Arizona Bucket List: The Wave, AZ

One of the most highly sought hiking permits in the American Southwest is for the Wave, AZ, located about 40 minutes west of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. This bucket list item attracts people from all over the world, with well over a thousand people a day applying for just 20 permits. How to get a Wave Permit

There are some advantages to being a local, and one of those is that I can run over to Kanab and enter the lottery in the dead of winter and try to get one of the 10 daily permits (the other 10 being available online ย months in advance.) This used to be the way to get a higher chance because of the lower crowds during off-season, but no longer. This last Feb, with heavy snow on the forecast every other day, there was still over 200 people milling around the Kanab Convention Center before the 9am drawing.

During winter hours, the Friday drawing is special because they draw for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. 30 permits drawn on the same day swellsย the number of hopeful applicants and the anticipation to Walmart Black Friday doorbuster levels.

I had applied for 3 people, and by 9:12AM they had drawn 29 people. My number was drawn for the very last spot and I tried to avoid making eye contact with the many people I knew had traveled thousands of miles for that same chance. To make this opportunity even more rare, the rangers are authorized to increase the number of permits by one person if the last winner applied as a group, so as to discourage solo hikers. All I needed to do was to decide which friend I liked more.

And so on that chilly morning of Feb 6, 2017, there were 21 people who hiked to the Wave, Arizona. For more information check out https://thewaveaz.com

Hanging out just before the Wave
Weather broke for a few minutes
still snow on the ground
Fondue on the JetBoil!
Classic Wave shot
melted snow!

Tips

  • If you apply as a solo hiker and you draw the last permit you don’t get to decide to bring a friend. If you apply as a group they will let you bring 1 person so you’re not hiking alone. Or you can refuse the permit and maintain your friendships.
  • During winter months, the Convention Center is closed on the weekends, so they draw permits for Sat, Sun, Mon on Friday. All other days are normal; permits are drawn at 9am for the next day.
  • The road to the trailhead can be extremely difficult to drive on if it has recently rained or snowed.
  • There is little to no reception, and people have died on this hike.
  • As with all desert hikes in the area, get a really early start during summer months.
  • The two closest cities are Kanab, UT, and Page, AZ, but AZ does not follow daylight savings, so check time difference.
  • Bring exact change in cash! $9 a person

41 Responses

  1. Hey Alley
    Great content on this website!
    I am hoping to get through the walk in lottery for the Wave in December. Now I know that they pick the lottery numbers for Saturday, Sunday and Monday on Friday the week prior. Do we then have to fill 3 applications (1 each for the 3 days) or they pick 30 numbers for Sat, Sun and Monday by default from the numbers on Friday? Also, do I have to specify that I would like a chance on all 3 days on Friday in the application? If we are 2 people, can my friend and I both fill an application for 2 people?

    1. Hi Anuja,
      We wish you the best of luck at the walk-in lottery for The Wave. You’ll need it, but I think you know that already!
      To my knowledge, you wouldn’t have to fill out separate applications for each day you wish to hike if you’re doing the walk-in lottery on a Friday in December. You’d simply let the on-duty ranger know that you would like to carry over your entry through the weekend. However, be sure to ask the ranger at the Grand Staircase Visitor Center how best to proceed. They are the ultimate authority on the process, and the rules for taking part.
      As for both you and your hiking companion filling out separate applications, you don’t need to or want to do that. That’s considered attempting to “game the system,” and both applications would be disqualified.
      In the very likely event you are not chosen to hike The Wave, there still might be a way for you to see it, and that’s to fly over it. Fixed wing airplanes and helicopters can be chartered out of Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. While this would be a pricey way to go, it would enable you to see a ton of amazing scenery in addition to Coyote Buttes. For more information on this, read this article on our companion site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com: “So You Didn’t Get A Wave Permit – Now What?”
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hello. Iโ€™m interested in visiting this Fourth of July weekend. I will be visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon. My dream is to see the Wave. Iโ€™ve never been able to get a permit before. How early would I have to get there beforehand to try to get 2 passes? I know itโ€™s unlikely…

    1. Hi Szashe and thank you for visiting our site.
      First off, I’m glad that you acknowledge the fact that the probability of your being able to hike to the The Wave is very small. But there still might be a way for you to see it… more on that in a minute.
      If you haven’t secured hiking permits for Coyote Buttes North through the online lottery at this point, the only chance you have of getting one now is through the walk-in lottery at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitors Center in Kanab, UT. Drawings are held for 10 permits (1 person = 1 permit) each day for the FOLLOWING day (so you would go there the day PRIOR to when you wish to hike). To participate in the walk-in lottery, you must show up in person (no phone-ins or proxies) at the GSENM Visitor Center between 8:30 โ€“ 9:00 AM Utah time, again, the day before you wish to hike. **Note that Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, but Utah does, so if youโ€™re staying in Page, AZ, youโ€™ll have to leave one hour โ€œearly.โ€ If you’re staying in Zion, Bryce, or anywhere else in Utah, simply go by local time.** For more information, read “How To Get A Permit For The Wave” on our companion site, http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a walk-up permit, you must be aware that you’re hiking during the hottest time of the year, and plan accordingly.
      Now, in the very likely event your party is not chosen for a walk-up permit, there might still be a way to make your dream come true, albeit one that will come at a cost: fly over it. Chartering a fixed-wing airplane from the Kanab, UT, Municipal Airport or the Page, AZ, Municipal Airport makes for an expedient and exciting way to not only see The Wave, but countless other scenic landmarks in the area. Flights would most likely depart first thing in the morning for better light and less wind. For more information on doing a charter-by-the-hour over Coyote Buttes and The Wave, visit this piece on our companion site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com: “So You Didn’t Get A Wave Permit – Now What?”
      If chartering an airplane is not within your budget or doesn’t appeal for whatever reason, consider taking a guided tour to White Pocket, which is just as beautiful as Coyote Buttes (some would assert moreso!), but does not require a permit.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Dear Harrison,
      Thank you for this excellent question. Yes, you can fish at Lake Powell! An Arizona fishing license is required, and a Utah license may also be required if you plan to fish in the area of Lake Powell over the Utah State Line. Fishing licenses can be purchased upon arrival in Page, AZ, at Stix Market. For best results, you might consider going with a licensed Lake Powell fishing guide such as McNabb Fishing Guide Service , Ambassador Guides, or Ultimate Lake Powell Fishing Guides.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hello,
    I will be visiting Arizona in April, is it too late for me to get a permit?
    We are 2 adults and a 13 year old boy coming from NJ and my brother’s family that lives in Arizona, two adults, a 3 year old, a 9 year old and a 10 year old.
    Would the hike be too much for the younger kids?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Milka,
      The online lottery for April permits to hike The Wave took place in December. If you wish, you can still take part in the walk-in lottery, which is held at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitors Center in Kanab, UT. You would put your name in the lottery the day before you wish to hike, and can submit for multiple days.
      That said, I would strongly discourage you even trying. For one, taking a 3-year-old is not recommended as this is a 6+ mile round-trip hike over potentially rough terrain. Another consideration is the size of your party. Only 10 walk-in permits per day are given out, and larger groups tend to not fare as well as smaller parties do.
      That said, there are many beautiful areas in the vicinity of The Wave that require neither advance permits or long-distance hiking. One you may consider is White Pocket. The only disadvantage to this area is the drive in: the trail tends to be very sandy, which requires a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle. Going with a licensed tour outfitter is definitely the safer way to go. For a list of authorized guide services, visit our companion site, TheWaveAZ.com: Hire A Guide
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. There is a company that takes guided tours to The Wave. Do you know about any company that you might recommend? Permits are so very difficult to get, so I found a Grand Circle Tour company that is charging $200 for a day tour of The Wave. Please advise.

    1. Dear Ambreen,
      There are approximately a dozen tour companies in the Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT, area that take guided tours to The Wave. However, using one of them does not exempt you from the permit requirement. You still need to get one. And as you’ve discovered, getting a Wave permit is very difficult to do.
      Since it is statistically unlikely that you will get a permit for The Wave, we recommend you plan on visiting one of several “alternate” areas that are just as scenic and either do not require a permit, or permits are easier to get. Some areas include, but aren’t limited to: White Pocket, Soap Creek, Sidestep Canyon, Coyote Buttes South (requires a permit, but are easier to get), the New Wave, or Alstrom Point.
      Another possible workaround to the Wave permit dilemma, which granted will be more expensive, would be to fly over it. For more information on this option, visit our sister site, TheWaveAZ.com and read “So You Didn’t Get A Wave Permit – Now What?
      Hope that helps. Best wishes for a Happy New Year and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hello, dreaming and planning of getting the permit as coming from Europe in March/April. I kneo the chances are low and you already detailed other locations around close by in case of unsucssesful walk-in lottery. I do have a related to rental car: would it be enought to rent compact car or SUV revommended? Will be driving from Las Vegas and planning a big road trip.

    1. Hi Neri,
      Whether you rent a compact or SUV is a matter of taste, but an SUV would certainly give you more luggage space for that “big road trip.” Plus it might come in handy if the House Rock Valley Road (the road to access the Wave trailhead) is wet or muddy, which is a very likely scenario in March or April. However, the latter consideration is something of a “Catch-22:” having 4WD can be advantageous when going off road, but the majority of rental car contracts forbid driving on unpaved roads.
      If you are fortunate enough to get a permit via the online or walk-in lottery, you might consider playing it safe and hiring a BLM-licensed guide to escort you to The Wave. This would ensure that 1. you get there in one piece without damage to your rental vehicle and 2. that you make the most of the opportunity to explore the incredible scenery in Coyote Buttes North. If you do hire a guide, you do not have to apply for a Wave permit for them, they are already pre-qualified through their business license.
      For more tips and information on planning a visit to The Wave and the surrounding area, visit our companion sites, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com or http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hello! We are hiking the Wave this November and will be driving to coyotes buttes from Page AZ. How long is the drive from Page to the hiking entrance and do you think itโ€™s ok that we stay in page rather than Kanab?

    1. Hey Lauren,
      Congratulations on scoring a Wave permit!
      This is a great question. Fortunately, it’s a “six of one/half a dozen of another” proposition as to whether you stay in Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. Kanab is about 45 miles from the House Rock Valley Road turn-off; Page is closer, but only slightly, a difference of 2-3 miles at most. Find lodging in whatever town suits you best budget-wise, looks most appealing and has availability. Both towns have other attractions in the immediate vicinity that might warrant a multi-night stay, so that’s another consideration to factor in.
      Whatever you choose, we strongly recommend being at the House Rock Valley Road turn-off by sunrise, which will be a little before 7:00 AM in November. For other tips on getting ready for a Wave hike, visit our sister site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com
      Good luck and happy hiking!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Can someone let me know how long does it take to finish the walk-in permit lottery? I am hoping it can be done in 1hour and half?

    Thank you in adv.

    1. Hey Johnny,
      Great question!
      The Wave walk-in lottery gives out permits to hike The Wave for the following day. The process can take anywhere from 1 hour to upwards of 2 hours depending on how many people are trying their hand at it on a given day. For this reason, we discourage you from booking anything time sensitive immediately after the lottery, so that you don’t a. miss your activity and/or b. lose your money.
      Here is a short video account of one person’s experience with it: How To Walk In The Wave Lottery
      For further information read “How To Get a Wave Permit
      Remember as well that during Daylight Saving Time periods, Utah DOES observe the time change, whereas Arizona does not, so if you’re traveling from Page, AZ to Kanab, UT to participate in the walk-in lottery, Utah will be one hour ahead of Page. You must time your drive accordingly (start out an hour “early”).
      Good luck and safe travels!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi,

    We won the lottery to hike the wave in first week of october ! However, we have a one year old and weighing our options here. While we are very excited about the rare opportunity we are not sure how advisable is it to hike the wave with a one year old.

    1. Dear Deepthi,
      Congratulations on winning The Wave lottery! Early October is certainly a nice time to be here, and to make that hike. As for taking your little one along, only you can make that choice, and others have certainly done it before you. If you were hiking in the middle of summer, I’d probably advise you against it, but your risks should be carefully considered even at the nearly ideal time of year that you’re hiking.
      Be aware that the hike is about 6 miles long round-trip. One of you should probably be ready to carry the child most of the way. A backpack carrier is definitely a must. Another factor is the exposed nature of the trail: there is very little shade to be found, so all of you (child included) should wear wide-brimmed hats and plenty of sunscreen. Lastly, bringing enough water for every member of your party is absolutely essential.
      For more advice on hiking The Wave with a toddler, you might also pose your question on the travel forums on websites such as TripAdvisor, Bogley, Lonely Planet and so forth.
      Congratulations again and do let us know how you get on.
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi,

    I was thinking of visiting the Wave in July 2018. What is the closest airport to fly into. I have a little one who is 5 yrs old and may not be able to hike much. Is there a way for us to still experience the wave?

    Thanks,

    Divs

    1. Hi Divs!
      First off, hiking permits for The Wave were issued in March. Secondly, we would not recommend taking a 5-year-old on this hike, especially at that time of year. It’s terribly hot (daytime high temperatures reach upwards of 110 degrees Fahrenheit!) and that enhances your risk of illness, injury or even death exponentially.
      The only other way to see The Wave that would a. be safe for you and your family and b. would take the permit requirement out of the equation would be to fly over it. A small “disclaimer:” since The Wave is in actuality quite small in comparison to the Coyote Buttes area as a whole, it does not show up that well from the air. However, the surrounding scenery is amazing. Because the flight (airplane or helicopter) would be considered a special charter, it will likely be quite expensive, but if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’d likely find the cost quite worth it. Below please find a list of air charter services out of Page, AZ and Kanab, UT.
      Page Municipal Airport (PGA):
      Westwind Air Service 928-645-2494
      Scenic/Grand Canyon Airlines 702.577.9060
      Grand Canyon Helicopters 702-736-7243
      Kanab Municipal Airport (KNB):
      Red Tail Aviation (435) 819-0730
      Kanab Helicopters (877) 651-1693
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚
      P.S. The best airports to fly into for visiting Northern Arizona and Southern Utah are:
      Las Vegas, NV (LAS) – 247 miles, 4.5 hour drive from the Wire Pass Trailhead (starting point of the hike to The Wave)
      Phoenix, AZ (PHX) – 320 miles, 5.5 hour drive from the trailhead
      Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) – 365 miles, 6 hour drive from the railhead

  10. If you are not selected for the Lottery on the day you’ve selected to go to The Wave, how easy is it to get to Bryce or Zion from the Lottery spot? Could we go there easily from the lottery spot? If not, what other easy to moderate hikes would you suggest in the area? Need to book lodging, etc, so hope to lock in a schedule very soon.

    1. Hi Terry,
      Yes it would be easy to visit either park from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, UT (where the in-person lottery is held). Zion National Park is closer, about half an hour drive. Bryce is about a 1.5 hour drive from Kanab. Either park has a wide selection of easy-to-moderate hikes you can do should you strike out on The Wave.
      Day hiking in Zion
      Day hiking in Bryce
      Before getting into hikes, however, you should get your lodging nailed down as choices are limited in both parks. If for some reason you are unable to secure lodging within the parks, you could opt to simply stay in Kanab, UT for Zion, or the community of Springdale, UT on the Western border of the park has an ample selection of hotels (but you should still make reservations). For Bryce, the areas of Ruby’s Inn, Tropic, UT or Hatch, UT offer good locations from which to “base camp.”
      Hope that helps. Have fun and safe travels!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Tammy,
      The hike to The Wave from the starting point at Wire Pass Trailhead is approximately 6 miles round-trip. It is considered a “moderate” hike. Ropes and other special gear are not required, but you must take adequate water and food.
      The most important piece of “equipment” to carry, however, is the proper permit. This area is ecologically fragile and access to it is limited to 20 people per day by the Bureau of Land Management. For more information on obtaining a permit, visit AntelopeCanyon.az How To Get A Permit For The Wave AZ
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Van,
      Unfortunately, that’s not possible – at least on the ground (more on that in a minute). It’s approximately a 3 mile hike to The Wave from the Wire Pass Trailhead on the House Rock Valley Road. Coyote Buttes North is hidden behind several ridges, so there’s no choice but to hike there in order to take photos.
      If you’re unable to make the hike or obtain a permit, another way you might see The Wave is to charter an airplane or helicopter from Page, AZ or Kanab, UT. Doing such a thing will be pricey, and The Wave itself doesn’t show that well from the air, but the view of the surrounding terrain is amazing. YouTube video of a helicopter flight over The Wave
      Hope that helps.
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hi Alley,

    Got a permit to hike The Wave and all looked good until this weeks forecast of rain/snow on Monday morning the day my permit is good for. Forecast says 8am – 10am Showers/Rain/Snow less than an inch. Do you think we will be able to drive to the Trailhead with the road being wet? Thanks for your time.

    Quoc

    1. Hi Quoc,
      Congratulations on getting that Wave permit. Sorry to hear that it might coincide with inclement weather. It’s too soon to predict what conditions on the House Rock Valley Road will be like, but your best resource for up to the minute information will most likely be the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab. You might try calling them at (435) 644-1300 Monday morning.
      Good luck and hope everything works out.
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Hi, My wife and I are planning to visit Kanab the week after Christmas. Ideally weโ€™d love to hit the lottery f or the Wave. Reality, very remote to happen. We are driving from our home in Las Vegas and are planning an overnight, or two. If we canโ€™t hit the lottery what hikes in that area would you suggest? Weโ€™ve done Zion and Bryce so we would prefer the Kanab area. We do a lot of class 2 and 3 generally between 5-7 miles. Any help would be fantastic!
    Thank you,
    Dominic

    1. Hello Dominic and thank you for visiting our site today!
      We’re glad to see that you’re being realistic about your odds of getting a Wave permit, but, we’ll still keep our fingers crossed for you.
      As for alternatives you might consider, these include, but are certainly not limited to:
      – Coyote Buttes South (still requires a permit, but tend to be significantly easier to get)
      – White Pocket Fold (a guide service such as Paria Outpost or Dreamland Safaris is recommended for the somewhat difficult drive to the
      trailhead)
      – Buckskin Gulch
      – Coral Pink Sand Dunes Trail
      – Lower Hackberry Canyon Trail
      – Cobra Arch Trail (near Paria)
      For more suggestions, a good site to visit is AllTrails.com You might also try the Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitors Center or the Kane County Visitors Center when you arrive in Kanab. The employees there are bound to have suggestions we left out!
      Good luck and let us know how you get on.
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at HorseshoeBend.com!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Hi, I’m currently stationed in VA and am going to be coming back home in AZ for two weeks in May to visit family. How hard will it be to get a permit to plan out a trip like this with 6 people?

    1. Hi Taylor,
      In a word – OK, two – VERY hard. Popularity of The Wave increases almost exponentially with each passing year, and May is one of the nicer times to visit. In case you weren’t aware, access to this area is by permit, and only 20 per day are given out, 10 by advance online lottery and 10 on a walk-in basis the day prior. How To Get A Wave Permit You’re going to have a LOT of competition for permits at that time of year, so it’d be smart to start thinking in terms of alternatives: other places that are just as cool, scenery-wise, but not so bloody hard to get into. Areas you might consider exploring include but are not limited to: Alstrom Point, Coyote Buttes South (a permit is required, but these tend to be easier to get), White Pocket Fold, Steamboat Rock, Cobra Arch, Buckskin Gulch or The โ€œNewโ€ Wave near Page, AZ.
      Hope that helps and that you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚
      P.S. And THANK YOU for your service.

    1. Hi Roxana and thank you for visiting today!
      The best time to hike The Wave is during early Spring or Fall. Daytime high temperatures aren’t so hot then, so there’s lower risk of heat exhaustion and other complications sometimes experienced during the summer months. The downside? Lots of people are aware of this, so competition for the few permits they give out is particularly fierce for April or October. Those who are truly determined to hike The Wave may have to settle for a time of year that’s less than ideal weather-wise.
      As for wildlife you may see, typically it’s lizards, snakes, and chipmunks; occasionally deer or elk are spotted.
      Hope that helps. For more information on obtaining a permit to hike The Wave, visit the Bureau of Land Management’s official website.
      Thanks again and happy hiking!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Hi Ryan,
    My wife and I are visiting Page AZ – driving into Page from the Grand Canyon Southern Rim on the evening of Monday 18th December 2017. We plan to stay in Page on the 19th of December. We would like to see the Antelope Canyon (upper and lower) followed by the Horseshoe Bend (to photograph) and maybe see the Wave. Please could you let me know if we can join a group tour for the above sites? will 1 whole day be enough? Please let us know what the weather will be like in Mid-December? How much would it cost?

    Many thanks

    1. Dear Jafar,
      Hello and thanks for visiting our site.
      Unfortunately, there is no commercial tour that covers ALL of the sites you wish to see. The Wave, in particular, is very difficult to get access to. It requires some forethought, a good dose of luck and a high degree of physical fitness in order to experience. Read this piece for more detailed information How To Get A Wave Permit
      As for Antelope Canyons, since you have your own vehicle, and are interested in seeing both the Upper and Lower branches, your best bet would be to catch tours that originate from the canyon’s entrance on US98 just South of Page. For Upper Antelope Canyon, you would want to contact Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours or click here to reserve.
      For Lower Antelope Canyon, there are two outfitters that operate from the canyon’s entrance on US98: Ken’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and Dixie Ellis’ Antelope Lower Canyon Tours. No need to be too concerned about who does the better tour, they are virtually identical right down to the footsteps. Prices will be listed on all respective sites.
      As for Horseshoe Bend, you can visit it whenever you wish, no tour guide is needed. Keep in mind, though, that daylength is relatively short during the winter months. Sunrise occurs about 7:30 AM, sunset at about 5:15 PM.
      Weather in mid-December will be on the cool side, with possible rain or light snow, so be prepared by packing jackets, gloves, scarves and other clothing appropriate for these weather conditions. If I’m inadvertently making it sound like December is a horrible time to visit, that’s far from the case. That time of the year is shoulder season, so along with cooler temperatures, you’ll encounter far fewer people than you would during the summer months. More than a fair trade-off IMO.
      Good luck and safe travels!
      Alley ๐Ÿ™‚
      P.S. In response to your other inquiry, Ryan is a part-time consultant with our company and does not give guided tours. The contact information for the sites you wish to see has been given above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *