The Wave

Coyote Buttes North

Zion + Bryce Canyon Area, Arizona

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The Wave


  • The remarkable erosion pattern at The Wave is the result of eolian (wind) cross bedding in the sandstone.- The Wave
  • A series of drainages funnel and capture the wind.- The Wave
  • Exploring in the shadows at The Wave.- The Wave
  • The erosion lines follow the directions of the predominate winds.- The Wave
  • The Wave, North Coyote Buttes Wilderness Area.- The Wave
  • Looking east across North Coyote Buttes at a mid-point in the hike.- The Wave
  • Looking north across North Coyote Buttes from near The Wave.- The Wave
  • High above The Wave.- The Wave
  • Looking northeast from an elevation above The Wave.- The Wave
  • Looking south toward South Coyotte Buttes.- The Wave
  • Folds in the sandstone.- The Wave
  • Water has created the troughs and low spots in the sandstone.- The Wave
  • Tadpole shrimp inhabiting a small pond near The Wave.- The Wave
  • A quick rest in the sandstone undualtions of The Wave.- The Wave
Overview + Weather
Remarkable geology. Undeveloped wilderness. Numerous nearby additional adventure opportunities.
Difficult to acquire a permit. Heat and sun exposure dangers.
Zion + Bryce Canyon Area, AZ
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
330.00 ft (100.58 m)
Parking Pass: 
Coyote Buttes North Permit
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,820.00 ft (1,469.14 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The Wave is a truly remarkable geological formation famous in outdoor and photography communities. Given the access restrictions to the area, the hype about this formation is immense; it is also completely justified. The Wave is a unique Navajo Sandstone rock formation dating to the Jurassic period. Early erosion occurred due to infrequent runoff, but it is now is almost exclusively wind driven. The result of this erosion is the exposure of spectacular eolian cross bedding in the sandstone, present as innumerable ridges and ripples. 

The Wave is located in North Coyote Buttes, which is a visitor use limited section of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness on the Arizona and Utah state line. Only 20 persons are allowed to enter the North Coyote Buttes area per day. Permits are awarded via two lottery systems, and 10 individuals are awarded permits from each: (1) an online lottery held four months in advance or (2) an in-person lottery held one day prior to the permit date. Current and detailed information on the lottery system can be found here.

The trek to the wave begins from Wire Pass Trailhead, but it follows no established trail. Rather, the route traverses mostly slickrock and sand terrain. The BLM does not place permanent signs or cairns in the wilderness, but it does provide a pamphlet with useful images and GPS coordinates. Still, good backcountry navigation skills are necessary. Even in "cooler" months heat can be oppressive given that the terrain is largely exposed to the elements. Between the extreme environmental conditions and the lack of any permanent water sources in the vicinity, it is recommended that you begin your adventure early in day.  

Numerous additional adventures are available in this area if a permit can not be obtained, including adventures in South Coyote Buttes, Wire Pass, and Buckskin Gulch. At times, travel on House Rock Valley Road will require high clearance and/or four-wheel drive. Check with BLM stations in the area to determine the latest road condition information.

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Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Nearby Adventures

(11 within a 30 mile radius)

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