15 votes

The Wave

Coconino County, Arizona 86036 USA

  • Independent
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“famous among hikers & photographers for its colorful, undulating forms”

The Wave is located on the Colorado Plateau, near the Utah and Arizona border. The area is a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms and other odd creations. Deposits of iron claim some of the responsibility for the unique blending of color twisted in the rock, creating a dramatic rainbow of pastel yellows, pinks and reds. It is necessary to obtain a permit for the popular hike to the Wave formation in Coyote Buttes. In places, The Wave exposes deformed laminae within the Navajo Sandstone. These laminae were deformed prior to the lithification of the sand to form sandstone. Judging from their physical characteristics, this deformation likely represents the trampling and churning of these sands by dinosaurs right after their deposition. Dinosaur tracks and the fossil burrows of desert-dwelling arthropods, such as beetles and other insects, have been found within the Navajo Sandstone within the North Coyote Buttes Wilderness Area. "The Wave is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Arizona Strip. There are two great photographic locations in Coyote Buttes North (The Wave and The Second Wave) and numerous minor ones including Top Rock Arch, Melody Arch and the Grotto, the Hooters, The Alcove, Sand Cove, and Fatali's Boneyard.  The Wave is best photographed midday so as to minimize the extensive shadows, the other areas listed above are best photographed mid-late afternoon. The South Buttes also has many good features and is well worth visiting, as is the White Pocket and Edmaier's Secret. It can be difficult to get a permit to see the Wave. 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.  If you do not win the lottery I suggest you get one for Coyote Buttes South, or go to the White Pocket which is east of Coyote Buttes South.  I know of one person who was lost overnight in Coyote Buttes South, so use a GPS, mark the trailhead, and stay with your party.  While a two wheel drive vehicle is adequate for the North Buttes, four wheel drive is required for the South due to deep sand." -

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Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 16 Helpful
January 06, 2016
Rated 5.0

This is an amazing place.

A permit is require to visit this area. BLM issues only allows 20 people/day to visit the area. You can either apply for an online lottery or try your luck in person the day before at the Kanab visitor center (get there before 9am). The chances of winning are small.

At 10am there is a less known lottery for South Buttes. It's a terrific place to explore. If you lose the the lottery at 9am, try the 10am lottery. If you lose again, you can visit the White Pocket area - it requires no permit.

Depending on the weather, you may need a high clearance 4WD to get to the North Buttes.

You DEFINITELY need a 4WD to get to the South Buttes and the White pocket. The roads are badly marked, so be sure to take a map/gps with you.

8 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 4 Reviews
  • 10 Helpful
May 12, 2014

FYI, if you are wanting to check out this awesomeness, you will have to pay for a permit. They only let in 20 people per day into the Coyote Buttes area (North and South). And you better plan this WAY in advance, since they are already booked solid through August.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 31 Reviews
  • 34 Helpful
April 27, 2014

Followed directions on this site and it took us to cococino community college. Couldn't find the wave

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
March 19, 2021
Rated 5.0

Most magical place in the US. Worth trying for the lottery every time I pass the area. Dog friendly

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
October 28, 2015
Rated 5.0

I entered the online lottery 4 months in advance and was lucky enough to win a permit. It was amazing and just beautiful. We hired a guide and it was worth it. We didn't have to worry about getting lost. He knew exactly where he was going and he gave us a little history. He also showed us the less visited 2nd wave. I totally recommend applying for a permit!!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Kurt Lundquist

  • Road Warrior
  • 20 Reviews
  • 17 Helpful
September 16, 2014

Ten spots are held each day for the Lottery held each morning. I entered and was lucky enough to get picked. The permit is good for the following day. There is a free campground a mile from the trailhead, so you can get an early start in the morning.
What an amazing place! There are no markers past a specific place on the trail, so study and bring the map they provide.
Much better pictures when the sun is high and the shadows are gone.
You have to enter the lottery to win, so give it a try, you never know and sooo worth it!!

1 person found this review helpful

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The Wave

Coconino County
86036 USA

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
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