No water at this campground. Other full-hook-up privately-owned campgrounds are located in Kanab and Page. Heck, there's no doubt a KOA in both towns.

Mountain Conditions

Expect it to be scorching there in the summer sun. It is desert, after all. Wear a brimmed hat and sunscreen and take plenty of water. Shade can be found here and there along the way but it is mostly open travel over hot rock and sand. There are your typical prickly desert fauna to worry about. Because of this, sandals are not recommended. Ouch!



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