There’s a good chance this red sandstone formation looks familiar to you. We’ll give you a hint: you may be thinking that this photo looks like a screensaver, and you aren’t too far off. In 2009, Microsoft offered a photo of The Wave as a desktop wallpaper option and since then, explorers from all over the world have set out to find it. Fortunately, it is a real place – located on the border of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah – that you can visit right here in the United States.
However, unfortunately for the type A trip planners, getting access to this particular hiking trail is a literal lottery. Not only do you have to apply months in advance to be granted access, but only sixty-four people are chosen at random to hike the trail each day. Today, we’re going to discuss the permit application process and what to expect should you be one of the lucky few!
Getting Your Hands on a Permit
As stated above, permits ARE required for this trail, and that’s not something worth gambling. If you’re found hiking the trail without a permit, that could cost you upwards of $100,000 and facing some jail time. So once again, don’t mess around when it comes to the permit.
To apply for a permit, travelers have two options: gamble online or gamble in person. There is an advanced online lottery gamble that can be found here. You’ll also find helpful resources such as a table that outlines the lottery for you so you can somewhat plan your trip. Applications are $9 each and this fee is non-refundable, even if you aren’t selected.
The other lottery you can opt to play is the in-person lottery in Kanab, Utah. Lastly, keep all of your fingers and toes crossed, you’ll need the luck. So.. what happens if you simply aren’t selected? Check out the Coyote Buttes South Permit; this area offers geologically similar hikes to The Wave.
Hiking the Wave
The Wave is a six-mile hike consisting of mostly sand and red rock, and the trail is considered moderate to elaborate, taking roughly 2 – 4 hours. Dogs are allowed on The Wave trail for an additional $7 per day.
It is highly recommended to hike this trail with the most recent map as well as basic knowledge of navigation. In efforts to preserve the wilderness, only 64 people are on this trail daily so there are no heavily marked trails, nor is there very much signage. To save some stress and ensure safety, hiring a guide is an option.
Let’s talk about recommended gear for hiking The Wave. Do NOT skimp on water, you will be experiencing harsh, dry desert heat so having enough hydration is key; make sure you have ample sun protection as well. Quality, comfortable hiking shoes are an absolute must, as well as bright clothing because not only will it make your pictures look super cool, but more importantly, if rangers do have to locate you, it’s much easier for them if you’re wearing bright clothing. Lastly, due to location, it’s incredibly hard to get cell service, so a GPS and some sort of communication device also come highly useful.