One of the best kept secrets of southern Utah, The Wave in Coyote Buttes North is probably the most amazing hike I have ever done. This location first gained broad recognition through being featured as a background photo on one of the major computer operating systems.
The Bureau of Land Management, who has responsibility for this area that straddles the Utah/Arizona border, limits the number of hikers who have access to The Wave on any given day. A total of 20 hikers per day are allowed entry. 10 are decided by online lottery up to 6 months in advance. The other 10 spots are decided the day before the permit is valid through an in-person lottery at the Bureau of Land management office in Kanab, UT.
I knew about this hike in advance of my trip through southern Utah, and planned to attend the lottery. What I did not expect was the reality of 164 other people also showing up to the in person lottery. I was shocked and elated to be selected for a permit, much to the chagrin of the woman next to me who had been trying for 9 consecutive days to win a permit.
Starting hike, I met two others who were also headed out to The Wave, Krista and Connor. They were traveling from Vancouver, BC. and generously shared the hike with me. Maps provided by the BLM are photo maps, as in "Look for this formation [picture] then hike to it by staying on the upper slope. When you reach that formation, look for this next formation [picture]."
The BLM staff provide numerous warnings about bringing sufficient water for the hike. It takes roughly 2-2.5 hours to hike out to The Wave through sere desert landscape over rock that reflects the sun and heat right back at you. There is little to no shade throughout the hike.
While the landscape between the trailhead and The Wave was gorgeous, nothing really prepares you for how other worldly the wave formation itself is.
The variety of the shapes and color of the strata are seemingly endless.
Exploring beyond the Wave formation brings you to Second Wave, seen below.
Bureau of Land Management posts a ranger in the wave to check permits and ensure hikers make it out without issue. Hikers without permits can be fined $10,000, a strong deterrent to 'bandit' the hike. Not a bad office scene if you ask me.