The Wave, North Coyote Buttes: Permit & Hike Info

After 14 months of applying, I finally got lucky and won a permit to visit The Wave. To give you a quick background, “the wave” is officially known as North Coyote Buttes and is part of Paria Canyon/ Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. It’s one of the most coveted permits and hardest to get because they only have 20 permits available per day, 10 online and 10 in person. Many people have asked me why you need a permit to go here and according to the Bureau of Land Management, permits are required here to regulate and protect the remaining land to put it simply, but you can google that more. If you’re not so lucky to win permits, check for amazing alternative hikes similar to the wave at the end of this post.

The Wave Permits:

You have to apply 3 months out for the 4th month and your chances are obviously higher on the weekdays but not much in my opinion. For example, I applied in March, got notified in April, and my permit was for July. You can see the calendar and number of applicants when submitting your own permit application to help you better pick your date. It’s $9 per application and if you’re one of the lucky 10 to win that online permit, you’ll be notified by email and have to pay an additional $7 per person for your permit which will be mailed to you.

North Coyote Buttes permit - received by mail

Quick overview of my trip: To be honest, my permit date was an inconvenience as I just came back from a trip and was heading out to another right after, but I waited so long for this, spent money on it every month for over a year, and although it was the hottest time of summer (permit was for July 31), I was invested and determined to make the trip out there, even for just a couple hours… which is exactly what I did.

I left LA at 11:46 am on Monday 7/30, got to camp at 10:40 pm, woke up and started hiking at 7:35 am Tues 7/31, finished at 11 am, and drove back to LA by 9 pm.

I don’t recall the weather besides it being hot on the hike back, but my Garmin Fenix 5S Plus recorded the morning starting off at 79°, was 88° when I left the wave and 97° when I got back to the car.

Details, details, details…

Is The Wave in Utah or Arizona?

Well, when you enter down the House Rock Valley Road from Utah, the Wire Pass trailhead (where you start) is in Utah and most of the trail is in Utah, but you’ll hike into Arizona by foot which is where the actual ‘Wave’ is.

arizona utah state boundaries


Most of the state of AZ does not use Daylight Savings time so their clocks don’t fast forward one hour in the Spring/Summer. Since I went in July, my clock started out in Utah time (+1 hr from LA) but as soon as I was at The Wave, my clock jumped back an hour which confused me at first. This really won’t make much difference since you’re hiking back out to the same time zone you started, but just something to keep in mind if you’re tracking your time and wondered what happened to the extra hour.

the wave in arizona

Nearby Campground

1.7 miles past the trailhead is a BLM campground, Stateline Campground. The campground road starts right after you pass into Arizona but the campground is actually in Utah… so this whole area is on the border of AZ/UT. There are 7 sites, pit toilets, shaded structures with picnic tables and no water.

tiffany lin, hike the wave in arizona

Hiking Distance/ Miles

The trail is only 2.6 miles one way with little elevation gain. It’s actually easy to navigate if you pay attention to the trail and your surroundings, but download the offline area on Google Maps because the trail is clearly marked or make sure you have another GPS device to help you stay on track!

the wave hike permit

Best Time of Day to Visit the Wave

Supposedly noon because that is when there are no shadows, but I would not recommend that in the summer for obvious reasons.

I started at 7:34 am, got to the wave at 8:54 am, left the wave at 9:46 am, and finished at 11 am. Yes, I spent about 2 hours at the wave taking it in, playing around, taking pics, eating lunch, and meeting new people. I waited 18 months (14 months applying, then 4 more months for permit date) to come here so I planned to take my sweet time.

the wave hike @followtiffsjourney

Trail Conditions

No water source, very exposed and sandy. The trail starts off going through a wash and be sure to look out for the trail to the right that leads out of it going uphill.

the wave hike in arizona

Heat Danger

The night we arrived on 7/30/18, there were two ranger cars parked in the lot and turns out a European tourist was found dead that evening due to heat-related issues. This was the first death at the wave since the trio of deaths in July 2013 (which I hear is when they put up the one trail sign and started to provide detailed, photographic maps with the permits), so please be extra cautious if you head out in the summer. Be aware of the temps, start early, bring more water than you think you’ll need, and don’t expect any shade! Better safe than sorry.

the wave in north coyote buttes

Other Permit Info:

There was a ranger checking off a list of permit-holders when we got back to the parking lot, so don’t chance it. He asked us how many hikers were still out there, on their way out there, their conditions and if anyone seemed lost and had water, to make sure hikers were all safe.

Tips to get permits: none, sorry… after all, I tried 14 times… I’ve heard people apply for just 1 spot because your odds are higher, and some say to get a big group and have everyone submit an application.

Click here for more info about walk-up permits from the BLM.
Click here to apply for permits.

wire pass trailhead

Other Rules You Need to Know When Visiting The Wave:

  • No campfires
  • No overnight camping/day use only
  • No drones
  • Max group size is 6. permits are non-refundable and can’t be transferred but why would you want to give it up anyways…
  • Dogs are allowed on leash
  • Pack it in, pack it out!
  • You can get a guide for this hike who will take you on a less common route from what I’ve been told, but you will need to secure your own permit first
north coyote buttes

Alternative Hike Similar to The Wave

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section below!

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May the odds be ever in your favor 😉
Please don’t forget to be prepared for the weather and practice leave no trace.

19 thoughts on “The Wave, North Coyote Buttes: Permit & Hike Info”

  1. Mayrelly Vilchez

    Hi,I just read your blog about “The Wave” and I have a question.Do I have apply single day til I get the permit? I applied yesterday for my first time ever , but I’m not sure if I can apply every day ..I want to win one lucky permit 👐👐👐
    I will appreciate your response.Thanks you

    1. Hi Mayrelly, you can only apply once per month! You can have everyone in your group submit an application too though. So now you’ll just wait until March 1 for the email results 🙂

      Best of luck!

  2. Hi there! I’m planning on going to Az last week of feb. I know there’s only twenty spots a day but what are the chances of me getting a walk in day pass once they open on off season like feb? Was planning on getting there once they open on a weekday.

    1. Hi Lam, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I haven’t ever tried, but remember that the walk up permits only has 10 spots, it’s 20 total including online permits. From what I hear, the odds aren’t any better and there’s not really an “off” season for the wave. It’s all luck… best of luck to you!

  3. Finally won a permit after 3 years of trying. Would you recommend a guide if going solo in July? Have done a bunch of hiking in that area, Subway, coyote gulch etc, but wanted to know how marked trailhead is? Thank so much!

    1. Omg congrats!! Personally I don’t think a guide is needed but it also depends on your comfort level with solo hiking and trail finding (which I don’t think is hard here if you’re prepared – download google maps offline version for the area beforehand, the trail is on it so just be aware if you stray from it). Note that July is brutally hot so please be extra prepared with water, especially if you’re heading out alone!!

  4. Hi Tiif, I’m andy from Ecuador, I’m in love with your instagrams photos, I think I’m your biggest fan, I want to go this place AZ, I’ll go in April with my family, I go to mountains here every week, climb volcanos and I don’t have problems to be on heat or cold places, but my family don’t do this kind of activities, so I’ll be on my own, you think is dangerous for me to go alone if some day I have permit? I’ll keep trying if they deny application, don’t yoy wanna come with me? Haha, would be great, come ecuador to visit some time, it’s beautiful here, btw you can see some of Ecuador on my insta. ( andymald), big hug for you ..

    1. Hi Andy! I think if you’re well prepared and know where you are going, you’ll be fine visiting the Wave by yourself. Just definitely let someone know when you’ll be there and make sure you secure a permit before you visit!

      One day I’d love to visit Ecuador, I was actually just researching the country last week!

  5. Hi Tiffany,

    I found out about and fell in love with the Wave through your blog & Instagram. I don’t have a 4WD/AWD and was wondering if you had one or needed to rent a car in order to get there since I heard it may be impassable due to wet conditions otherwise. We’re going in July but I heard it can still rain. Please let us know your thoughts and thanks for your time and help 🙂

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for your kind words and I hope my blog can help you explore new places! I had an AWD and a 4wd is not required to get to this trailhead, only further beyond. An AWD is not required but it helps. We did see two normal passenger cars (I have a photo of the parking lot I just referred back to) so it’s definitely doable with a normal car if the road conditions are dry :). Let me know if you have any other questions!

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