Located in Northern Arizona, near the Utah border, is one of the most difficult-to-visit areas of public land in the United States. This small area inside of the Coyote Buttes North region known as “The Wave” is famous as it is where orange and white swirls of sandstone come together to form a perfect wave.
Hundreds of thousands of people attempt to visit The Wave every year, but very few actually have the opportunity. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) operates the land and only issues 64 visitor permits for a daily visit. Of those, 48 are issued via an advanced online lottery, and the other 16 via a daily online lottery.
If The Wave is on your bucket list, as it should be, getting a permit will take some patience, persistence, and a bit of luck. Check out our ultimate guide below. It will help you with any and every question ranging from how to get one of those elusive Wave permits, what to bring, what to expect at the Wave, and how to get to Coyote Buttes.
- The Wave, Arizona: How to Obtain a Permit, Lottery Tips, and Hiking Guide
- The Wave Permit Process
- How do I get a Permit for The Wave?
- How Many People Can I Have in my Group to Visit The Wave?
- How will I Know if I Won a Permit?
- How Long Will it Take to Get my Permit for the Wave?
- Can I Take my Kids to The Wave?
- Can I Bring my Dogs to The Wave?
- What are the Fees to Visit the Wave?
- What are the Odds of Winning a Permit via The Wave lottery?
- Can I Change Dates or Group Size Once I Have a Permit?
- I won a Permit for The Wave but I Can’t go. Can I Transfer it to a Friend?
- Visiting The Wave Without a Permit
- Getting to the Trailhead for The Wave
- The Hike to The Wave
- Camping and Lodging near The Wave
- What if I Can’t Get a Permit for The Wave?
- Is Visiting The Wave Worth all the Hassle?
- The Wave Permit Process
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).
The Wave, Arizona: How to Obtain a Permit, Lottery Tips, and Hiking Guide
The Wave Permit Process
How do I get a Permit for The Wave?
The BLM issues 64 permits for daily visits to the Coyote Buttes North area and there are two ways to obtain a permit: daily lottery and advanced lottery. 48 of the permits are issued via the advanced lottery and 16 are issued two days ahead of the permit date via a daily lottery (you must be in the geofence area to apply).
If you decide to do the advanced lottery, you must apply for dates four months into the future. So if you are applying for a permit in January, you’ll need to pick a date during the month of May.
On any given day there are hundreds of people applying for four months in the future. You’ll register for the total number of people in your party and pick your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice dates. You’ll also pay a non-refundable application fee. You can apply online here.
The second option for obtaining a permit for The Wave is via the daily online lottery. The BLM office transitioned its daily in-person lottery to a mobile-based geofence system. Applicants must download the Recreation.gov mobile app to submit the daily lottery application.
On day 1 of the daily lottery process, you can apply with the mobile app two days ahead of the permit date. You can submit the application between 6 am and 6 pm and results will arrive after 7:15 pm. On day 2, you’ll need to be onsite at the permit pickup location at 8:30 am for your safety briefing. Be careful about the time difference between Utah and Arizona. On day 3, go on your hiking adventure to The Wave!
When we first applied, the BLM had an in-person lottery system and it took six attempts to win. We have detailed our experience here so you’ll know what to expect.
How Many People Can I Have in my Group to Visit The Wave?
Your group cannot exceed 6 people.
How will I Know if I Won a Permit?
Those who applied for The Wave advanced lottery will be notified as to whether or not they were successful via email. They will receive the email on the first day of the next month. So if you apply during the month of July, you will be notified on August 1st.
Those who applied through The Wave daily lottery will receive a notification by 7:15 pm. You must accept the winning lottery and pay the fees by 8 am Utah time the next day, and attend the safety briefing at 8:30 am.
How Long Will it Take to Get my Permit for the Wave?
People who win the advanced lottery will receive the permit via mail 4-6 weeks after they pay the permit fee. People who win the daily lottery can pick up the permit the next day after receiving the results at a permit pick-up location by 8 am. Then, you’ll attend the safety brief at 8:30 am.
Can I Take my Kids to The Wave?
Of course! However, everyone regardless of age needs to be in the permit. This includes infants that are not walking.
Can I Bring my Dogs to The Wave?
Yes! Dogs do not count against the quota, but they must appear on your permit and also require a fee. The process to register your pup occurs during the confirmation of a successful lottery application. They must be kept under control at all times and you must pack out their waste.
What are the Fees to Visit the Wave?
A non-refundable application fee of $9.00 must be submitted with each lottery application. Once you win a permit, a $7.00 fee per person and/or dog applies. And everyone, regardless of age, needs to be in the permit and pay the fee.
What are the Odds of Winning a Permit via The Wave lottery?
The most recent odds data provided by the BLM.gov website are from 2013. At that time the odds of obtaining an online permit from April-June and September-November were about 4-5%. And in the other months (off-season), the odds varied from 8% in August to 25% in January.
We tried for the in-person lottery in March of 2017 and estimated that our odds were about 10% although the number of people trying was slowly increasing every day.
Can I Change Dates or Group Size Once I Have a Permit?
No changes or modifications are allowed to permit dates, applicant name, alternate permit holders, or group size following the application process. The only way to modify these details is to cancel the first application and submit a new one, which will require an additional payment of the $9.00 application fee.
If you need to increase your group size, you’ll need to apply for a new permit for the additional people. Considering that there are never available dates on the calendar and thousands of people compete for the lottery every day, both of these are pretty unlikely.
If the primary permit holder cannot make the trip on the permit date, the permit can only be used by the alternate permit holders listed on the application. If a primary or alternate permit holder is not present, the permit is invalid.
I won a Permit for The Wave but I Can’t go. Can I Transfer it to a Friend?
No, permits are non-transferable. You must present a valid government-issued ID when you pick up your permit. You also need to carry your ID in case you encounter a BLM ranger during your hike. They will check.
Visiting The Wave Without a Permit
Can I Visit The Wave Without a Permit?
The entire Coyote Buttes area is incredibly fragile and designated as protected land. Only 64 people are allowed to visit The Wave every day to continue to preserve the rock formations for generations to come.
But, What if I Hike The Wave Without a Permit Anyway?
You can try, but it’s highly likely you’ll get caught.
Those who win the lottery receive brightly colored permits to attach to their backpacks. A second permit goes in the dash of their vehicle. At least one BLM ranger hikes out to The Wave daily to check for trespassers. When we visited in March of 2017, a ranger checked on us at The Wave at 10 am and then we ran into her again at the parking lot at 3 pm.
What is the Fine for Visiting The Wave without a Permit?
The fee for trespassing ranges anywhere from $1,000 – $10,000 per person. When caught, the BLM ranger will take down your information and give it to the local police station to determine your punishment.
The severity will depend on how far you got before being caught. If you are near the trailhead, you may never hear from the police. But if in the vicinity of The Wave, you’ll likely receive the maximum fine.
Getting to the Trailhead for The Wave
What is the Closest Town to The Wave?
The closest town to The Wave is Kanab, Utah about 47 miles away. The BLM office that issues permits for The Wave is located there as well. If you win the daily lottery, you will need to be in Kanab as you’ll need to be at their office at 8 am for the permit and safety brief.
How Long is the Drive to The Wire Pass Trailhead?
From the closest town of Kanab, Utah, the Wire Pass trailhead is about 47 miles away. It will take you about an hour to drive there. You’ll drive about 39 miles along US 89 before taking a right onto House Rock Valley Road.
The remaining 8.3 miles are very bumpy and a bit slick and muddy if it’s recently rained. A 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance is ideal. Check with the BLM office in Kanab regarding road conditions prior to heading out.
Where do I Park to Hike to The Wave?
The Wire Pass trailhead is the most common place to park to hike out to The Wave. It is also where you’ll need to sign the trail register.
Are There Toilets at The Wave Trailhead?
There are two drop toilets located at the Wire Pass trailhead which is where you will park your car to begin your hike. You’ll want to use the bathroom here before setting off on your hike as they are the last ones you’ll see all day.
Can I get Water at the Wire Pass Trailhead?
No, there are no water sources at the trailhead, The Wave, or anywhere along the hike. You’ll need to stock up in the closest town of Kanab, Utah prior to setting out.
The Hike to The Wave
How Far is the Hike to The Wave?
The hike from the trailhead to The Wave is approximately three miles (so you’ll be hiking a minimum of six miles round-trip). But there is no specified “trail”. Rather, you’ll just be scrambling up and down the orange sandstone that is found all over this area of the country. You’ll be given a photographic map by the BLM office. If you follow that or your GPS perfectly, you can do the trek in three miles.
However, if you begin your hike before the sun rises or have any trouble following the map, you’ll likely add at least another mile to your trek. It is very easy to get lost.
What are the GPS Coordinates of The Wave?
Are There Toilets at The Wave?
There are no toilets at The Wave itself or anywhere along the 3-mile hike out there. Plan accordingly.
Are There Trash Cans at The Wave?
No, you’ll need to pack out all of your trash. That includes any toilet paper.
What Should I Pack to Hike to The Wave?
We developed a comprehensive packing list to help you prepare for your hiking adventure.
Can I Visit The Wave at Night?
Your permit to hike to The Wave is valid for the entire 24-hour period. So from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm on the date of your permit. You are allowed to be in the protected area at night. Note that the rangers at the BLM office do not recommend it because it increases your likelihood of getting lost (and needing to be rescued).
If you do choose to begin your hike before sunrise or leave The Wave after sunset, be sure you have the GPS coordinates, a downloaded map, and plenty of light to guide your way. The photographic map provided by the BLM office will not help you in the dark.
Camping and Lodging near The Wave
Can I Camp at The Wave?
No, there is no camping allowed anywhere within the Coyote Buttes North protected area, which includes The Wave. It is a day-use only. There is also no camping allowed at the Wire Pass trailhead.
What is the Closest Campground to The Wave?
About two miles past the Wire Pass trailhead along House Rock Valley Road is the Stateline Campground. There are only four sites that are on a first-come, first-served basis and they fill up fast. They do not have water.
If you cannot get a spot at the campground, you can continue down the remote House Rock Valley Road where you’ll find a few pull-offs on the right-hand side. If you want to get an early start on your hike you can set up camp along the side of the road; however, there are no amenities so it’s not exactly ideal.
White House Campground is located about 15 miles (35 minutes) from the trailhead if legal camping is more your style. They have five tent sites, and toilets, but no water.
There are also commercial campgrounds in Kanab for those interested in amenities, such as electricity and running water. The Hitch-n-Post RV Park is particularly convenient if you’re attempting the in-person lottery as it’s walking distance to the Kanab BLM Ranger Station.
What are the Closest Hotels to The Wave?
The closest hotels to The Wave are in Kanab, UT. The Flagstone Boutique Inn & Suites and the Canyons Boutique Hotel are both newer boutique hotels in Kanab that are lovely places to spend a night (or even 2). If you’re traveling on a tight budget, the Rodeway Inn is probably the best value in town.
And for the most interesting stay in Kanab, check out the Parry Lodge. During the 1940s and 1950s when Western films were being shot in the surrounding desert and canyons, the Perry Lodge hosted numerous Hollywood stars, including John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Ronald Reagan.
What if I Can’t Get a Permit for The Wave?
This part of the USA is spectacularly beautiful – you’ll find plenty of amazing hikes and adventures to keep you busy! Check out Zion National Park, Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park, Buckskin Gulch, Coyote Buttes South, Buckskin Gulch, The Wahweap Hoodoos, The Paria Rimrock Toadstools, and White Pocket.
The best hiking guidebook for the area is Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country. You should definitely pick up a copy if you’re heading to Kanab. And check out our list of 8 Epic Outdoor Adventures in Northern Arizona!
Is Visiting The Wave Worth all the Hassle?
A million times YES!
Do you still have questions about visiting The Wave? Drop them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
Check out our favorite travel guides for Northern Arizona!