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How To Get A Permit For The Wave Arizona

A once hidden gem is now found!

As the saying goes, “it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when.’” In this case, the “when” was the summer of 2009, when the powers-that-be at Microsoft thought it would be a fabulous idea to include a photo of The Wave in Paria Canyon, Arizona on the desktop wallpaper of Windows 7.[1] From that moment on, what had until then been a relatively well-kept secret among hikers and backpackers was catapulted to “Arizona Bucket List” status, and suddenly everybody and his brother wanted to go there. Does that include you? Be ready to jump through some hoops, but be ready to experience a place like no other on Earth, and an adventure you’ll never forget!

The Wave is located in the Coyote Buttes North Special Management Area of the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area in Northern Arizona. Areas with this designation are considered ecologically sensitive and vulnerable to irreparable damage if access to them is not strictly controlled. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, for years, only 20 lucky people per day were allowed to visit Coyote Buttes North and The Wave in Arizona. In February 2021, the BLM approved an increase in the daily hiker quota to 64 people, or 16 groups, whichever comes first. In order to be included in that number, you must obtain a permit. This can be done one of two ways:

1. Apply in advance for the online Paria Canyon permit lottery through Recreation.gov  website. Forty-eight (48) spots per day are given out in this manner. You can – and should – apply up to four (4) months in advance for your desired date. Applications are taken for the entire calendar month for the month four (4) months ahead. If, for example, you wish to hike to The Wave in October (the 10th month on the calendar), you would need to apply online anytime during the month of June (the 6th month on the calendar). The winners of the lottery would then be drawn on the 1st day of July, etc.

For more information regarding the Wave go to www.thewaveaz.com

While waiting for your permit, check out Antelpe Canyon!

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There is a $9.00 non-refundable fee to apply for the online lottery. You may choose three (3) different dates to hike The Wave and apply for up to six (6) people. Applicants are notified of their results in the lottery by e-mail on the first day of the month following the application period. If, for some reason, you are not notified by the second day of the month, please contact the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Permit Desk. Be sure to check your spam/junk mail folder first, though. Only one application may be submitted per month. Please do not try to “game the system” by submitting more than one application per month. You will be found out and both applications will be forfeited.

2. Obtain an in-person permit through a daily virtual lottery. Read a first-hand account from someone who hiked The Wave on a walk-in permit

64 people a day are allowed to hike to Coyote Buttes North and The Wave. 48 will have secured their permits ahead of time by online lottery; the remaining 16 hiking slots can be acquired by in-person/walk-in permit. **Effective March 2022, the lottery for last-minute hiking permits to the Wave will transition to an app-based system, administered by Recreation.gov, whereby visitors may apply for a permit to hike the Wave from their cell phone or other mobile device two days prior to when they wish to hike. Entries will be monitored through a geofence system which limits participation to those physically present within a designated radius around the communities of Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT. Geofence Perimeter Map Successful applicants would then be notified by text to pick up their permits and attend a mandatory safety briefing at the Page-Lake Powell Tourism Hub in Page, AZ, or the Kane County Visitor Center & Office of Tourism in Kanab, UT. Fact Sheet for New Mobile-Based Wave Permit Lottery 

General Notes:

  • The hike from Wire Pass Trailhead to The Wave is approximately 6 miles round-trip. It is considered “moderate” in terms of degree of difficulty. Individuals should be in reasonably good health and have some desert hiking experience before attempting this trip. Those who wish to go further may opt to visit Top Rock Arch, Second Wave, Melody Arch and Dinosaur Tracks, which will extend your hike to 8 miles round-trip.
  • Remember this is a desert environment; water and shade are scarce to non-existent. You are responsible for providing your own food and water. 3 liters of water per person and high-energy snacks with moderate salt content are recommended. If you encounter a pool of water in this area, please avoid wading through it unless absolutely necessary. Do not drink from these pools or allow dogs to do so.
  • There is no “established” trail to The Wave. Many report getting lost on the way in and/or on the way out of the main scenic area. Markers such as cairns are not provided (please don’t make your own) and signs are kept to a bare minimum. Keep the maps you receive from the BLM handy throughout your hike and bring a portable GPS device if desired.
  • There is no cell phone service in the area. Please inform friends and family of your plans, and be sure to sign in at the register box at Wire Pass Trailhead.
  • The House Rock Valley Road, the only means of accessing the Wire Pass Trailhead, may be rendered impassable in wet weather. Even in favorable conditions, it can be bumpy and sandy. A vehicle with sufficiently high clearance to navigate these obstacles is recommended. If you are uncomfortable driving in these conditions, you may wish to hire a guide service. Using a guide does not exclude you from the permit requirement, nor does it increase your chances of getting one.  
  • You must pack out all trash, including your own waste. Burying or burning toilet paper is not allowed.
  • Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept leashed at all times. They are subject to a $7.00 per animal entrance fee (which doesn’t count against the ‘human’ quota), and you are required to pack out their waste as well.  
  • No overnight camping or fires are allowed in the Coyote Buttes area.
  • Again, The Wave is in high-demand year-round. Statistically speaking, your chances are slim that you will get a permit. You should have a “plan B” in mind if you are not selected for an online or walk-in permit. Areas you might consider exploring include but are not limited to: Coyote Buttes South (a permit is required, but these tend to be easier to get), White Pocket FoldSteamboat RockCobra ArchBuckskin Gulch or The “New” Wave near Page, AZ.

For more information regarding the Wave go to www.thewaveaz.com

Comments Section

184 Responses

  1. Hello, I’m heading to Kanab tomorrow and wondering, can both my husband and I enter for the online daily lottery for our group? I know this was a big NO when they were doing the in-person lottery. But I can’t find it any where on Recreation.gov that specifically bans it.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Only one application per lottery may be submitted on the new system as well.
      Best of luck to you!
      Happy Holidays,
      Alley 🙂

  2. Hi,
    We are applying for three passes in June 2023, and I was wondering if you knew if any days of the week were less subscribed than others. I’m assuming that weekends have the most applications.
    Many thanks
    John McHugh

    1. Hi John,
      Since most US schools are let out by Memorial Day (late May), and many families with older children are interested in hiking The Wave, it doesn’t make too much difference whether you apply for a permit on a weekday or a weekend. However, since you are allowed to apply (IIRC) for up to 3 dates, you might throw a weekday in there and see what happens! Remember that June weather is hot, so be prepared to hydrate adequately for optimal safety and enjoyment.
      And since, statistically, your likelihood of obtaining a Wave permit is small, start looking at “plan B” options, such as Coyote Buttes South, White Pocket, Wire Pass Canyon/Buckskin Gulch, Sidestep Canyon, Soap Creek, etc. Since some of these sites are located in hard-to-reach areas, consider going with a guided tour to avoid getting lost, stuck, or both! For more information, visit our companion site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com: Hire A Guide
      I do hope that helps, I know it doesn’t sound too encouraging. Please contact me at horseshoe.bend.az@gmail.com if you have further questions.
      Good luck, safe travels, and have a Happy Holiday Season!
      Alley 🙂

    1. Hi Arlene,
      You certainly can enter the advance online lottery for Wave permits, which is held 4 months prior to your desired hike month. Therefore, if you wish to hike in April 2023, you would apply in December 2023; if May 2023 is when you wish to go, you would apply in January 2023, and so on, on http://www.Recreation.gov.
      For the in-person lottery, held 2 days prior to your desired hike date, you would need to be within the prescribed geofence area, namely, in Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT, and a short radius around these two towns. You can only apply via your phone or connected mobile device (e.g. tablet), with GPS on. You cannot apply via a desktop or laptop computer.
      For more information about hiking The Wave, and other activities to check out in the likely event your lottery entry is not successful, visit our companion site, http://www.TheWaveAZ.com
      Hope that helps. Good luck and safe travels.
      Alley 🙂

  3. HELLO, WIIL NOT BE ABLE TO ARRIVE TO OUR TRIP , UNFORTUNATELY MY FATHER DIED 26/9/2022, I WILL LEAVE BACK TO MY COUNTRY ISRAEL,
    PLEASE CANCEL OUR RESARVASION 090399642, THANK YOU IF YOU CAN MAKE A REFOUND.

    1. Dear Tamar,
      We are so sorry for your family’s loss.
      Unfortunately, we cannot cancel or modify reservations from this site. You will need to contact the tour company you originally booked with to receive a refund. The company name should be listed on your credit card receipt.
      Again, our deepest sympathies. We wish you a safe return to Israel. Hope you can come back to Arizona someday.
      Alley

  4. Hi! I have a permit for a group of 4. I submitted 3 names as alternate permit holders. 2 of the alternate permit holders won’t be able to come. Can I still invite 2 other people to come with me?

    1. Hi Casey,
      According to Recreation.gov, “Wave permits are non-transferable except for up to three specific people you list when applying for the lottery. These people are called “alternate permit holders”. If you win a permit and are stopped by a ranger on your hike to The Wave, either you or a listed alternate permit holder must be present with your group.” To me this implies that if you substitute 2 out of 3 people as your alternate permit holder, you should be OK as long as you and one of the original names on your alternate permit holder list are present.
      However, to be absolutely sure about this, I strongly recommend that you read the information packet that you received with your permit, or contact the BLM at BLM at (435) 688-3200 or the Page-Lake Powell Hub at 928-608-9749.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley

  5. I registered and confirmed my permit yesterday and submitted a list of names of the party. Today, I find out that one person can’t go and someone else wants to go instead. I’m the permit holder. Does the names of the rest of party matter? Thanks, Frank

    1. Hi Frank,
      Wave permits are non-transferable except for up to three specific people you list when applying for the lottery. These people are called “alternate permit holders”. If you win a permit and are stopped by a ranger on your hike to The Wave, either you or a listed alternate permit holder must be present with your group. If not, your group may be ticketed. Alternate permit holders must have an account on recreation.gov.
      If the person who canceled was not an alternate permit holder, a different person should be able to take their place without issue. To be 100% certain, you might call the BLM Visitors Center in Kanab, UT, at (435) 644-1300.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley

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