Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Permit for 'The Wave'

Only 64 people per day are allowed to hike this Arizona landmark.

Aerial view of the Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona
Photo: Justin Reznick/Getty Images

As far as U.S. desert views go, it just doesn't get much better than The Wave — a colorful sandstone rock formation in Arizona that's been eroded by the wind to resemble an ocean wave. The site's exclusivity only adds to its allure. In order to protect the formation's fragile nature and provide visitors with a quality experience, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has long capped the number of daily permits.

Prior to 2022, only 20 permits (one permit per individual) were granted per day. Ten of those were granted in advance through an online lottery system, and the remaining 10 were given out in person at the visitors center in nearby Kanab.

Woman hikes through a Wave in Arizona
Getty Images

In response to demand — in some cases, 300 people apply for the day's permits — the BLM increased the number of available permits to 64, 48 granted through the advanced lottery and 16 granted through the daily lottery. With this change, it also did away with the in-person lottery that once notoriously took place in a small room early in the morning. Now, hikers can secure a permit two days before it's valid through the recreation.gov mobile app.

Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona
Getty Images

The Wave is located near the Utah-Arizona border in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The site can be found in the Coyote Buttes North section of the park and is accessible by foot only. There is no trail to The Wave, and visitors should prepare for a six-mile round-trip hike.

How to Enter The Wave Lottery

If you're planning a trip to Coyote Buttes several months in advance, you might be able to secure a permit to The Wave through the online lottery. The advanced lottery opens four months prior to the date of your prospective hike. If you wind up in the area unexpectedly or decided to go on a last-minute trip, rather, the "daily lottery" — the one held through the app — is your only shot.

To enter either lottery costs $9 per group. If you win the lottery, it's another $7 per person for the permit.

Entering the Advanced Lottery

To enter the online lottery for one of 48 permits, you must fill out the application on recreation.gov four months in advance. Applications remain open for one month. For example, applications must be filed in July for a trip in November.

The winners are announced around the first day of the month following the application window.

Entering the Daily Lottery

Permits granted through the daily lottery are offered two days in advance. These must be secured through the recreation.gov mobile app and can't be obtained with a desktop computer (so download the app ahead of time to avoid chewing up data while traveling).

Hopeful hikers must apply between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.; the results are announced at 7:15 p.m. the same day. You must claim your permit by 8 a.m. the following morning to confirm your spot.

For more information on permits, visit thewave.info.

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