The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is located just south of the Utah border into Arizona, between the cities of Kanab, Utah and page, AZ. The National Monument covers areas including the Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Butte, and the Paria Canyon. Just south of the Grand Escalante Staircase, this area has incredible rock formations, cliff walls with millions of years of erosion causing unique color and shapes. Many head to Utah and Arizona for popular destinations like Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. What most don’t know, is the BEST place to visit in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, is one of the least popular destinations in the area. Welcome to Coyote Butte.
Coyote Butte was put on the map for its most famous location, the Wave. Featured on TV, magazines, social media, this hypnotic looking marvel of colorful sandstone rocks is something out of this world. The Wave is heavily monitored due to its unique formations and soft sandstone that easily deteriorates. With the current permit system in place, this is one of the hardest hikes to get into in the United States.
Coyote Butte North
When to Go
The best time to visit Coyote Butte is in the spring and fall. Summer temperatures can reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and permits are much harder to get. For the best chances of getting into the Wave go in the Winter when walk-in permits are more easily won. Snow can close the road to access the Wave, so keep that in mind when planning a trip.
Only 20 people are allowed to go on this hike each day, 10 from online (book 4 months ahead) and 10 from the walk-in lottery the day prior. For the best information on obtaining permits, read the Wave BLM website here. Walk-in permits are available the Kanab visitor center. During summer, they are open 7 days a week. During winter, they are open Monday through Friday. The lottery for weekends and Monday permits occur on Fridays in the winter. At least 1 person in the group must arrive by 8:30am. Everyone will be given very clear instructions on the lottery process. Groups will be selected until 10 lucky hikers get the lottery for the following day.
They are very strict with a max of 10 people. For example, if there are only 2 permits available during the lottery, and your group is selected, but you have a group of 3, you either can accept only 2 people to go, or deny it entirely. However, if there is only 1 permit left, they will allow 2 people to go, as they do not wish for anyone to hike alone for safety purposes. In the Winter there could be anywhere from 30 to 100 people. Summer walk-ins can range from 200 to 400 people.
How to Get There
From the Kanab Visitor Center, drive 38 miles East on Highway 89 towards Page. There will be a sharp curve, with many signs, including a blinking sign. Immediately before the curve turn right onto House Rock Valley Road. Drive 8 miles to Wire Pass Trailhead on the right, just past the Arizona stateline.
The Wave: 6.8 Miles round trip, 535 feet gain, 4 hours 11 minutes
The hike to the Wave does not have any signs or trail markers. It would be very easy to get lost on this hike. When a group is given permits, they are given a step-by-step guide with pictures on how to reach the Wave.
The formations change throughout this hike, and as you get closer to the Wave, the mixture of colors in the sandstone become more pronounced. This hike is not challenging, but it is fully exposed. If done in the summer, make sure to bring plenty of water. The best time to be at the Wave for photographs, is mid-day when there are limited shadows.
How to Get There
Parking for Buckskin Gulch is at Wire Pass Trailhead.
Buckskin Gulch: 3.3 Miles, 240 feet descent, 2 hours 4 minutes
From the Wire Pass trailhead, hike across the road into the wash. Turn left and hike 1 mile until you reach the entrance of Buckskin Gulch. This is a great hike to combine with the Wave.
Coyote Butte South
When to Go
The best time to visit Coyote Butte is in the spring and fall. Many get Coyote Butte South permits as a result of unsuccessfully obtaining Wave permits. Although, the Wave is exceptional do not get discouraged, Coyote Butte South is awesome too! Paw Hole, Cottonwood Cove, and White Pocket all require 4wd high clearance vehicles to access the trailhead.
Most days of the year there are enough permits available. However, in the Summer a lottery system may be put in place. In person permits can be obtained at 10am, for the following day. Same day permits are available if the current day’s allotment is not full.
How to Get There
Drive on House Rock Valley road for 16.1 miles. Turn left to Paw Hole Trailhead. Continue for 2.3 miles where there is a parking lot and trailhead sign. From the turn off at House Rock Valley road, it is required to have a 4WD high clearance vehicle.
Paw Hole: 2.37 Miles round trip, 318 feet gain, 1 hours 14 minutes
Paw Hole does not have one trail to stay on, and can be explored as you like. The best section to explore is 1 mile from the parking area if you continue to the far side of the rock formations. This is a great hike to combine with Cottonwood Cove.
How to Get There
Grab a map from the visitor center. It can be confusing to reach Cottonwood Cove, without a map we would have never made it there. Keep in mind, any turn offs from House Rock Valley Road require 4WD high clearance vehicle.
Cottonwood Cove: 3.1 Miles round trip, 413 feet gain, 2 hours 24 minutes
You could easily get lost hiking in this area, so take note of your car location with GPS and pay attention to landmarks. Cottonwood Cove is large area and can be explored for hours. The rock formations begin 0.5 mile from the parking area, and from here there is no trail.
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Published on 1/26/2017 by Beard and Curly. Visited in January 2016.