Can You Hike “The Wave” Without A Permit?

by Jan 2, 2020Arizona, The Wave, Utah

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!

Your best bet to win a permit for “The Wave” is to only use the walk-in permit lottery, apply during a weekday, and try for the off-season. Here’s a complete guide to getting a permit to “The Wave.”


Permit Guide



…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:


Hiking Buckskin Gulch from Wire Pass Trailhead

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.


Permit Guide



Resources for “The Wave”

Nick The Rambling Man

Nick The Rambling Man

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.

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