The Wave Revisited Again
An archive image of the Wave from February of 2008. I reprocessed the 3 images in HDR.
The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in the United States of America near the Arizona and Utah border on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, on the Colorado Plateau.
The Wave is made of Jurassic-age Navajo Sandstone that is approximately 190 million years old. Scientists who study The Wave say that the old sand dunes turned into hard compacted rock over the ages. “The dunes have calcified in vertical and horizontal layers over the years,” says Spencer Weiner, geologist, in an article about The Wave in the Los Angeles Times. Erosion by wind and rain has created the spectacular landscape which appears now.
The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, which contains The Wave, is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A permit from the BLM is required to visit The Wave.
The BLM limits access to the North Coyote Buttes Wilderness Area to just twenty permits per day. Ten of the permits are available in advance by reservation, and the remaining ten are made available by lottery the day before at the nearest ranger station. The lottery for the walk-in permits takes place at 9:00 in the morning. Spring and autumn are the most popular times of year to visit.
The trail begins at Wire Pass Trailhead, about 8.3 miles (13.4 km) south of US 89 along House Rock Valley Road, a dirt road about 18.6 miles (29.9 km) west of Page, Arizona that is accessible to most vehicles in good weather. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Wire Pass Trailhead includes a wide parking lot with restrooms, but no water. It is also accessible from the Arizona side by taking U.S. Highway 89A from Jacob Lake on the Kaibab Plateau towards Navajo Bridge on turning north onto the House Rock Valley Road soon after descending from the Kaibab. This is a much longer access route over dirt road than from the Utah side.
From the Wire Pass Trailhead, The Wave can be reached by hiking approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) across open desert, making the round-trip to and from The Wave a nearly 6 miles (9.7 km) hike that climbs about 350 feet (110 m) in altitude. Temperatures in this area typically climb above 100 ℉ (37.8 ℃) in the summer, so it is best to start the hike early. Anyone attempting the hike in any season is wise to be prepared for harsh desert conditions, including fierce winds, blowing sand, and little shade.
The Wave is not easy to find. In an effort to maintain the natural integrity of the region, there is no formal trail to The Wave. Most hikers are guided to The Wave either by GPS or a prominent landmark known as "the Black Crack," which is widely visible within the Coyote Buttes region. The Wave lies directly below the Black Crack. Hikers must choose their own route across the open desert, which requires traversing exposed sandstone, sand dunes, and sandy wash bottoms. It is not uncommon for hikers to get lost and never find The Wave.