No. Don’t Even Think About It.
That should pretty much sum it up right there. “The Wave” is an absolutely incredible sandstone feature located in the Coyote Buttes North area on the border of Utah and Arizona. It’s known for having an extremely competitive permitting process that is done through both an online lottery system and an in-person walk-in application.
We know the lottery and permit process for “The Wave” is frustrating- especially if you tried to win permits several times without luck. But there is a good reason for the lottery and regulation of the Coyote Buttes North area. For one, the sheer number of applications received each year is insane. In fact, “The Wave” saw 170,000 permits applications for the year’s 7,300 allocated permits in 2017 alone.
On average, we’ve seen anywhere from 500 to 800 people per day apply for permits in the slowest month of the year.
If you opened up the floodgates and disbanded the lottery system, “The Wave” would be completely overrun. This area within Coyote Buttes North is extremely fragile. Just walking around “The Wave” you can physically see the wear-and-tear hikers and photographers have caused on the floor and walls of the canyon. In order to protect this beautiful and fragile area, the lottery and restriction of just 20 visitors per day is a necessary evil.
If You Get Caught Without A Permit At “The Wave…”
While the actual penalty varies between sources, a visit to “The Wave” without a permit can result in a $1,000-10,000 fine, a month in jail, and a permanent ban on applying for permits in the future.
And sneaking out there isn’t as easy as you think. The last time I personally visited, a BLM Ranger was stationed at the entrance to “The Wave” and was checking each hiker’s permits. In addition, there have been other reports that BLM Rangers are also stationed on the return hike from “The Wave” waiting for unsuspecting trespassers with handcuffs and a line to the local police.
As tempting as it is, don’t hike or visit “The Wave” without a permit. Your Instagram story is not worth the fines and jail time.
Don’t Be A Jackass- Apply For A Permit…
While applying for a permit for “The Wave” through the online lottery or the in-person lottery is challenging, it can be done!
…Or Find Something Else To Do Instead Of “The Wave”
If you are unsuccessful in winning a permit through the online lottery or in-person lottery, you shouldn’t lose sleep over it. The area surrounding “The Wave” is unbelievable on its own and houses miles of incredible hiking, backpacking, and Microadventuring. Some of the neighboring spots from “The Wave” include:
- Buckskin Gulch: less than 10 minutes away
- The “Toadstools” : less than 20 minutes away
- White Pocket: less than 30 minutes away
- Zion National Park: about an hour and a half away – learn more about hikes in Zion
Buckskin Gulch is literally on the way to “The Wave” and is the longest slot canyon in the world.
Sneaking into “The Wave” is something that you should absolutely not do. There is a high probability that a BLM Ranger will catch you since they are constantly on the lookout for trespassers and hikers without permits. Getting hit with a $1,000-10,000 fee and jail time is not worth an Instagram story. Please go through the proper channels when thinking about visiting “The Wave” and apply for a permit.
Resources for “The Wave”
- What happens if you get caught without a permit
- The odds of getting a permit for “The Wave”
- How to apply and win a permit to “The Wave”
- More information about applying for a permit for Coyote Buttes from the BLM
- The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center for the in-person permit lottery
- The online lottery for permits through the BLM
- Other things to do if you don’t get a permit to “The Wave”
- Backpacking and hiking guide for nearby Buckskin Gulch
- Hiking guide for the nearby Toadstool trail
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.