I’m grateful to be born in one of the most beautiful states in the country. I will admit this statement may be a little biased, but there’s a lot to back it up!
While many people’s first impression of Arizona is a hot, desert wasteland (they’re not completely wrong), the natural beauties of this state are plentiful. We have the well-known landmarks of the Grand Canyon and Sedona Red Rocks, but there’s also a plethora of lesser known, just as incredible sights: Havasupai Falls, Antelope Canyon, Kartchner Caverns.
A few years ago, I heard about another hidden gem; The Wave, a spectacular sandstone rock formation that is a result of centuries of sand and wind erosion dating as far back as the Jurassic age! The Wave is just one of the beautiful sites within the Navajo Country and Coyote Buttes southwest region that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah. Navajo Sandstone, as this geological area is called, is is known for spectacular rock formations and natural beauty.
One of the first things I learned was that it was extremely hard to get to, not only because of the rigorous 6-mile hike, but also because of the permit process. Sandstone is soft and easily damaged; only 20 people a day are allowed access. Given that this is an internationally known travel destination, with thousands of people seeking the opportunity to make this hike, the odds for entry are extremely low. According to Bureau of Land Management, in 2013 the chances of actually obtaining a permit were between 4%-8%, depending on the time of year.
There are two ways to obtain a permit to hike The Wave. The first is through the online lottery system – applicants must apply for a permit four months in advance, and pay a non-refundable fee of $7 (you can apply to your permit here). The second way is through a walk-in lottery – hopeful applicants must visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kenab, UT in person, and a drawing will be held for permits the following day.
So how did I get so lucky to obtain such an elusive permit? Well that was thanks to a very dedicated friend, Bryan Soto. Bryan is an avid outdoorsman and traveler and had been applying for permits for over a year. Finally, after trying and failing many times, luck was on his side and he was granted 4 permits for a Thursday in the beginning of June. (Read more of Bryan’s application process and experience on his blog – La Onda). With four permits in hand, Bryan and his girlfriend Marisol (AKA my Little Sis) were deciding who to bring along this adventure with them. Marisol suggested they take me and my partner, Oscar, along as a graduation gift to me.
All it took was a couple of text messages, and we were on board! Oscar and I requested the days off of work, booked our flights to Phoenix, and were ready for our adventure.
Oscar and I flew into Phoenix Wednesday night straight after work. Bryan and Marisol were there right when we landed, and we embarked on the four hour drive up to Page, Arizona. We spent the night in a local motel and woke up early in the morning ready for our hike. The trail head for The Wave was about an hour and a half drive away from Page – 40 minutes down the highway, and another 40 minutes down a dirt road. We finally arrived at our starting point at about 8:30am – and full disclaimer, this was already MUCH too late to start. We had hoped we would have started before the day got too hot, but the notorious Arizona heat had already started to settle in.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect on our hike, but the complete lack of a trail was not one of them. When Bryan obtained the permits, he was also sent a map of how to get to The Wave. The map entailed of photos of landmarks with notes on how to navigate. We were basically on our own when it came to figuring out how to get there, it’s no wonder that some people who embark on this journey never find the final destination. The Wave is hidden, I was expecting a simple walk to into a canyon, however it was a difficult hike up and down the Coyote Buttes with The Wave located in a small mountain range.
It took us about an hour and a half to hike the 3 miles to The Wave. If you are not an experienced hiker, I would NOT recommend this trail. It’s very easy to get lost, the heat is oppressive, and with only 20 people allowed each day, your chances of finding help are slim. However, if you’re up for the adventure and challenge, then the frustration of the permit process is totally worth it.
Finally the pathway opened up to The Wave. Cut out from centuries of sand and wind, we were surrounded by walls of orange-red rock that shone vibrantly in the mid-morning sun.
We were in awe of the beauty that was all around us. It was as if we were on another planet!
We spent about an hour and a half at The Wave – eating lunch, taking photos and taking in this beauty that we were privileged and blessed to see in person. Once we noticed that the sun had started to settle comfortably on top of us, we decided it was time to head back.
As difficult as the hike into The Wave was, it was nothing compared to the trek back. At 1:00pm, the sun was directly overhead and there was no shade in which we could take refuge. The lack of trail meant that we were backtracking against the landmarks we had used to guide us in. At one point, we hugged too close to a butte and on the way down we completely lost sight of where we were going. We spent about 30 minutes in the hot sun trying to figure out how to get back on track. We knew we were only about a mile away from our car and did our best to keep calm. Eventually Oscar, the master navigator and savior, found the way and we were back on track.
The Wave was by far one of the most difficult hikes I’ve been on. Although the terrain was fairly easy to climb and scale, the lack of a trail and the overwhelming heat made it extremely challenging. Despite the difficulties this was one of my most memorable hikes.
If this hike is on your bucket list, I highly recommend applying for a permit, getting your gear together, and waiting for your lucky day. I will always cherish this experience, knowing that I am one of the few people in the world who has gotten to witness this beauty first hand. I am forever grateful.
Con Mucho Amor,
Location: The Wave – Northern Coyote Buttes, Arizona/Utah Border
Dress: B.Yellowtail (Previous Collection)