The Wave Trail

MODERATE 21 reviews

The Wave Trail is a 6.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kanab, UT that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

6.1 miles 1144 feet Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

views

wild flowers

rocky

The Wave Route Walk across the road, to the east, and locate the hikers path. Sign in at the register box and read pertinent information. Soon the path drops into a wash. Walk down the wash (east) for .6 miles. Look for the signed path of use on the right side, above the wash, exiting Wire Pass Wash. Hiking becomes steep for the next few hundred yards, as an old 4WD road is followed to the top of the ridge and to the second register box. Once again, stop and sign in at the register. Shortly after leaving the register box, there may be an indication that the trail splits. Taking the left-hand fork is easier traveling. It continues east and passes large rock domes on the flats below. After passing the domes, the trail soon drops into a wash. It will be necessary to cross the wash and approach the slickrock ridge to the east of the wash. Continue to the east, up and over the slickrock ridge. Once on top, work down the east side (backside) of the ridge, but start bearing to the south (hikers right), and stay as high as it is comfortable, on the steep slopes of the ridge on the right. Landmarks to locate the Wave Vertical Crack or Notch Looking south, a large slickrock mountain comes into view. There is a long, vertical crack in the mountain. This crack becomes the landmark to steer toward for the next mile. The Wave is located beneath the mountain with the crack. On the way, remember to stay as high as comfort allows, hugging the sandstone slabs on hikers right. The Wave landmark - Notch Twin Buttes As travel continues south, two large buttes come into view. These are called the Twin Buttes, and come almost halfway through the hike. They are easier passed by walking up the slickrock bowl and going around the right side. A wash is encountered .5 miles after rounding the Twin Buttes. Multi-colored Domes Peer across the wash and notice the multicolored domes on the opposite side of the wash. These and the less obvious sandstone formations to the right are the Wave. Walk down into the wash, locate the dead juniper tree and the sandy path that leads up to the Wave. The Wave The area called Top Rock, is a collection of white Navajo sandstone formations. The south end of Top Rock divides North and South Coyote Buttes. The Wave is a chasm located on the northwest edge of Top Rock. The Wave is about .04 miles south of the Arizona and Utah state line. Top Arch Most hikers never venture this far past the Wave. This section involves third class scrambling. Only those experienced in slickrock scrambling should attempt to go to the arch and beyond. Continue up the sandstone, heading toward the right. Locate the arch at the top of the mountain. Find the easiest path to travel up the steep slickrock. The arch is approached from the backside of the mountain. From the arch, the red cones of South Coyote Butte are visible. Alcove This hidden treasure is rarely found by hikers. To locate the alcove, return the way you approached the arch. This time stay to the left, hiking over crossbedded sandstone. In the alcove, fine grains of sand have been tossed and turned, wielded by wind, leaving a sculptured creation carefully piled in its bowels. Melody Arch - Grotto - Window From the alcove, scramble up and left of the alcove to attain the top. Once on top, travel southeast, following the maze of ridges and desert tanks, staying as high as possible. Steer toward the eastern edge of the cap rock. Soon a chasm appears in front. Look down and into the grotto that contains the window and Melody Arch. Backtrack far enough to find an easy route down into one of the tanks, scramble out the backside and slide down into the Melody Arch Grotto. Dinosaur Tracks From the Wave: The small reptile tracks are on the other side of the wash, opposite of the Wave. To locate them, cross back over the wash and travel up to the level ground on the north side of the wash. Rather than retracing the return path back to Wire Pass parking, hike to the west. Stay against the steep slickrock mountain, as high as possible. The Wave can actually be seen from the tracks. The GPS coordinates given are to one track. Look around to locate many more, within 100 yards. Many of the tracks are found at the base of the steep slickrock slab to the north, and are in pinkish colored rock, just before the slabs become seemingly impossible to ascend. The footprints appear to be from small bipedal dinosaurs, most likely Grallator (Megapnosaurus) and Anomoepus.

26 days ago

3 months ago

Most amazing hike I've ever done! What a fantastic gem on our beautiful Earth!!

hiking
3 months ago

A must hike for any hiking aficionado! The Wave is considered one of the most spectacular hikes in the world!

hiking
3 months ago

Our first nonguided trail happens here in July. Get a lot of water and cover with extra skin. Finding the route is not an issue neither the hike itself, but be prepared for the heat if you are visiting around the same time.
Bring a GPS can be helpful, but you can find the route with guiding photos handy.

hiking
6 months ago

Worth the work involved in getting a permit. It was like nothing I've ever seen.

hiking
8 months ago

The wave is not in Kanab the BLM office for the lotto permit is if you don't apply online. Absolutely stunning! Bring plenty of water. Even in March I went through nearly 2 liters. Also, hiking in sand is hard. I'm used to mountain trails and I think maybe I'd take one with an incline over sand anyday lol but seriously it is completly worth it. Make it a 2 day trip and hit wire pass to buckskin gulch. It's also amazing

hiking
9 months ago

Outstanding!!

hiking
9 months ago

The wave was amazing and there is so much more to see. Second wave, Sand Cove Canyon, Boneyard, Dinosaur tracks, High Heel Arch. Spent the whole day and loved every minute.

1 year ago

Amazing hike . Scenery is amazing, even more so on a rainy day, when all colours come even more alive. Will have to do it again though - hiked it on Nov.4, 2015, took hundreds of pictures, but lost my camera memory card on the plane on way home. If anyone hiked the trail that day and would be so kind to share pictures with me, I would be so grateful.

1 year ago

Amazing! Definitely explore behind the wave and go further into the canyon if you are comfortable with navigation. There are arches and windows on the other side of the wave that are beautiful. Get your permit in advance.

hiking
1 year ago

I didn't realize there was a permit lottery until a week before I got there. I did end up getting one the second time I tried but if you can plan in advance it will save you a lot of hassle!

hiking
1 year ago

It was absolutely breathtaking all around from start to finish - we loved it!!!

1 year ago

1 year ago

hiking
2 years ago

Simply awesome. I won a coveted permit to the Wave back in June for a September hike. It is a moderate hike and we had a beautiful day. It is everything I had hoped for and all of the amazing pictures you see are true. It had rained heavily two days before our hike so we were worried about the trailhead being passable. The day we went a 4x4 was required - no regular passenger car would have been able to get through. Be sure to check in with the BLM about conditions on or before the day you are going to set out there. The lucky thing about the rain is that it created some beautiful pools at the Wave and some really large pools in surrounding areas which even a BLM patrol person that we ran into said was uncommon. They were actually pretty deep. Made for some great pictures.

For a few tips - 1) if you are able to plan, I would shoot for trying to hiking in the fall or spring. I would be hesitant to hike this in the summer as there is absolutely no shade and the desert sun can be unforgiving. Additionally, the rocks soak up the heat so even with 3+ liters of water, I could imagine being miserable hiking the few miles out to the rock formation.

#2- Have awareness about your route going as well as coming back. There are two trail markers but you must use natural landmarks to find your way to the Wave. After awhile, many rock formations begin to look the same and it is very easy to get confused or lost. After you have walked for awhile, turn around and take a picture of the view that you will see on your return. It will look completely different coming back than going.

Lastly #3 - There is a bit of sand to cross but the majority of time you are on rock. Also note that there are a few inclines and times where you will be hiking downhill on smooth rock, so if you have trouble with your knees and /or find walking sticks accommodating, you might consider bringing them.

If you have the opportunity to hike to the Wave, do it. It is one of a kind.

hiking
2 years ago

Simply spectacular -- as others have said, a must-hike, bucket-list destination. After applying for permits for about 18 months, we secured 4 for 1-14-14, a picture-perfect day of sunshine, little-to-no wind and temps in the low 60s. The hike is in the open, so 62 seemed perfect, if not a tad on the warm side. I would not recommend hiking this trail in the summer!

The 8.3 mile dirt road to the trailhead is rough...really rough. We saw a sedan in the parking lot, so it's obviously doable in a regular passenger car, but there were deep ruts that would be better suited to a high-clearance vehicle.

About the trail...the BLM makes it easy to find your way to the wave, with a map listing GPS coordinates and showing photos of what you should see at each waypoint. Also, some nice folks chalked arrows in some spots to mark the way, and there were a few cairns. BE FOREWARNED...getting back is much more difficult. Much of the trail is in sand (great because you can follow the footprints) but even more of the trail is across solid rock, and the cairns/arrows are few and far between -- and easily missed even when you're very close to them. I wish I had thought to take pictures at each waypoint in the reverse direction, and mark them accordingly. Even with the map and a GPS unit, we got off trail and spent a bit of time finding our way. Fortunately, we got back to our vehicle with plenty of sunlight left, but it was disturbing to see how easy it can be to get lost, even for experienced hikers.

That said, the trail is not difficult, though I was surprised to find so much sand, which was sort of hard to walk in at times. The Wave itself is spectacular. A couple of hikers on their way out told us it was disappointingly small, but we found it to be everything it was cracked up to be and then some.

hiking
2 years ago

Beautiful hike! We went in December. It was cold and cloudy most of the way. It must have rained recently because the wave had a decent sized puddle. It made great reflections. For photography you want to pack a variety of lenses but wide angle is most important. Yes it's worth the trouble packing it in! I've tried for about 4 years to get permits... finally we got them by getting the daily draw. So we only knew a day in advance.
On our way back we hiked the mountain to the west to see the lace rocks. They were also amazing!
This one was on my life time list :) . I'm thrilled to finally get to go.

hiking
5 years ago

I went with a couple of cousins and their spouses to take photos of the famous wave. Since they had a free spot they decided to invite me. The trail was not very easy to follow. We primarily relied on waypoint and gps to get there. This made the hike exciting because unlike other longer hikes I have been to, this one was not a clear cut path.
Although the hike is mainly dessert panoramas, it was comfortable to do because we went in early February. Our hike was cold and we had to keep reminding each other to drink water. Traces of ice could be seen on the hills and at the Wave.
We had the entire trail to ourselves for no one else showed that day. While it was a welcome rest from the usual National Parks hikes that I have enjoyed in the past, Hiking in such a lonely area can be as dangerous as it was wonderful. On the way back we were spooked and excited when we saw what we believed to be fresh bit cat paw prints (textbook cougar paw prints).
The wave was as nice as the many photographs seen in the internet. Sometimes I think some of the pictures I have seen are better than the real thing. Yet it was still a marvel to witness such order created in the middle of nowhere.
The adventure, uncertainty, and fellowship along the hike were the main part of the trip. I took hundreds of photos on behalf of my wife who is the real photographer and could not go. I got lucky and a few came out ok.

hiking
6 years ago

This is a must hike for anyone who is within a million miles of this out-of-the-way spot on the Utah-Arizona border. But when you find out that you need reservations and they only allow 20 people per day (counting pets) to go there, it takes some planning just to pull it off.

Internet reservations take 10 spots with the other 10 spots assigned by lottery one day prior to the intended hike. I made my reservations on the internet three months prior, which is the standard lead time.

Although most of the hike is done without a trail, the printed directions are veery easy to follow. But keep your party together unless each person has their own printout and a GPS unit! I wasn't that smart. I got too far ahead of my hiking partner and he got lost two times because I had the map!

When you do get to The Wave you may not want to leave! It's that intriguing. I doubt that there is another place like this on the face of the Earth! It was three years waiting for me and three months after finally getting the permit. But it is worth the wait. You will find plenty of pictures of The Wave on the internet, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, I can't tell you how many pictures it would take to capture the beauty of The Wave! It's so beautiful they should make you check your boots at the entrance!

Also, apparently the local people and Americans in general don't know about The Wave because during the day we were there, of the seven people we had conversation with, six were from Germany!


hiking
6 years ago

The Wave
3659.738N
11200.358W
Elevation: 5200′
Distance from parking lot: 2.75 miles

The Wave is located on the Colorado Plateau, near the Utah and Arizona border. The area is a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms and other odd creations. Deposits of iron claim some of the responsibility for the unique blending of color twisted in the rock, creating a dramatic rainbow of pastel yellows, pinks and reds.

Paria Canyon contains the spectacular Coyote Buttes Special Management Area. The notorious sandstone buttes sit at the bottom of Utahs Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the upper section of Arizonas Paria Canyon -Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness area.

Permits: Day use only. Cost is $5 per person. Limited to 6 people in a group. Each group constitutes one permit. No more than 20 individuals will be allowed daily access into this area 10 from walk-in permits and 10 from submitted applications. Walk-in permits are available by applying in person for next-day hikes. From mid-March to mid-November permits will be issued at the Paria Contact Station. From mid-November to mid-March, the Paria Contact Station is closed and permits are issued at the Kanab Field Office.

Trail Distance: 5.5 miles to the Wave and back.

8 miles round trip from the Wire Pass parking lot to the Wave, Top Rock Arch, alcove, Melody Arch, dinosaur tracks and back.
Average hiking time: 6 hours round-trip to the Wave. 8 hours for the Wave, arches, alcove and dinosaur tracks.

Dinosaur Tracks GPS

3659.860 N
11200.650 W.
From the Wave: The small reptile tracks are on the other side of the wash, opposite of the Wave. To locate them, cross back over the wash and travel up to the level ground on the north side of the wash. Rather than retracing the return path back to Wire Pass parking, hike to the west. Stay against the steep slickrock mountain, as high as possible. The Wave can actually be seen from the tracks. The GPS coordinates given are to one track. Look around to locate many more, within 100 yards. Many of the tracks are found at the base of the steep slickrock slab to the north, and are in pinkish colored rock, just before the slabs become seemingly impossible to ascend. The footprints appear to be from small bipedal dinosaurs, most likely Grallator (Megapnosaurus) and Anomoepus.