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The Wave

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

The Wave Trail, Kanab, AZ 84741, United States

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Colm
Local tour guide
"Visit The Wave early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the best lighting for photography—the sun hits the rock formations at an angle that really brings out the rich colors and textures. Also, make sure to apply for your permit well in advance as they are limited and often booked months ahead."

What is The Wave?

The Wave is a mesmerizing rock formation known for its undulating forms, brilliant hues, and the surreal, dream-like landscape it creates. Located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, the area straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. It's like nature's own gallery of contemporary art, with every swirl of sandstone acting as a masterpiece of geological history. It's not just a sight that can be glanced at; it's an experience that's walked upon, one that's felt underfoot and seen up close, where each step brings a different angle or a new play of light.

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History of The Wave

The Wave was formed by Jurassic-age Navajo Sandstone, approximately 190 million years ago. Initially, vast sand dunes compacted and solidified into rock, and over time, wind and water erosion sculpted the incredible formations we see today. The Wave wasn't widely known until the 1990s. It's said that in 1969, a pair of hikers stumbled upon this natural wonder while exploring the Coyote Buttes. Until then, it had been hidden in plain sight, known mostly to ranchers and a few intrepid adventurers. It wasn't until the rise of internet and social media that The Wave started to draw the eye of the public and became a sought-after destination for photographers and hikers alike.

A truly unforgettable story about The Wave deals with how it remained relatively obscure for so long. I've heard from old-timers around here that even some of the folks who'd walked this land for decades would often bypass this remarkable creation entirely, oblivious to the phenomenal sculpture that would one day capture the world's imagination. It's fascinating to think about what else remains to be discovered in these vast desert landscapes.

Why is The Wave Important?

The Wave is important for several reasons. Aesthetically, it's unparalleled. There are few places on earth where natural forces have conjured something so artistically intricate and beautifully colored. Geologically, it provides incredible insight into the Earth's history. The sweeping, striated layers tell a story of ancient environments that were once as unfamiliar as other planets. The Wave is also a testament to nature's endurance and change. It reminds us of the planet's age, the slow pace of natural processes, and the importance of conservation.

Moreover, for the local Indigenous people, such landscapes are sacred. They connect this physical space with their cultural histories, stories, and beliefs. The Navajo, for instance, see land as part of their identity. The delicate balance between preserving such precious places and making them accessible for people to appreciate is a debate that The Wave sits at the heart of, symbolizing the broader challenge of environmental stewardship.

Things to Do & See at The Wave

  • Photography: Capture the vibrant color variations and the striking interplay of light and shadow that change throughout the day. There is an endless array of angles and compositions for amateur and professional photographers alike.
  • Hiking: The hike to The Wave is a journey in itself. It's a moderate 6-mile round trip through rugged terrain that offers not only the destination but an incredible adventure along the way. Just remember that the trail isn't marked, so skilled navigation is required.
  • Educational Opportunities: Learn about the geology, local flora and fauna, and history. You might not see it at first glance, but the desert around The Wave is a vibrant ecosystem, home to a variety of life adapted to the harsh conditions.
  • Picnicking: There are few places more unique for a picnic, but remember to pack out what you pack in. It's all part of preserving The Wave for future generations to enjoy.
  • Guided Tours: To gain deeper insight into the area's history, ecology, and to ensure you're following the correct path, a guided tour can be invaluable. Plus, guides often share those little-known facts and stories that bring a place to life.
  • Sunrise or Sunset Views: Watching the sunrise or set at The Wave is a truly magical experience. The already surreal landscape seems to come ablaze with color, a view that's well worth the early morning or late evening trek.

This magnificent place has captivated the hearts of visitors around the world. But remember, visits to The Wave are limited to protect its fragile beauty. Permits are required and can be hard to obtain due to the lottery system in place, so planning ahead is crucial. As someone who's had the fortune to guide many through this land, I can say that each visit to The Wave is unique, and it never ceases to amaze.

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Frequently asked questions

What is The Wave?

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the Arizona-Utah border, characterized by its undulating forms, swirls, and rich red and gold colors.

How do I get a permit to visit The Wave?

Due to its delicate nature and popularity, access to The Wave is limited and managed through a lottery-based permit system. Permits can be obtained by applying online or by entering the walk-in lottery at the Kanab Center in Kanab, Utah.

What is the best time of year to visit The Wave?

The best time to visit The Wave is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) months when temperatures are mild. However, these seasons are also the most popular, so permits may be more competitive.

What should I bring for my hike to The Wave?

Visitors should bring plenty of water, sun protection, sturdy hiking shoes, snacks, a hat, a map or GPS, and be prepared for both the remote nature of the hike and the possibility of extreme weather conditions.

Are there guided tours available for The Wave?

Yes, there are several authorized tour companies that can take visitors to The Wave. These guided tours typically provide additional information about the area and may offer support in navigating the challenging terrain.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

The Wave Trail, Kanab, AZ 84741, United States

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps