Hiking The Wave: Everything You Need to Know
There are some places we’ve found that just blow your mind. Hidden in Northern Arizona in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, lies one such destination called “The Wave.”
This awe-inspiring sandstone formation has become incredibly popular for hikers and nature enthusiasts from all over. We were able to hike The Wave in May 2023 and are sharing everything you need to know to make your trip even better.
So let’s talk getting the required permit, what to bring, where to camp the night before, and more!
How to Get a Permit
A permit is required to hike The Wave. Unfortunately only about 5% of those who enter get one. This leads many to ask, “Why not just go even if I don’t win?” If you get caught by a ranger without a permit you can get fined between $1,000 – $10,000 and even end up in jail. To avoid that, grab one here!
Permits are given out on a lottery system and there are two different ones you can enter; an advanced lottery and a daily lottery. Note: If you win one, you must confirm it or you’ll lose it!
Preparing For Your Hike
Make sure you have your map from the BLM!! All Trails and Google Maps are not accurate and will take you far off the correct trail. The correct map, which is sent to you in the mail if you win the Advanced Lottery and given to you at the BLM office if you win the Daily Lottery, is a series of pictures that guide you toward landmarks.
- Attach the top of your permit to your backpack while hiking and put the remainder of the permit on your car’s dashboard
- Bring more water than you think you may need. We ended up running out of water because we only brought one camelback and a water bottle for both of us.
- Go as early as you can – especially in the Summer. It will be hot on your way back with no shade so you may as well make the trip there as comfortable as possible
Where to camp
Jon and I are fans of car camping and we found the best place to camp the night before at a Dispersed Campsite (which means it’s free)! It is located along the 8 mile dirt road that leads to the trailhead which will make your drive the next morning much shorter.
The stars are beautiful and there is a fire pit set up for you to use. Because it is dispersed, there are no amenities. Make sure you go to the restroom and have plenty of water and food before you set up camp.
Buckskin Gulch Dispersed Coordinates
How to Car Camp Comfortably
If you want to try car camping, you’ll want it to be comfortable! We have done it both with a Luno Air Mattress and without it and can 100% say the mattress was worth it. We got to video our experience trying it out for the first time while visiting Saguaro National Park.
Want more help making your car camping experience the best it can be? Read our blog post on just that!
Hiking to The Wave
The hike to The Wave is 6.4 miles out and back through sand and on sloped sandstone formations and it, on its own, is gorgeous. This means, on top of it being 6+ miles, it is also more challenging than a typical paved trail. Because of this, we recommend wearing hiking shoes and not packing too heavy.
When you park at the trailhead make sure the bottom part of your permit is visible on your car’s dashboard and the top of your permit is attached to your backpack. You’ll need to use the bathroom since there are none located along the trail and don’t forget to sign in and list an emergency contact.
As a reminder, there is no shade along the trail so go early! We recommend wearing hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
Keep you map in an easy to reach area! The trail is not well marked so you will need to reference it quite a bit. If you are nervous about getting lost, you can always hire a guide.
This area is protected due to its fragile nature – hence the lottery. Be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles. Everything you take with you needs to come back with you.
The Wave & Beyond
Like this post? Pin it for later and share it with others!
Visit thewave.info to stay up to date with information about The Wave and Coyote Buttes North.