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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 Kanab Center Gymnasium 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

165 Responses

  1. Hi! I won the lottery for The Wave and I’m choosing to use a guide service. Do I still need to do the orientation? Also, do I have to pick up permit in person? Thanks.

    1. Hi Sukh,
      Congratulations on getting a Wave permit! You’ll have a wonderful time, and hiring a guide will enable you to see and do so much more than going it alone.
      To my understanding, you must still pick up your permit in person at either the Kanab Center Gymnasium or the Page-Lake Powell Tourism Hub. Going to the safety briefing is also strongly encouraged. To get the best and most up-to-date information, I would recommend talking with your chosen guide service as they are sometimes able to serve as proxies for those unable to be at the designated locations by the appointed timeframe.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  2. It seems very unethical to rob people of their chance to see the wonders of the world by making them enter a lottery. What if you just never get chosen?

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      We totally understand your frustration with this process, but some areas are so ecologically unique and fragile that they warrant strict protections. The Wave is one of these areas. There are many people, present and past company included, who have tried for years in vain to obtain a Wave permit; others are fortunate enough to land one on their first entry. It just depends on luck of the draw.
      While there are no “tricks” or “hacks” to increase your chances of obtaining a Wave permit, odds are slightly better if you apply for one during either the dead of winter or the heat of summer. Granted, these seasons present certain hazards, which you must be fully prepared to face, but in general, there are fewer people competing for permits at these times of year.
      Another option? Fly over The Wave. Believe it or not, Coyote Buttes is NOT a no-fly zone. Fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters can be chartered out of the Page Municipal Airport (PGA), weather permitting, and possibly contingent on a certain number of passengers traveling. No bones about it, this will be a pricey way to go. Also, touring aircraft will not land at The Wave, but in the course of 60-90 minutes time in the air, you will get to see a ton of incredible scenery in addition to the Wave! For more information on flying over The Wave, visit our companion site, TheWaveAZ: So You Didn’t Get A Wave Permit – Now What?
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  3. This article is very interesting. I also want to visit Arizona. if I go there, of course I will get a very interesting experience. There are also a few attractions in the area near where I live, but none compare to the Wave Arizona. I hope one day I can visit Arizona.

  4. Is the reservation/application fee of $9 a one time fee?
    What I want to know is if I apply for the lottery and don’t get picked it say try again. So can I try the follow month under the same application request ?
    I understand the application is non refundable & I understand additional fee for each person’s tickets, no problem.
    However if I have to pay $9 every time just to throw my name in the hat and get nothing out of it it seems like legal extortion.

    1. Hey Kymberly,
      According to Recreation.gov:

      “A non-refundable $9.00 lottery fee is required for each lottery application.”

      I understand completely how frustrating it is to potentially spend a lot of money on a long-shot gamble. In the likely event you are not chosen for one of the few walk-in Wave hiking permits, you might consider another means to see it that doesn’t require a permit, but at least gives you some payoff for the money you’ll spend, and that’s to fly over it. Fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters depart out of the Page Municipal Airport daily, weather permitting and possibly contingent on a certain number of passengers traveling. While touring aircraft won’t land at The Wave, and yes, air touring can be a pricey way to go, you’ll get to see a ton of amazing scenery in addition to The Wave that you might have missed by going on foot. For more information, visit our companion site, TheWaveAZ.com: So You Didn’t Get A Wave Permit, Now What?
      Hope that helps. Please contact me directly at horseshoe.bend.az@gmail.com if you have further questions.
      Alley 🙂

    2. Yes, it’s $9 per every time you submit an application. I just got picked for the second time in about 3 years. First time I got picked (2019) was on my second try (when only 20 people a day we’re allowed). Just got picked again a couple days ago. I seem to have luck picking Mondays. It’s tough, I’ve heard people trying for nearly 10 years and finally got. Don’t give up hope it’s not impossible.

  5. Hello,
    We are traveling in the area in April, 22 to 25.
    Do you thing it is not too late to attempt the lottery today?
    We are a group of 4.
    And what is the new wave if we don’t get the chance to see the « real wave »?
    Best regards from France!
    Carine

    1. Hi Carine!
      Apologies for the delay in response to your inquiry.
      Wave hiking permits were given out for your time period in the online lottery held in January. Your only other option will be to apply for the in-person lottery, which is held 2 days prior to your desired hiking date. The procedure from years past has changed to a smartphone app-based application process. You must download the BLM app, submit an application provided you’re within a certain radius of The Wave, then if you are successful at obtaining a permit, show up at either the Page/Lake Powell Tourism Hub or the Kanab Center Gymnasium the day prior to your hike for a mandatory safety briefing.
      For more information on this, visit our companion site, TheWaveAZ: Self Guided Permits
      As to The “New” Wave, it is a small but interesting cluster of rock formations located near the Western flank of the Glen Canyon Dam. A permit is not required to visit, and the trail is relatively easy. You will find some formations resembling The Wave, and an interesting “bonus” in the form of Radio Tower Rock. Just be sure you’re not inadvertently parking in someone’s campsite as the trail is adjacent to the Beehive Campground. For more information, watch this video.
      If your travels happen to be taking you to Las Vegas, another area you might check out is the Fire Wave in the stunning Valley of Fire State Park.
      Best regards from Arizona – good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

        1. Hi Brad,
          To my knowledge, the leader of the party who applied for the permit is the only one legally required to attend the safety briefing, but all members of the group are encouraged to ensure full understanding of the rules. To know for certain, I would suggest you contact one of the two locations where the safety briefings are held, the Page/Lake Powell Hub in Page, AZ (928) 608-5749 or the Kanab Center in Kanab, UT, (435) 644-4333
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

    1. Hey Jasmine,
      Not usually. If there was a rain or snowstorm in the days prior to your Wave hike, you might encounter some temporary pooling of water in troughs, pockets, and other rock formations with a natural concave shape. However, I would not recommend drinking this water, and using it to cool off with is also cautioned against due to the potential presence of disease-causing microbes. If your hike is occurring during the warmer months of the year, a cooling scarf or towel should definitely be included in your backpack!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  6. Do you need a permit to go into antelop canyon….I would like to visit but I am just a last min person…can I just show up and be allowed to go in…thank you

    1. Hi Donna,
      The Antelope Canyons are situated on Navajo Indian Tribal Land. A guided tour is required to visit them, which should be reserved in advance. How To Book A Tour For Antelope Canyon If you just “show up,” there is no guarantee whatsoever that you would be allowed access to Antelope Canyon.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  7. When applying in the online lottery, do all of the names have to be listed, or just the primary applicant? If we receive a permit for 6 (we have a group of 10), can we substitute from other people in our group on “the day of” (depending on who is most excited), or are we locked in to what we wrote on the lottery application months before?

    1. Hi Steve,
      According to Recreation.gov (the site where you apply for Wave permits):

      You may select a max of 3 other people to act as alternate permit holders on your trip. Please enter a valid email address for each of the intended holders. They will receive an email and will need to validate within 72 hours. See Alternate Permit Holders for more information.

      Other group members’ names need not be submitted.
      To confirm 100%, call (435) 644-1300
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

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