Within the north unit of the Coyote Buttes Wilderness, more commonly known as the the North Coyote Buttes lies the crown jewel of the area, a magical formation of multi-colored sandstone swirls and twirls called “The Wave.” The North Coyote Buttes is a protected area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and access to it is subject to a lottery driven permit system, open to anyone in the world, that only allows 20 people per day to visit the area. This may seem very restrictive, but the permit system is meant to preserve and protect the delicate formations within it. As a result, permits are very difficult to get so you have to apply and hope you get lucky. Fortunately a good photographer friend of mine and I applied one more time after trying for months, and got two permits for Monday November 6, 2017!
The North Coyote Buttes is a true wilderness area so there are no marked trails, cell service, restrooms, water, or food. Everything you need, you have to take with you. To find The Wave you have to navigate using landmarks and a compass or handheld GPS to get there. All the major landmarks and their GPS coordinates are well documented in the permit package the BLM sends you as well as on the web so that makes getting there easier. Given all the information available, on average, 20% of the people making the hike are unable to find The Wave. The day we made the hike, six people flagged us down asking for help finding it.
If you only hike to The Wave and back, the hike is a little over six miles through areas of deep sand, slick rock and steep vertical climbs at an altitude ranging between 5,200 and 5,700 feet. The final climb to The Wave’s entrance is a steep 300 feet up through sand.
I have had the good fortune to see and photograph some pretty amazing places, but The Wave has to be the most amazing place I have seen yet….Mother Nature’s artistry never ceases to amaze me! As special as The Wave is, there is a lot more to see and photograph in the area, such as real dinosaur tracks, Fatali’s Boneyard (featuring fascinating box rocks), teepees, and even a second wave!
To see more photography from my day at The Wave, please visit my gallery here. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you. Please click here to email me.
Enjoy the photos !