Hiking the Wave in Arizona – Coyote Buttes North – What to expect and what to see


Hiking the Wave in Arizona – Coyote Buttes North – What to expect and what to see

After over a year of trying, we finally got permits to hike the Wave in Coyote Buttes North, northern Arizona. This is considered a bucket list hike by many, and now that I’ve done it, I see why. It’s days after the hike and I’m still psyched. You can see it on our faces and hear it in our voices on the video. The place is amazing.

Sure, the permits are hard to get. It was frustrating and I had pretty much lost all hope of ever getting them. I’ll make a separate video explaining the Wave permit process, tell the story of how we got our permits and give advice on how you can increase your odds to get your own.
But that’s for another day. This video is all about the Wave. It’s so incredible I was at a loss for words to explain it. Luckily, the video can do the talking for me. We had the place to ourselves for a while and it’s an experience I won’t forget.

But that’s not all. We then climbed the cliffs behind the Wave to see more.

First was Top Rock Arch. You can see it from the Wave, but it’s several hundred feet up the cliff. If you walk out onto the ridgeline above the arch, you will eventually reach it. You can climb down the side of the ridge from right on top of the arch to get down to it. (It helps to have someone off to the side to spot it for you; you can’t see it when you’re walking the ridgeline to it.) It offers a great view of the Wave below.

Then it was on to the Alcove. The Alcove is a hollowed out, round chamber high on the mountain behind the wave. It has beautiful textures and colors in the rock face, surrounding a large sand dune. You can see from the patterns of the rock and sand exactly how it was formed by wind swirling around over centuries.

A short hike later and it’s on to Melody Arch. Melody Arch is situated in another alcove. But instead of sand in the center, there is a mound of rock. And since all of that wasn’t enough, there’s a large window cut out of the alcove wall that offers great views of the landscape hundreds of feet below. This was a highlight for me, which is obvious from my reaction in the video. I sound and look like a little kid on Christmas morning.

We then climbed back down and checked out a wash that looked interesting from above. I haven’t seen anything on it online (or at the welcome center), but it did not disappoint either. A short, gorgeous slot canyon with dark red walls and light stripes, it was a nice bonus at the end of our trip. (NOTE: Never climb down something you can’t climb up in a canyon you are unfamiliar with. You can get trapped.)

Then it was back to the car and home.

This was my favorite day hike ever. I’m still smiling just thinking about the hike. I hate the term ‘bucket list’, but the Wave is the definition of bucket list.

I hope you enjoy the video and best of luck getting permits.

And yes, I’m already trying for permits again.

Leave Wire Pass Trail: 37.01999, -112.01715
The Wave: 36.99610, -112.00622
Second Wave: 36.99345, -112.00809
Top Rock Arch: 36.99376, -112.00510
The Alcove: 36.99221, -112.00586
Melody Arch: 36.99110, -112.00542

Another great source for hiking the Wave, including some stuff we didn’t see on our trip: Dana Hollister’s video:



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20 comments

  • Great photography..we were there in 2005 with Orlando camera club. It got dark and I was separated from the group. Fortunately I left bread crumbs…LOL. We only had two hours and my old low res video camera… with short recording batteries…

    Thank you ,Lester and Suzette Housel

  • Great quality, what gear are you using ?

  • Might I confirm the process that your wife and you used. Did each of you submit a lottery entry using the same three date choices? Then, whichever of you won, you simply add your spouses name to the permit and the two of you are all set to go on that date. Do you represent 2 of the 48 for that date? Many Thanks!!!

  • Dramatic evidence of massive global warming…and it wasn't human caused CO2 emissions.

  • For those permit holders who would find that scaling of the cliff/slope up to Melody Arch and the Sand Alcove overly daunting, as shown in this video…….If you circle around to the east of that plateau there is an comparatively easy walk up approach. It takes more time but much less stress……and is, of course, beautiful. I made it over to those teepees to the east once. Not sure I would do that again (Deep sand) but it was still interesting.

  • Wowza!
    We did won the in person lottery in mid-October. Once in a lifetime experience we will cherish forever.
    We relied solely on the one page instructions given to us, the few signs and footprints. So awesome to relive the beauty, thanks for sharing!

  • That Way was cut out by the flood Noah’s flood and I bet if you did a little digging around there you would find some fossils primarily fish fossils which is about 800 feet above sea level right or more

  • Hi Jerry. This is an odd question. I won the lottery for the Wave and found a cabin at Phantom Ranch for the same day in late February. We are avid hikers. We can not be on both places at the same time. What would you recommend? Phantom Ranch or the wave ?

  • "Glad I got it on tape " . . !!! Lol . Can relate 🙂

  • Please post what kind of camera you use to take these vidios??.

  • Lose the music. Much rather hear the natural sounds

  • Great video! Thanks so much for sharing the specifics! Can you tell me what level of experience hikers should have? Is it like an advanced walk or is it more like climbing? Also, how long did it take to get from your car to "the wave"? TIA! And thanks again for sharing!!

  • All around excellent video. One of the best out there for The Wave. Some really great shots in this video and enjoyed the commentary as well. I also liked that it wasn’t a how-to video and that you left some mystery to this place.

    I’ve watched this before but I had to watch it again after I finally got to experience this place. Finally broke my unlucky streak and won the online lottery, been trying routinely since 2016/2017. However, I was so worried about this hike because our drawing was for mid-August. We did not luck out and have a cool(ish) or cloudy day. Nope high 90s and not a cloud in sight. We hiked out before sunrise and had a set departure time around 10:30 am. It worked out pretty well but that hike back was still blazing. I did buy reflective hiking umbrellas for this hike and they were pretty invaluable.

    As for The Wave itself. It lived up to the hype and then some. The hike was absolutely stunning too and the whole area around The Wave was amazing. Just an incredible and magical place. We skipped Top Rock Arch due to time constraints but we did make it to Melody Arch and The Alcove. Both amazing and definitely worth the extra effort. I didn’t find the trek to the top sketchy but did loose our line down for a hot minute.

    Final thought. For as a difficult as it is to get this permit, I am thankful it is in-place. I can only image how overrun this place would be without a permit system and likely ruined because of people carving graffiti into the sandstone.

  • Did you have a permit. I'm seeing many of these videos where some one goes walking in the desert and "discovers" the wave.

  • What time is good to start the hike? What time did you get there? I know you mentioned early, but how early?

  • Thank you for doing this videos. I am in a wheelchair and I’m going to temp this. Any thoughts on accessibility? Yeah I won’t be doing this in my wheelchair but my handcycle. Would that be impossible?

  • Thanks! Great video, we have our pass going in a couple weeks. Just wanted to ask what kind of gps you used and if you used your iPhone GPS?

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