What Happens When You’re Caught Hiking “The Wave” Without A Permit?

by Jan 5, 2020Arizona, Hiking, The Wave

Nothing good. That much I know!

Each year, there are over 170,000 permit applications by hikers for “The Wave” on the border of Utah and Arizona. Also each year, several people will try to hike to “The Wave” without a permit and will get caught by the BLM rangers or the local law enforcement. From there, the busted hikers will begin their whirlwind of penalities.

For those unfamiliar, “The Wave” is not your average hiking spot. Because of its competitive permits, “The Wave” is heavily monitored and guarded by the BLM. The BLM rangers and their staff have dealt with a plethora of techniques or tactics by hikers looking to sneak into “The Wave.” As a result, there are BLM rangers stationed around-the-clock (from what I have been told) regularly checking hikers for issued permits and reporting those who don’t. If you don’t have a permit for “The Wave” and you’re caught hiking without one, you’re in for a world of trouble.

The penalties for getting caught without a permit:

The penalties for getting caught hiking without a permit at “The Wave” vary depending by source.

From my own research and personal conversations with BLM staff, hiking “The Wave” without a permit can result in a $1,000-10,000 fine, a month in jail, and/or a permanent ban on applying for permits in the future.

In addition, getting caught without a permit can result in long-lasting consequences with the BLM and National Park Service. I was told during a call with the BLM that’s individuals who are caught without a permit can also be convicted of trespassing on a federal level and can be banned from not just the BLM-managed areas parks but all of the National Parks as well.

In a nutshell, getting caught hiking “The Wave” without a permit is a serious crime and can have long-lasting effects outside of the initial fine and jail time.

Hiking “The Wave” without a permit: worth the risk?

As mentioned before, hiking “The Wave” without a permit and getting caught can land you in serious trouble with the BLM and local law enforcement.

In my opinion, hiking “The Wave” without a permit is just not worth the risk.

I don’t know about you, but a fine of $1,000-10,000, jail time, and potentially a permanent ban on BLM parks and National Parks is not worth seeing or hiking “The Wave”. I just don’t think it’s being worth breaking the law over. But that’s just me!


Permit Guide


My personal experience with the rangers at “The Wave”

During my last visit to “The Wave,” I spoke with the local BLM ranger on duty and picked his brain on how “The Wave” is guarded at the trailhead, on the trail, and at “The Wave” itself.

While the BLM ranger I spoke to is just one ranger and not an official BLM-issued policy, he explained to me that a ranger is stationed at “The Wave” all day and night where they regularly check hikers for their permits and survey the land for people sneaking around them. In addition, a ranger is placed randomly on the trail and/or at the trailhead itself checking for permits and people sneaking in.

If you’re caught hiking to “The Wave” without a permit by one of the rangers, all it takes is a call and police will show up with handcuffs.

As mentioned before, this was told to me by one ranger and is not the official stance or policy of the BLM (as far as I could tell).

Either way, it’s not smart to hike to “The Wave” without a permit-odds are the rangers will catch you. They’re not stupid!


Hiking “The Wave” without a permit and getting caught is a serious offense that can land you in a world of trouble. While the fines and penalties vary by source, getting caught can cost up to $10,000 in fines, a month in jail, and potentially a permanent ban from the BLM and the all of the National Parks. Totally not worth the risk!

If you’re thinking about hiking “The Wave” without a permit, the penalties are just not worth getting caught over.

Put simply: don’t be a jackass! Apply for a permit through the online lottery or the in-person lottery.

If you’re not interested in dealing with applying for permits, check out some of the other places and hikes near “The Wave” in southern Utah or Northern Arizona.

Some of the neighboring spots of “The Wave” include:

Additional resources


Happy hiking!

Kirsten Chesney

Kirsten Chesney

Kirsten is the owner of a functional nutrition company named "CustomCare Nutrition." Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, she is a nutrition and fitness advocate who loves hiking, climbing, and backpacking.

You Might Also Like


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This