Laura Stull

Hang Ten: The Wave in Northern Arizona

Laura Stull
Hang Ten: The Wave in Northern Arizona

The Wave in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona has been on my bucket list for well over a decade. With blind optimism, I've gambled time and again on the advance online lottery to no avail. After we shifted our itinerary toward the sunnier skies of Utah and Arizona, the faint possibility of obtaining a coveted day-use permit once again crossed my mind.

In order to preserve this fragile sandstone formation, the Bureau of Land Management offers access to only 20 people a day. Ten of those permits are awarded in an advance online lottery, and the remaining ten permits are awarded to a few lucky participants of the walk-in lottery. Hoping to snag two next-day permits, we arrived bright and early at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah, to enter the walk-in permit lottery, only to find 150 people crowding through the entryway. After a brief introduction by a BLM ranger, we filed into the official lottery room and filled out our forms. Against 55 other groups and highly unlikely odds, we were shocked and ecstatic to hear "Number 15" called, awarding us two permits into Coyote Buttes-North. 

The next day, we drove our 4x4 Jeep rental through the pouring rain to the trailhead. Following directions on a photographic map provided by the BLM, we trekked a misty 3 miles through drainages and across striated rock toward the iconic Wave. Despite the drizzle, we were immediately awestruck by the undulating ripples in the rock. As rain cascaded down the walls of the canyons around us, we hid under overhangs and waited for clear moments to race out and take photographs. 

With limited time and worsening weather, we weren't able to enjoy The Wave as long as we'd hoped. We will absolutely try our luck in future lotteries and revisit this unbelievable place!