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The Wave

Hike to the Desert Southwest's most famous photographic destination!

Hiking Difficult

11 km
446 m
446 m
2-3 hrs
Low Point
1.5 km
High Point
1.7 km
The Wave Map

The Wave is one of the most famous photographic destinations in the Desert Southwest! Merely glimpsing the flowing lines of sandstone evokes a sense of mystery and awe at the wonders of nature!


Popularized by the wallpaper released with the Windows 7 operating system, seemingly every traveler and outdoor photographer now has to check the Wave off their todo list. But despite the destination's relatively newfound popularity, the hike to reach it isn't manicured or easy. Covering 6.5 miles round-trip with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, most hikers can expect to dedicate at least half a day to trekking to the Wave and back.

Adding to the complexity of the hike is a lack of a defined trail. While there are a few small cairns along the way, don't expect a manicured, curated trail experience. Most writers advise that the trail is not marked at all. Despite a paper map given to you with your permit, the BLM does not provide any additional navigational help. So before you go, make sure you download this route offline in your FATMAP app and charge your phone battery to 100%!

The 6.5-mile trek through canyon country also demands that hikers be prepared for all manner of challenges common to the desert. In the summer, heats can be extreme. During other times of the year, rainstorms can cause flash floods to rush through the narrow canyons. Both of these hazards can—and have—proven deadly.

It seems that everyone wants to take their own photograph of the Wave, which has lead to a permitting system to reduce the impact on the area. Currently, only 20 people are allowed to access the Wave per day—10 via an online lottery, and 10 via an in-person lottery at the Visitor's Center in Kanab, Utah. Your chances of winning a permit in the lottery are shockingly bad. According to Josh Allen on BearFootTheory.com, "in 2018 alone, there were approximately 168,317 applicants, and with only 7,300 people allowed access, that's a 4.3% success rate."

While the Wave is now a world-renowned hiking destination, be sure to plan ahead. Try to get your permit online, prepare adequately for the challenges hike, and don't expect it to be easy just because it's popular!

Sources: https://www.thewave.info/ https://bearfoottheory.com/hiking-the-wave-in-arizona/ https://www.travelingmom.com/family-vacation-destinations/southwest-us-destinations/wave-hike-lifetime-arizona/



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Picturesque

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area