So you didn't get a permit for The Wave. Now what?

***WARNING: we do not, we repeat NOT, in any way shape or form, no how, no way, never in a million years, suggest that you attempt to hike to The Wave without a permit from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)! Coyote Buttes North and South are regularly patrolled by BLM personnel, and they will check permits. Fines in excess of $1,000 per person and jail time can be imposed – and has been imposed – on those caught hiking in the area without them.

So you didn’t get a permit for The Wave, either through the online lottery or the walk-in permit process? You’re not alone. But are you out of luck? Not necessarily.

 

What we are suggesting for those with an indomitable determination to see The Wave, and for whom cost is not an obstacle, is to “break the surly bonds of Earth” and fly over it.

The Wave is technically located North-Central Arizona, but the surrounding terrain actually straddles the border of South-Central Utah. The closest airports from which to charter a flight are:  

 

  • Page Municipal Airport/Royce Knight Field (PGA), Page, Arizona

  • Kanab Municipal Airport (KNB), Kanab, UT

Other possibilities include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Bryce Canyon Airport (BCE), Bryce Canyon, UT

  • Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN), Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

  • St. George Regional Airport (SGU), St. George, UT

  • Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC), Cedar City, UT

  • Flagstaff/Pulliam Airport (FLG), Flagstaff, AZ

  • Sedona Airport (SEZ), Sedona, AZ

  • Mesquite Municipal Airport (67L), Mesquite, NV

So how would one go about chartering an aircraft over Coyote Buttes? First off, you’ll have a better chance of success by inquiring with an airport where air tours are already offered on a regular basis, such as Page, Grand Canyon, Sedona or Bryce Canyon. These facilities typically have air tour companies based on-field, some on a year-round basis, with aircraft and pilots available for charter flights. A basic Google search of air tour companies in your preferred city will usually yield the desired results. If not, simply call the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) at the airport you’re wanting to fly from and ask for the contact information for airplane or helicopter tour operators.

Since tour flights over the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Area are not offered as a regular, scheduled service, you’ll want to ask specifically about doing a “charter by the hour.” Depending on where your flight originates from, timeframes will differ. To fly from the Page Municipal Airport (PGA) only over Coyote Buttes and The Wave, for example, would probably require less than 1 hour to cover. However, you might want to plan for more time since there are so many incredible sights besides The Wave, and you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to see them.

Contrary to what some may believe, present company (formerly) included, Coyote Buttes North and Coyote Buttes South are not no-fly zones.* Unlike the Grand Canyon, which is governed by Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR), the airspace over the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area is largely unregulated, which means it is possible to charter a fixed wing airplane or helicopter from one of several general aviation (GA) airports in the region.

* except for drones

Wolfgang Kieckbusch, a frequent contributor to the Facebook group Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Adjacent, and webmaster of a German-language website,

Hiking-Southwest.de, posted this map of a charter flight he took over The Wave from the Page Municipal Airport (PGA). As you can see, he covered a lot of ground in addition to The Wave, including:

 

  • Glen Canyon Dam

  • Horseshoe Bend

  • Dangling Rope Marina

  • Rainbow Bridge

  • White Pocket

  • Lees Ferry

  • Alstrom Point

  • Coyote Buttes South

  • Yellow Rock (on the Cottonwood Canyon Road)

According to his website, “the flight took about 90 minutes, and it was a very impressive tour!” He provided the pilot with all GPS coordinates of the sights he wanted to cover, but most local tour pilots will be familiar with where these are located. At the time Mr. Kieckbush traveled, the flight cost $650 for 2 people aboard a 4-seat plane. Your costs will most likely differ depending on the size of your party, whether you prefer to fly in a plane or helicopter (helicopters are more expensive) and whether you wish to do a quick out and back over The Wave, or cover other areas as Mr. Kieckbusch did. Your final bill will usually be determined by “tach” (tachometer) time, meaning the time the the aircraft’s engine was actually running vs. chronological (“clock”) time. If you wish to customize your flight to include a landing and lunch stop at a local airstrip, your final cost will also include wait time, which is calculated by the hour. Buying lunch for your pilot, and a gratuity at the conclusion of your tour, are always appreciated.

Due to the ecologically sensitive nature of the Coyote Buttes Special Management Area, and the fact that it’s a highly coveted hike, any charter flights over the area will most likely be limited to first thing in the morning. This is out of courtesy to the hiking community, who come here not only to experience the scenery, but to enjoy the quiet and solitude this remote area offers. This is also a practical consideration as afternoons in this part of the country tend to be quite windy, especially during the hot summer months when density altitudes can also pose a challenge to pilots. Be prepared to get to your chosen point of departure at first light, or not at all. Also, try to make your arrangements as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re flying with an established aerial sightseeing tour company. Schedule air tours are their “bread and butter,” and tours are often booked up weeks, sometimes months in advance. If that’s the case on your preferred flight date, they may not have the planes or pilots to spare for special charters.    

One last “caveat emptor:” if you follow the link above to Hiking-Southwest.de and take a look Mr. Kieckbusch’s photos, or this video by Tawagoto San on YouTube, you’ll probably see that The Wave doesn’t show up particularly well from the air. That’s because it’s a very small area in the context of the entirety of Coyote Buttes North. Also, you would not be able to land at The Wave or Coyote Buttes as there is no established airstrip or helipad there. But we think you’ll agree, the scenery you will experience without breaking a sweat is absolutely amazing and that by itself should be well worth the price of admission!

22 Responses

  1. I have a question.. can we go in our 25 foot RV to the wave trail head ? Asking this before we apply for a permit.
    Also what is walking permit.. is it same as applying for the daily lottery ?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Kamudi,
      Whether you take your RV to the Wire Pass Trailhead depends largely on recent weather conditions. If weather has been dry leading up to your visit, the House Rock Valley Road is usually passable for 2WD vehicles. If there has been rain or precipitation prior to your hike, the unpaved road will likely be rendered impassable. You might look into a local trailhead shuttle service, such as Paria Outpost & Outfitters, to assure your personal safety and that your RV remains in one piece.
      The walk-in lottery is held daily for those who did not succeed at obtaining a permit through the online lottery. You would apply two days prior to your hike via the Recretion.gov app. If successful, you would then need to obtain your actual permit and attend a safety briefing at either the Page-Lake Powell Hub Visitors Center in Page, AZ, or the Kanab Center Gymnasium in Kanab, UT.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  2. Thank you for all this helpful information. If we are not able to get a permit, are there any overlooks or ways to see beautiful areas like ‘the wave’ from the highway or parking lots? The cost and time of a guided tour to White Pocket may not be feasible. But my 2 teen girls are so excited to see these beautiful rock formations, in early August 2022. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Hopefully you have applied, or plan to apply, for an online hiking permit this month? April is when the majority of Wave hiking permits are dispensed for the month of August.
      In the likely event you do not succeed in obtaining a Wave permit, either through the online or in-person lottery (held 2 days prior to your desired hiking date), there are areas with similar geological features that you might consider visiting instead.
      If you’re staying in Page, AZ, the New Wave and Radio Tower Rock is a popular and easy hiking trail featuring a small but interesting cluster of geological formations, some resembling The Wave. The trailhead is located on the Western flank of the Glen Canyon Dam/Steel Arch Bridge, adjacent to the Beehive Campground.
      If your travel plans include Las Vegas, the Fire Wave in the stunning Valley of Fire State Park is an easy 1.5 mile walk you would no doubt find very enjoyable!
      Whatever you decide, remember that daytime high temperatures in August are very hot, so be sure to schedule your more labor-intensive activities for the early morning hours. Bring hats sunscreen, protective clothing, and plenty of water!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  3. Hi Alley,
    Thank you for all this helpful information. If we are not able to get a permit, are there any overlooks or ways to see beautiful areas like ‘the wave’ from the highway or parking lots? The cost and time of a guided tour to White Pocket may not be feasible. But my 2 teen girls are so excited to see these beautiful rock formations, in early August 2022. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Hopefully you have applied, or plan to apply, for an online hiking permit this month? April is when the majority of Wave hiking permits are dispensed for the month of August.
      In the likely event you do not succeed in obtaining a Wave permit, either through the online or in-person lottery (held 2 days prior to your desired hiking date), there are areas with similar geological features that you might consider visiting instead.
      If you’re staying in Page, AZ, the New Wave and Radio Tower Rock is a popular and easy hiking trail featuring a small but interesting cluster of geological formations, some resembling The Wave. The trailhead is located on the Western flank of the Glen Canyon Dam/Steel Arch Bridge, adjacent to the Beehive Campground.
      If your travel plans include Las Vegas, the Fire Wave in the stunning Valley of Fire State Park is an easy 1.5 mile walk you would no doubt find very enjoyable!
      Whatever you decide, remember that daytime high temperatures in August are very hot, so be sure to schedule your more labor-intensive activities for the early morning hours. Bring hats sunscreen, protective clothing, and plenty of water!
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

    1. Hi Kim!
      Per Recreation.gov:

      Application Fee: A non-refundable $9.00 lottery fee is required for each lottery application.
      Recreation Fee: If selected in the lottery, a recreation fee of $7.00 per person or dog is required. Everyone, regardless of age, must be included in the permit. This includes infants that are not walking. Payment of recreation fees is only required if a permit is awarded through the lottery.

      All fees are non-refundable. If a permit is canceled, it does not return to the pool. There will be no change or modification allowed to permit dates, applicant name, alternate permit holders, and group size following the application process. The only way to modify these details is to cancel the first application and submit a new one, which will require an additional payment of the $9.00 application fee.
      Hope that helps! Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

    1. Hi Christina,
      I am sorry to tell you that I cannot help you “find a ticket” to visit the Wave. For hiking to the Wave on May 10th, you would have needed to apply for the online permit lottery in January. Your only other option at this point is to take part in the in-person permit lottery, which is held the day before you wish to hike. At this time, the latter process is in a transitional phase to a fully on-line system, with particulars yet to be worked out. We anticipate knowing more about that around mid-March.
      In the likely event you don’t succeed at getting a Wave permit, I recommend booking a tour to an equally beautiful area called White Pocket. At present, permits are not required to visit it. Technically, a guided tour is not required either, but we strongly recommend going that route because the access road to it is very difficult to navigate for those unaccustomed to off-road driving, particularly in deep sand. You’ll find several fine White Pocket tour companies in Page, AZ, or Kanab, UT. The ones we are most familiar with are Paria Outpost and Dreamland Safaris.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

  4. Your expert advice and particular details are a MASSIVE aide in making worthwhile plans for the areas discussed!
    Thank you thank you

  5. Hello, my friend and l dreamt about coming to see The Wave, and didnt know about permit until night prior. We are driving to The Wave early morning and hope you can get us permit, its three of us. Means a lot to us to make this road trip most memorable! Thank you so much!
    Jelena and Marija

    1. Dear Jelena,
      I am so sorry I did not see your inquiry until today. This is a privately owned website for information gathering purposes only, therefore, we are unable to assist in the permitting process for The Wave. We hope you were able to sort this out beforehand. If you weren’t able to obtain a permit for The Wave, we hope you were able to do something fun and memorable anyway. Goodness knows there’s no shortage of opportunities for that in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah!
      Take care,
      Alley 🙂

  6. We are driving by that area for the day and didn’t know you need a permit. Are there any other sites near by that would be good to see/hike?

    1. Hi Shari,
      Sorry that you were unpleasantly surprised by the permit requirement for The Wave, but believe me, if you could see how potentially fra-gee-lay these rock formations are, you’d understand the need for it.
      Fortunately, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery you can enjoy in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah that doesn’t require jumping through so many hoops. Now, if you really want to hike to The Wave, and didn’t/couldn’t apply for a permit online, there is a walk-in lottery held in Kanab, UT daily. You go in the morning, the day prior to when you wish to hike, pay a one-time application fee, then they draw for 10 permits. Wave Walk-In Lottery
      If the prospect of that doesn’t appeal, and you have your heart set on seeing sights comparable to the Wave in the cosmetic sense, you might consider visiting The “New” Wave, near Page, AZ, a small but interesting cluster of rock formations, some of which resemble The Wave. IMO the most fascinating rock formation in this area is Radio Tower Rock. FYI, there is a campground here, so be sure you park so that you’re not impeding on their space or enjoyment of the area.
      Other sites that resemble The Wave’s unique looks are Yant Flat, aka the “Candy Cliffs” near St. George, UT, and the Fire Wave, in Valley of Fire State Park just Northeast of Las Vegas, NV.
      Another area that’s chock-a-block with intricate rock formations and fascinating history near the Wave is White Pocket. Thought by many to put The Wave to shame, White Pocket does not require a permit or guided tour to visit, and the hiking is relatively easy. However, due to the rugged nature of the access road (lots of people get stuck there), we strongly recommend taking a guided tour so you can get out there and back in one piece. Guided tour providers that go to White Pocket include, but are not limited to the following:
      – Dreamland Safari Tours, (435) 412-1790, http://www.dreamlandtours.net
      – TC Tours, (435) 668-5262, http://www.slotcanyontourskanab.com
      – Kanab Tour Company, (435) 644-5525, http://www.kanabtourcompany.com
      – Forever Adventure Tours, 435-644-5700, http://www.foreveradventuretours.com
      – Grand Circle Tours, (928) 691-0166, http://www.vermilioncliffs.net
      As for other good hikes around Page, AZ, you can take your pick of hikes ranging from easy to difficult, through a variety of scenery. The Page Rim View Trail is a fun one, it circumnavigates Manson Mesa, where the townsite of Page, AZ, is situated. It’s 10 miles long, but you don’t have to commit to the entire length of it. There are several spur trails which enable you to get off it at pretty much anytime. The trail features nice views of Lake Powell, but no lake access.
      You can also walk across the bridge at the Glen Canyon Dam, and if you’d like to enjoy a refreshing dip in the water, head down to The Chains. It is a bit of a hike to get back up from the waterline, but if you’re in decent health, you can probably manage it. If you’re feeling frisky after a swim at the Chains, you might also enjoy the short hike to the Hanging Gardens area. The springs are probably dry, but this is a neat little area, very unexpected to find in the desert.
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      1. Hi there – so nice of you to help folks! We plan to head down end of May and likely will try the kayak tour of Antelope since everything else is closed due to COVID. The Radio Tower Rock looks great, too – you mentioned there is a campground there but I couldn’t find one – do you know the name? Thanks!!!

        1. Hey Jen!
          The campground adjacent to the New Wave and Radio Tower Rock is called Beehive Campground. It’s a first-come/first-served dry campground with 6 designated sites. Each site has a picnic table, but no hookups, dump station, or restrooms. Pack it in, pack it out. Portable toilets required. No campfires or glass containers. Camping fee is $14 per night with a 3-night camping limit.
          For more information on tent camping and RV parks in the area, visit our companion site, AntelopeCanyon.AZ: RV & Camping Options
          Good luck and safe travels,
          Alley 🙂

  7. Hi,
    we are from Austria and will be visiting the American Southwest in August. Unfortunately I missed the deadline for the online application, but would like to try for the drawing in Kanab. Since my wife and I are coming, can it happen that one of us get’s drawn but not the other?
    with regards
    Guenther

    1. Hi Guenther,
      I know you’ve already traveled, but this inquiry is sure to be of help to future visitors!
      When you apply for a walk-in permit, one person applies on behalf of themselves and any other members of their party who wish to come along. Therefore, it’s not possible to have your application drawn, but the other members of your party rejected. If you get drawn, you all get drawn. If you don’t get drawn, none of you get drawn. Submitting multiple applications under other names is not permitted.
      For more information, visit AntelopeCanyon.AZ: How To Get A Wave Permit
      Good luck, safe travels, and Happy Holidays to all!
      Alley 🙂

  8. This is not a comment but a question. I have attempted desperately to find a charter aircraft/helicopter to fly over the wave with no success. My problem is that I won’t be in the area until November/December and am coming from the other side of the world – Perth, Western Australia. Can you possibly locate someone for me? I am an author of travel books and want to include this unique destination.

    1. Hi Faye!
      Sorry for the troubles in locating a charter company to fly you over The Wave.
      Going off the assumption that you’ll want to fly from Page, AZ (the closest airport, geographically speaking), companies to contact are:
      Scenic/Grand Canyon Airlines (planes) – Phone: 702-638-3200 or 702.577.9060 e-mail: [email protected]
      Westwind Air Service (planes) – Phone: (928) 645-2494 e-mail: [email protected]
      American Aviation (planes) – Phone: 928.608.1060 e-mail: [email protected]
      Papillon/Grand Canyon Helicopters – Phone: 702-736-7243 e-mail: [email protected]
      Classic Helicopters: Phone – Phone: (928) 645-5356 e-mail: [email protected]
      Hope that helps. If it doesn’t for some reason, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.
      Alley 🙂

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