The Wave, UT, USA


27 November 2018


TIME: 8 Hours 55 Minutes

I titled this post "The Wave", but I'm really going to be talking about North Coyote Buttes as a whole. I also recommend that if you're in the area and are unable to get permits for the Buttes that you consider exploring White Pocket. The former is a world-famous site and requires a permit that is notoriously difficult to get while the latter is considerably more difficult to get to but requires no permit at all.

Mallory and I attended two drawings for Wave permits. The first time we went was the day after Thanksgiving. We thought we'd have a better chance because it was the day after a major holiday and because they draw for three days on Fridays. The visitor center isn't open on weekends, so they draw for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday on Friday. That meant that instead of 10 permits, there were 30 permits available. We liked our odds until we saw the full overflow parking. The way it works is that each party submits a single application with each member's name listed on it. One application per party. If you cheat, you're disqualified. Well there were 145 applications representing 398 hopefuls, which tied the all-time record for applicants in a single drawing. Ten individual permits are awarded per day, so if a party of six is drawn, then another party of six. The second party of six can only send four members. If they're unwilling to do that, then they pass and those four permits remain available. Friday was a shitshow. I really had no desire to deal with that fiasco more than a few times. We went in yesterday and were pleasantly surprised to find just 34 applications representing a reasonable 70 people. Though there were only 10 permits available yesterday, our odds were considerably higher, nevermind that the process was far less stressful. We were the first number drawn, and that was that. Since they always do the drawing for the following day, we had the rest of yesterday to research the area and come up with our game plan.

There wasn't much point to getting a pre-dawn start, since the best light at Coyote Buttes North tends to be better between late morning and late afternoon. We car camped in Kanab last night and enjoyed a cup of coffee and indoor plumbing before heading for the trailhead. We began the short trek a few minutes after 0900. It seems that everyone talks about The Wave, but there is so much more to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Don't get me wrong, The Wave was my favorite part. I'm just saying that there are many other beautiful features to explore, and they're worth the extra effort.

The hike out to the Wave is something like three miles, and it's a pretty in walk in and of itself. The Wave was the first major feature that we came to, and we spent as much time there as we could before more hikers arrived. It's a relatively small space, so it becomes crowded quickly as more and more of the twenty permit holders show up. From there, we sought out The Alcove, Melody Arch, and Second Wave. Ended up spending the entire day out there. Came back to The Wave for some soft evening light before hiking out as dark set in. It was amazing. What a special place. (I also highly recommend visiting Flame Arch, which is near the parking area at Wire Pass but does not require a permit!)