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USA The Wave

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The required permit to explore The Wave is probably the most sought after prize in the U.S. park system for good reason. It is astonishingly beautiful and bizarre at the same time. I had seen many photographs of the area before finally winning the permit lottery. Still, when I caught my first live glimpse of the Wave my jaw literally dropped followed immediately with an audible “OMG!” To say it was worth the effort is an understatement. I had made several attempts via the online lottery and a half dozen attempts via the walk-in lottery at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah. We thought we were clever the time we made tracks through a snow covered highway for two hours thinking we were the only people foolish enough to make the drive to Kanab in those conditions. By the time the lottery started at the BLM office, we were surrounded by about 300 hundred other hopeful tourists vying for the 10 permits available. And we whiffed again. But we persisted. It was worth it. If you’re among those who failed to win a permit, all is not lost. From the same trailhead (Wire Pass) another spectacular destination is available that requires a permit ($6 US per person) that is easily acquired at the trailhead via a self-registration and payment via drop box. The Wire Pass slot canyon to Buckskin Gulch is rated one of the top hikes in the US.

Photography Tips

Resist the temptation to carry a tripod. You’ll want to move around quickly and snap snap snap. And except for a very few circumstances that I can think of, you probably won’t need it. Sunrise photos are difficult because the hike from the parking area to the Wave is 3.5 strenuous miles over very difficult terrain that requires close attention to landmarks provided by the BLM staff. If you’re unfamiliar with the area and don’t have the picture aids to guide you, you CANNOT find it in the dark. It’s hard enough to find in broad daylight for first time visitors even with visual aids. Likewise, sunset photos are difficult for the same reason. One would have to walk out in darkness. Most of the trek is either in sand or on slickrock with precious little signage to guide you. My advice would be to not attempt it unless you have a guide. Also, hiring a guide requires you to first acquire your own permit. Guide services don’t have special access to the Wave. One should also be mindful of other visitors and photographers. Everyone wants that once in a lifetime photo, so try not to “camp out” on a spot for too long. It’s worth mentioning that between the online lottery and the walk-in lottery, there SHOULD be only twenty people in the area on any given day plus park rangers. Occasionally, people ignore the rules and try to “sneak” in without a permit. I know because I’ve been stopped on the way in or out several times by people asking for directions who clearly had no permit and no clue where they were going. In recent years, BLM rangers patrol the area far more frequently checking for permits. I don’t know what the penalty is for being there illegally but suspect it is harsh. It’s also worth mentioning that during summer months temperatures commonly exceed 100°+F (38°+C). Make sure you carry plenty of water and stay hydrated. Several people have died in recent years when they got lost and were victims of heat exhaustion.

Travel Information

From Kanab, Utah drive 40 miles east on US-89. Turn right onto House Rock Valley Road, located between mile markers 25 and 26, just before a guardrail and a sweeping left hand curve in the road. The Wire Pass trailhead parking area is 8.3 miles from US89. It takes approx. 2 hours to get from Hurricane, Utah to the trailhead. To get from the parking area to The Wave, you must get a permit to get the detailed directions that includes a dozen or so visual aids for both the trek in and the trek back to your vehicle.
Spot Type Outdoor
Crowd Factor Just a few people
Best Timing Fall
Sunrise & Sunset 05:18 - 19:49 | current local time: 02:35
Photo Themes Colored Sandstone Rock Formations

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Thank you Gary Leverett for creating this photo spot in USA.
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