Catching “The Wave!” – Kanab, UT

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In late February I mentioned in a post that I had won two coveted hiking permits to hike Coyote Buttes North – aka “The Wave” – on June 4th in southern Utah.  I was giddy and jumping with joy, as these permits are not easy to get.  When Steve was diagnosed with cancer several weeks later, my hopes for making the hike dimmed as we focused on his health situation.  But he wanted us to do the hike and made it a goal by working extra hard to prepare for it after his surgery.  Our normal outdoor activity was walking the roads in the RV park, but to see if he could do a “real” hike we spent some time on the trails at nearby Sabino Canyon.

Sabino Canyon

Steve met a “twin” that day on Esperero Trail in Sabino Canyon, look how they’re dressed!

After completing 5.5 miles of moderate hiking he felt ready to tackle The Wave.  So we left Betsy behind in the scorching heat of Tucson and drove 450 miles north to our hotel room at Page, Arizona.  The trailhead to The Wave was another hour away near Kanab, Utah, so off we went at 5:00am the next morning to beat the heat.

A quick update on Steve:

He’s now into his second week of daily radiation treatments, with 5 more weeks to go. Because his Oncologist warned that food will soon taste like cardboard with loss of appetite and possibly severe pain when swallowing, he has been on a food binge of epic proportions, eating all of his favorites plus anything in the RV that doesn’t move.

He got a big boost when we stopped on our way back to Tucson for a visit with good friends Al and Ingrid of Live, Laugh, RV.  They indulged us with a wonderful pasta dish, followed with more yummy desserts than Steve had ever eaten in one day.  Not that he was complaining!  They also gave us a container full of yummy sweets to take home, and I felt obliged to help Steve finish it, just to prevent a possible sugar overload 🙂

Steve is starting to “feel the burn” of the radiation with more swallowing problems, so there are tough times ahead.  But his attitude is good and we will beat this beast.

Ingrid’s delicious cake didn’t last long.  Eat up, Steve!

BLM Permit for The Wave

Coyote Buttes PermitThe Wave is a famous geologic feature in what’s known as Coyote Buttes North, on the north edge of the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.  The area is along the Utah/Arizona border near the town of Kanab.  Because of its popularity, it is being protected and access is  limited  by lottery drawing selection.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows only 20 permits each day, 10 via online lottery (four months out), and 10 that are distributed to walk-ins at the GSENM Visitor Center in Kanab for the following day — also by lottery.  If you’re interested and want to find out everything you need to know about Wave permits, click the links below:

The hike

There is no obvious trail to The Wave, but the BLM office sent us a helpful photographic guide with land features and GPS coordinates to show us the way.  A couple of days before the hike a park ranger called to warn us that the forecast for June 4th was for temps in the 90’s and to bring lots of water.  We started super-early of course, as we’re not conditioned to hiking in 90º conditions with no shade.  We did overlook the one-hour time difference between Page, AZ and the trail in Kanab, UT.  So we started the hike at 7:00am Utah time instead of 6:00am Arizona time and realized we would not have wanted to start any later.  It got very hot by the time we headed back to the car.

Lake Powell, AZ

A calm sunrise over Lake Powell, AZ as we set off, the promise of a beautiful day

The hike is moderate, with a distance of 5.6 miles round trip gaining 487′ of elevation to The Wave.  Where there were footprints in the sandy areas we followed them, otherwise we treaded on slick rock and rocky terrain, constantly referring to the official map for guidance.  The fact that there’s practically no shade is a factor with temps commonly in the 90’s and higher this time of the year.

North Coyote Buttes

North Coyote Buttes

The landscape

The vast expanse along the way has incredible features, and we were in awe as we trudged on.  There is so much to look at – up, down, and all around.  It’s a kaleidoscope of formations with outcroppings of small sandstone domes and fascinating colorful swirls everywhere.

Over the first ridge, the land opens out to reveal a huge expanse of sand and slick rock, with a long, high ridge to the right.  A vast open area of sand and scattered rock domes fill the middle distance, and larger, more concentrated red rocks to the left rise up to a mesa which forms the edge of Buckskin Gulch.

North Coyote Buttes

Cross-bedded butte

One of the many amazing buttes here.  We’ve never seen such a variety of shapes in one place

North Coyote Butte

Sandstone domes along the way

North Coyote Buttes

Distant views of the “Teepees”, the general name given to these conical sandstone mounds

The wave trail

Some wildflowers were still blooming

North Coyote Buttes

Colorful, swirling strata in shades of pink, red, yellow and white along the east side of Coyote Buttes Ridge

The wave

The Wave is located just this side of that shaded vertical crevasse

The wave

Looking back at Buckskin Gulch and the sandy wash below the entrance to The Wave

In and around The Wave

At the entrance we were immediately astounded!  The waves and colors were amplified because of the sun’s reflection from the other side.  Our arrival time was perfect.

The wave entrance

We’re here, baby!

Slot at the wave

A fiery slot due to sun reflection

As you may have guessed, my camera was on overload!  So pardon me with all my wavy pictures, but take your time viewing these one-of-a-kind fascinating and exotic rock formations:

The wave

For two hours we wandered around the cliffs and gullies, then climbed up further

From a higher vantage point the area looked like a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms, cushy pillows, dinner rolls  and other odd shapes that continued to amaze us.

The wave

Other lucky hikers have arrived

The wave

Top Arch and the fiery south ridge, can you spot Steve?

This place completely blew us away as we observed the display of textures, shapes, colors, curves, and layers all in one place!

The wave

Nature’s artwork of lichens and molds all over the rocks

The wave

The Wave

Doesn’t it look like recently-baked dinner rolls?

The wave

Looking down at the reflection-lit entrance

And peering closely, the details are exquisite as well.

Finally, the main feature, the Wave!

The Wave is actually a small ravine between eroded sandstone domes formed of amazing rocks containing thin, swirling strata.  It’s situated at the foot of the north slopes of Top Rock, formed of white Navajo sandstone.  It’s hard to imagine that billions of years ago the area was flat and covered with sand.  As usual, wind and water eroded, carved and smoothed to reveal the layers of sand remaining.  Finally, those layers were compacted and mineralized to reveal what we see.  Amazing!

the Wave

The wave


The wave

The wave

I was so happy that Steve insisted on making this trip, even though he wasn’t exactly in top hiking condition.  We both enjoyed the change of scenery, and he had promised to do something that would show how he appreciated his “lovely caregiver” during the past few weeks.  He couldn’t have picked a better way to make me happy !

The wave

Riding the wave, baby!

Words and pictures are not enough to describe what we experienced here, it’s at the top of our list of geologic finds.  We recommend that folks come here either March-May or September-October, and enter the lottery as soon as possible or take a chance as a walk-in during those times.  This place is beyond amazing!

And with this post we’ll be on temporary hiatus as Steve’s recovery continues.





Banded Hills, Toadstools and Canyons – Kane County, UT

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While perusing my recent photos I realized I’d overlooked some activities we enjoyed along scenic US 89 near the Utah state line while camping in Page, AZ.  There are two accessible areas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument between Kanab and Page.  Folks who enjoyed my Lower Antelope Canyon photos (click here to see them) might also like the ones I took in this area.

Pahreah (now called Paria) Townsite Road

Pahreah Townsite Marker

Pahreah townsite marker

We learned about this road from John and Pam, and Dave and Sue, who explored it a week ahead of us. It leads to the remains of Pahreah townsite and descends from the junction with US 89 (milepost 31) into a valley.  The road becomes steep and twisting near the end, as it crosses the undulating banded hills that cover the area.

Our Honda CRV survived the 12-mile roundtrip drive, but it was a long haul and we realized that 4-wheel drive would be required if the road were muddy.


Pahrea Townsite

These colored canyons were the backdrop for several movies and TV shows

Banded Hills

The original Pahreah townsite is located just across the river, but none of the structures remain.  The settlement was established in 1869 and subsequently abandoned 40 years later due to frequent river flooding.  The river flows along a wide valley and is often dry during the summer, and covered in places by an extensive plain of white salt crystals.  The crystals result when the floodwaters recede and then evaporate.

San Juan River


There also used to be a movie set here, located at the bottom of a multi-colored sandstone canyon. Western movies and TV shows were filmed between 1963-1991, but floods and vandalism took their toll and the set was abandoned.

Pahreah Movie Set

The scenery is left untouched since the Pahreah movie set disappeared

Paria Canyon

Here’s what slow erosion looks like


The area is surrounded by amazingly colorful rocks.  The cliffs at either side are equally layered and multi-colored, with alternating red, white, purple and grayish-blue strata.  A Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation, this fascinating place reminded me of the Painted Desert National Park in Arizona.


Paria Rim Rocks – Toadstool Trail

2016-03-26-UT-1470020.jpgAlso along US 89 and within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the Toadstool Trail.  We followed the short .8 mile trail that led into an area of unusual rock formations known as toadstools, hoodoos, goblins or mushrooms.

Toadstool Trail

White Cliffs over the Carmel Formation


Don’t they look like goblins?

The many balanced boulders are created by blocks of hard sandstone perched atop narrow columns of softer rock that has eroded around and under them, resulting in a “toadstool” look:

There were some unusual rounded mounds of rock as well:

I don’t know about you, but we think these are some pretty cool formations and agree with our friends that they are definitely worth a visit.

Wiregrass Canyon Trail

Our reliable hiking tipster, Pam, suggested we would enjoy the 6-mile Wiregrass Canyon Trail, which is located 12 miles north of Page off US 89.  So on our last day in town we tackled the trail that took us into Wiregrass Canyon, a steep-sided wash that leads down to Lake Powell (although we didn’t go that far).  We did some scrambling up and down pour off’s and hiked through the wash between multi-colored sandstone.

Wire grass Canyon

The trail leads down into the canyon

Wire grass canyon trail

Natural Bridge

Taking a break at a natural bridge


This might be the second bridge (or arch) Pam was looking for?


Studying the green-colored layer


There are some very unique formations here

We saw several colorful patches like this along the trail

We saw several colorful patches like this along the trail

Mini Hoodoos

Mini-hoodoos standing at attention

This was a great hike, with fascinating exposed geologic formations.  We find that canyon hikes always display different geology, colors and formations that make each one unique and interesting, and we never get tired of them.  Especially in Utah!

Let me leave you with a few more scenic vistas, colored mountains and formations we saw along scenic US 89 between Kanab and Page:

Carmel Formation

Tropic Shale Formation

Tropic shale formation

Lone Rock

Lone Rock at Lake Powell


Giant hoodoos along US 89


The Navajo Generating Station south of  Manson Mesa can be seen from many miles away

This area between southwest Utah and northern Arizona is incredibly geologically diverse. There’s so much to explore here that we’re hoping to make it back next year.

After each day of running around between Arizona and Utah, we settled into our spacious site next to a campfire:


Y’all come back now, ya hear?


Next up:   A Glimpse of Past Inhabitants