Tips on winning the lottery and hiking the Wave in Arizona

Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

A few  years ago, when we first saw the picture of the Wave (a sandstone rock formation), we were totally enthralled and mesmerized by it’s beauty. And why not? It has been ‘secretly famous’ for years among hikers and photographers for its colorful, undulating forms, and the rugged, trackless hike required to reach it. We wondered to ourselves that could a place like that really exist or was it merely a photography trick? Any which ways, we were hooked and decided that our next trip would be hiking the Wave in the North Coyote Buttes of the Paria Canyon/ Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

However visiting the Wave was easier said than done! From navigating the lottery permits, to the actual hike, there were a lot of things to deal with. Here are 4 tips that we learned from our experience, that can hopefully help you plan your trip better.

1. Winning the Wave lottery/permit:

The first thing needed to visit the Wave is a permit, and they are notoriously difficult to obtain (a massive understatement!) The Wave lottery is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and due to the overwhelming popularity of the site, the BLM limits the foot traffic to only 20 people per day.  During the high season, around 300-400 people apply everyday, you do the math on your chances of getting the lottery 🙂

Nevertheless you need a permit ($1200 fine otherwise) and you can get it in 2 ways:

  • Advanced Online Lottery: 10 online permits are drawn per day, 3 months in advance by the BLM. Applications for the online lottery open at 12pm Mountain time on the 1st of the month, four months prior to your desired hiking month.
  • WhereBLM  Coyote Buttes North lottery page
    We tried getting the online permit for about 6+ months, with no luck.
  • Walk-in Lottery: If you are not lucky in the online lottery (like us), you can always try the walk-in lottery. 10 permits are drawn in an in-person lottery everyday at the visitor center for the next day.
  • Where: Walk-in lottery is held at 9am the day before at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab.
    Be sure to reach there 30 minutes early so that you can get parking and can enter your name in the lottery. The lottery drawing starts sharp at 9.00am, and of course you don’t want to miss entering your name 😉 There’s a 50-50 chance you might or might not get it and if you are not lucky, there are lot’s of interesting nearby places to explore.
  • Wire Pass Slot Canyon
  • White Pocket
  • Buckskin Gulch
  • Pink Sands National Monument

After failing to get the online lottery, we decided to make a special trip to try our luck. We did not get it on the first day, but the 2nd time proved to be the charm and it was a sweet sound to hear our names being called at the visitor center.

Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

2. Go during the hot season

Summertime temperatures can easily reach over 100 F. The sandstone and red rocks absorbs this heat and radiates it, making the temperature on the ground even hotter. But on a positive note, there are more chances of scoring a permit. We went in August, the hottest month, but did manage to get permits. Other favorable time to try your luck might be January, which is also considered an off-time to visit.Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

3. Make sure to take a GPS

There are no established trails in Coyote Buttes. Since this is a wilderness area, not many signs are used, in order to preserve the area’s wild and remote character. Because of this, it is extremely easy to get lost. And everything around looks the same! We had a group along with us, who got lost and hiked for 3+hours before they chanced upon us and accompanied us back. You already have a long day of hike, so don’t take any chances and add on to it.Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

4. Start early and take loads of water

The trail is 5.2-mile round trip and considered reasonably doable. However extreme temperatures can make desert hiking very strenuous and dangerous. Make sure you have lots of water, Gatorade, salty snacks and food with you. We started early – we arrived at dawn at the trail head. As we planned to spend the entire day over there, we packed lunch with us, which we savored overlooking an amazing view 🙂

Wave, Paria Canyon, North Coyote Buttes, Vermilion Cliffs

Our trip to the Wave has been amazing! It is unlike any other place we have ever travelled to! The beauty that surrounds you is so striking, so unique, it is just beyond words! More than worth all the effort that goes into planning it.

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