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Arizona Bucket list: The Wave, AZ

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  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 visitor 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 swells 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.

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!


  • 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 visitor 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! 7$ a person




About The Author


Ryan is an avid hiker and long time resident of Page, AZ. What he lacks in spelling and grammatical expertise he makes up for with extensive knowledge from a lifetime of questionable choices and the ability to ask for help from great editors


  1. Joanne

    Are there helicopter tours over the wave?

    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Joanne –
      This is a great question, that unfortunately does not have a great answer: no.
      The Wave is in a Special Use Management Area of the Vermillion Cliffs/Paria Canyon National Monument and is under strict protection to minimize human impact on what is a very fragile environment. That’s why the present permit system that allows only 20 people per day to hike in is in place.
      Now, if you’re open to taking a helicopter tour with some major “wow” factor, consider the Tower Butte Landing helicopter tour that departs from the Page Municipal Airport and lands atop an unusual rock formation (it’s that upside-down thimble-shaped rock jutting out from the plateau towards on the View of Lake Powell from Alstrom Point with Tower Butte inside right sideright side of the picture) allowing for a jaw-dropping 360 degree view of Lake Powell, Navajo Mountain, the Kaiparowitz Plateau and the Vermillion Cliffs, just to name a few.
      Sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news, but we’re confident that you’ll still have a wonderful time in Page!
      Alley 🙂

  2. Lola Anne Meriwether

    How far is the hike into the wave?

    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Lola!
      It’s about 6 miles round-trip from the Wire Pass Trailhead to the Wave and back. Be aware that The Wave is a very ecologically sensitive area, therefore access is limited to 20 people per day via an online permit system. How To Get A Permit For The Wave
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  3. Danielle Smith

    Are there special permits available for photographers who wish to come for the sole purpose of photographing the wave?

    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Danielle, thank you for visiting today.
      Photographers must acquire a permit in the same manner as everybody else wishing to visit The Wave, by applying for the online lottery and/or trying for a walk-in permit the day prior to when you wish to hike.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  4. Ely

    Hi Ryan,

    Me and my sister is planning a trip to cover the wave ( i know about the permits 😊), lower and upper antelope canyon and the horshoe bend and probably the grand canyon. I am coming from san diego and she is coming from florida. We are planning to meet in phoenix and rent a car from there. What would be a good route for us to take if we want to cover those sights? Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!


    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Ely!
      Sounds like you have an awesome trip planned. Good luck with those Wave Permits.
      Coming from Phoenix, Sedona would make a logical and fun stop. It’s about 2.5 hours from Phoenix, and you should plan on staying there at least 2 nights, there’s a lot to see and do there! From Sedona, the Grand Canyon would be ~2.5 hours North. Page, AZ – where Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are located, would be about 2.5 hours Northeast of the Grand Canyon. You’re probably beginning to see a pattern here, huh?
      Anyway, Page would make for as good a place as any to stay if you do manage to get permits for The Wave. If you don’t, consider some touring some alternative sites that are just as beautiful but not as difficult to get into. How To Get A Permit For The Wave
      Good luck and safe travels!~
      Alley 🙂

  5. Roxana Tchamanian

    Hi my name is Roxanne and I wanted to know what is the best month to hike the wave? what kind of wild animals are there?

    • Alley Keosheyan

      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 🙂

  6. Jafar Hamid

    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

    • Alley Keosheyan

      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 🙂
      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.



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