First Off, What Is “The Wave?”
“The Wave” is arguably one of the most famous geological features in both Arizona and Utah. “The Wave” is located in the Coyote Buttes North area, just west of Page, Arizona, and east of Kanab Utah and is managed by the BLM. For those unfamiliar, “The Wave” is comprised of two U-shaped troughs of sandstone on a small mesa within the Coyote Buttes North area. The area itself is quite small, only 118 feet long and 62 feet wide– which is where the permitting process comes into play.
Because of the small area of “The Wave” itself and the huge popularity of tourists, photographers, and Microadventurers, a permit system was created by the BLM to control the number of visitors (and potential damage) “The Wave” receives. The permit system is lottery-based and is extremely competitive: Only 20 permits are issued per day- 10 reserved for the online lottery and 10 for the in-person lottery. That’s it!
“The Wave” saw over 170,000 permit applications for just 7,300 available permits in 2017.
Yeah, it’s competitive.
The Odds Of Getting A Permit To “The Wave”
According to the BLM, if you’re entering the online lottery, your odds during the high-season (April-June and September-November), are 4-5%. For the off-season months of August and January, historically your odds of getting a permit are 8% and 25% respectively.
But there are times when your chances are higher! When we looked for dates in February 2020, there were 1,885 applicants for the 580 available permits. That translates to over 30% odds for getting a permit to “The Wave.”
The key is to watch the online permit portal for “The Wave” to see what days of the month have a low number of applicants and apply for those days.
For in-person permits, your odds of getting a permit to “The Wave” go up dramatically. While we didn’t take stock of our odds when we applied for in-person permits in December 2018, The Wandering Wheatleys estimated that their in-person lottery odds were about 10% during their March 2017 attempt.
At the same time, we’ve personally heard from the BLM that in-person odds range from 15-25% depending on the time of year and how many people apply for permits at the same time. Either way, the in-person lottery is higher on average than the online lottery system.
Getting permits to “The Wave” is a competitive process. With odds from 4-25% historically, it is challenging but possible. Like all lotteries, “you can’t win if you don’t play!” And the more you play, the more likely you are to win.
Resources For “The Wave”
- How to get permits for “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.