Know Before You Go: Essentials For Hiking The Wave

Ever since Windows 7 dropped a sexy set of desktop backgrounds, people have been flocking to The Wave, officially called Coyote Buttes, at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona.


Or at least they’ve been attempting to flock to The Wave. It is nature’s beautiful, yet delicate, piece of art. In order to keep it pristine, the Bureau of Land Management only issues 20 individual permits per day.


You can a) pay to play the online lottery months in advance or b) apply for a walk-in permit at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah. Whichever you choose, the odds aren’t in your favor. But if you are lucky enough to score a permit, you’re in for a grueling, rewarding hike through the Arizona desert.

With a vague map given to you by the Bureau of Land Management and a little intuition, you have to navigate your way through the Arizona desert to The Wave. Oh — and there isn’t a marked trail for you to follow.


What you take with you is essential to a pleasant and successful experience at The Wave. Should you be one of the few lucky ones to score that colorful ticket, this is what you should bring:


A 30L pack should do the trick. If you’re planning to bring camera gear where you’re setting up a tripod, switching lenses, and getting steady video shots, you may want to think about bringing a 45L or 50L pack.


Food For Coyote Buttes Hike

You’re going to spend six miles hiking to and from the wave. Depending on your routing skills, hiking speed, and how much time you actually spend exploring The Wave (there’s more out there than just this formation) you’ll be gone from six to eight hours. Bring trail food like some Nutella and banana sandwiches/burritos, dried mangoes, and (my favorite) Munkpack oatmeal squeeze packs. It’s hard to beat a Snickers in a pinch.


Proper Clothing

Wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots, good hiking socks, and breathable pants and shirt that wicks sweat well. Wear a hat or buff to protect yourself from the sun and wind. Be sure to pack some lip balm and sunscreen in your backpack too.

Camera To Capture ‘The Wave’

A camera phone or GoPro will do just fine. But if you know your way around a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you’re going to want to bring it. Pack as light as possible with a wide angle and a mid-range lens. Should you bring a tripod for a time lapse, make sure to put the rubber stoppers on so you don’t scar nature’s work of art.


Map Of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Only use the map the Bureau of Land Management gives you. Supposedly GPS readings get a little whacky with the metal in the rock, cairns aren’t reliable, the signs the Bureau of Land Management placed get turned around by jerks, and footsteps can lead you off a cliff.

The map you’re given is your treasure map with pictures and descriptions to lead you to the unburied treasure. Willy Wonka gave out golden tickets in his candy bars. The Bureau of Land Management gives out neon colored tickets to allow you to legally hike to The Wave.


Trail cameras are set up to monitor suspicious activity, volunteer patrolmen will rat you out to the local authorities, and the sheriff patrols the parking lot checking to see if you left a lime green ticket on your dashboard. If you’ve never been to The Wave, experience it like never before in this video.

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