An insider's exclusive, must-see tour of "The Wave” in Arizona's Desert
July 22, 2009. The world suddenly became aware of this miraculous place previously unknown to the masses. This date was the initial release for Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 7. It introduced us to the beautiful desktop wallpaper of “The Wave,” and since then, an increasing number of people have sought to make their way to this breathtaking location.
Geographically situated on the UT/AZ border, halfway between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, making the trek isn’t as easy as one might imagine. These days you'd be lucky to draw a permit for the site. Due to it's overwhelming popularity, the Bureau of Land Management limited foot traffic to 20 people/day, preserving the integrity and beauty of The Wave. In 2014 alone, there were approximately 50,000 applicants, which means 7300 people were allowed access with a 14.6% success rate, and it’s only going to get harder to get in.
Gaining access to this site can be done two ways:
1) Advanced online application. 10 permits are issued in this manner by lottery for dates four months out, with chances to draw for April-November being 4-8%; December-March has better odds at 25%.
2) Walk-in lottery at the Visitor Center in Kanab UT for the following day. Arrive at 8:30am for the lottery and count your lucky stars for a chance to be selected.
We were lucky enough to be selected on our 2nd attempt out of 75 applicants (the first time we tried there were 180+ applying). Riding the Wave requires patience and planning or just straight luck. We were stoked that lady luck was on our side.
After receiving our passes and listening to the ranger's spiel, we had to get out. Since our permit was for the following day, we took the opportunity to explore other amazing locations in Southern Utah. Coming from Zion National Park, we visited Coral Pink Sand Dunes and then up to Bryce Canyon National Park. On the Arizona side of the border you can also make a quick trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon or over to Page and Lake Powell.
After camping up at Bryce Canyon and witnessing an incredible sunrise over the majestic hoodoos, we packed up shop and headed back to Kanab to see The Wave. Although the drive from Kanab to the Wire Pass Trailhead can be treacherous, we were lucky enough to make the drive without any problems, given that it rained the night before. After strapping on our shoes, checking our packs for water/snacks, applying sunscreen, we hit it. To find the main trail you need to cross the road and enter into the river wash, heading back north for a half-mile or so until it winds to the east (where eventually you will see this sign).
After passing the sign to the Coyote Buttes North Area, you will stay to the right, soon finding yourself hiking along this sandy/desert terrain.
At this point, the ranger's map came in handy. We had absolutely zero problems finding where we needed to go. We headed toward the first big mound off in the distance, reference in the center/right of the image.
Crossing over the ridge, the landscape changed to hard sandstone, making it much easier to hike. Signposts along the path leading up to The Wave helped to steer us in the right direction. Look for these type of buttes in the distance, and head towards the two in the middle, passing them just on the right side.
After that pass, the terrain opens up and there will be a large rock face in the distance with a fissure vertically down the face. You've reached your destination. Other landmarks to look for are white streaks along the sandstone. These small reference points made it almost impossible to lose your way.
One final push and you've reached The Wave. The anticipation and excitement build as you drop down in to another river wash, beginning the final climb in the sand to your destination. With the sun blazing down and the sweat building up, we couldn’t wait to arrive and rest. As soon as we arrived the last thing we wanted to do was sit down. It was time to play.
Thanks to the storm that passed through the night before, we witnessed this amazing reflection bouncing off a pool of water right at the entrance. This larger wide-lens view of the Wave perfectly depicts the incredible striations of the windblown sandstone.
Passing by the pool of water at the main entrance to the Wave, we looked back on this series of pools. The contrast of the red rock and the blue sky was absolutely perfect.
We continued to meander through the site for 30 minutes before rest. We soon found ourselves perched up above the Wave and figured that it was the perfect spot to relax and get replenished with food and water. I guess the view wasn't too bad either.
After fueling up, we headed to the top of the sandstone cliffs to the south, catching the vast landscape of the desert in all directions. We probably spent a solid three hours gathering as many vantage points as possible of this once in a lifetime visit.
Nearing the end of our journey, we caught this amazing view of the Wave from the south end looking north.
This just so happened to be the perfect location for us to drop in and snap some pictures of us surfing this desert wave.
This trip was absolutely epic! To date, we haven't been to any place in the world as remarkable, serene, and uniquely beautiful as this site. The Wave's privacy and exclusivity make it all the better. In silence you can admire the awe and wonder of Mother Nature's creative processes.
Who knows if we’ll ever get lucky enough to go back again. Now a firm believer in luck, we can only hope that luck strikes again.
Written by Josh Allen from RAWtrails.
RAWtrails is a dynamic organization focused on inspiring people to create a lifestyle of activity and adventure in the great outdoors, holding to the belief that nature and it’s miraculous wonder contain the power and ability to transform us into happier and healthier people.