The Wave at Coyote Buttes - Kanab, Utah - Geological oddity, hiking

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The Wave is a multihued sandstone chute that was cut into the mountain by natural forces. Swirled bands of color run through eroded shapes. The colors and shapes change with the light as the day progresses. Red, pink, yellow and green rock has blended together to form castles, beehives, chutes and other structures.

This is a great, short, moderately difficult day hike. The Coyote Buttes are part of an area under special management by the BLM. You need a permit for access and they must be reserved months in advance. Ten per day are reserved, and ten per day are released by lottery drawing in the BLM office. This is a popular attraction so reserve a spot ahead of time if you can.

Coyote Buttes is located in Paria Canyon on the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Directions to the canyon from Mount Carmel Junction: drive 17 miles to Kanab. Leave Kanab, drive 40 miles east on Highway 89. The turn-off is located on the south (right side coming from Kanab) side of the road. It's between mile markers 25 and 26, at a curve in the road, at the end of a guard rail. Turn at the unmarked dirt road. This is House Rock Road. Along this road, about 4.2mi south of US89 you will pass the Buckskin Trailhead on your left; 3.7mi further on you will find the Wire Pass Trailhead. This trailhead has a broad parking area and a restroom on the right side of the road. The actual trailhead is on the left.

Tips for visiting: The best hiking conditions are found in spring and fall. Summer temperatures get very hot, sometimes reaching over 100 F. Hiking can be pleasant during warm days in winter, but at night the temperatures can drop drastically. The Wave trailhead is at Wire Pass, which also serves as the trailhead for Buckskin Gulch, one of the world's best long slot canyon hikes.

The Wave Trail Information:

Hiking time - 6 hours round trip

Estimated hiking distance - 6 miles

Elevation gain - 340 feet

Restroom - at trailhead

Trail conditions - starts out a little sandy, then over rock

On USGS Topography Maps - Pine Hollow Canyon, Coyote Buttes

Difficulties - A modest navigational challenge

Special equipment - A compass and topography map, a gallon of water per person

Sun Exposure - Full sun. Dark red rock and sand reflect the sun, amplifying the heat.

Restrictions - Protected area. Permit must be obtained in advance from BLM.

Camping - No, it is not allowed.

The hike starts across a trail-less rocky landscape from the Wire Pass Trailhead to The Wave. Besides a modest navigational challenge it is a relatively easy hike across barren desert mountain terrain. Once you've reached your destination take time to explore the various gullies.

The area by "The Wave" is not large but you should take time to explore the various gullies where this unusual psychedelic phenomenon occurs. It looks as though the rock has been folded back upon itself - several times. Climb above the contorted, wavy strata into the bowl at the base of the black crack that cuts the cliffs in half. High overhead on the ridgeline there is a substantial natural arch.

One online reviewer in 2009 said, "Yep this is as good as it gets. We arrived at the Ranger station in Kanab Ut to test our luck. After 3 days of waiting we got our permits. Jan 4th 2009 We started the hike in around 5am it was 16 degrees when we started and 19 when we finished. The trail was almost completely covered with snow. When we arrived it was breath taken. I have wanted to get here for about a year after a friend told me about it. During winter months make sure you have 4 wheel drive and chains to get to the trail head. Also make sure you dress warm. 10 permits are raffled each day at the ranger station. Maybe you'll get lucky.''

Another online reviewer said, "It's said that The Wave is one of the most photographed landscapes in the United States. That may be so, but the place is in a rugged area in the middle of nowhere - in Arizona, halfway between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona - and only 20 people are allowed in by the lottery system. On a recent visit to the BLM office west of Big Water, Utah, that issues the permits, I watched a German couple almost cry because they didn't win a slot after three days of participation in the lottery system. They flew from Germany to Arizona just for this and they were going to return home heartbroken. Although many others didn't win a slot, I got lucky. I was so excited that I got little sleep. Before dawn the next day, I was on the road and at the trail head in no time. The BLM provided a good map and cairns along the way provided additional assistance for the tough, but pleasurable hike. I was the first to reach The Wave and it was overwhelming to stand in the middle of mounds of uninhibited, sloppy, pulled salt-water taffy landscape. I pulled out my camera and tripod immediately and started running and snapping photos like a lunatic. This place is pornographic in its splendor with the colors and stripes and curves that tattooed themselves into my eye sockets. This mad ecstasy went on for hours before I was exhausted, satisfied, and ready to go to sleep.''

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May 3, 2012 @ 11:23 pm
Interesting, for sure. Will you please recommend a scientific text that describes and explains the geology of the area and explains the method FOR formation of the Coyote Buttes? Thank you.

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