Late winter/early spring is my favorite time to visit The Wave, so I thought I’d post details for folks interested in doing the same. Just 90 minutes from Zion, The Wave makes for a fantastic day trip, and is a must-see for landscape photographers.
Obtaining a Permit
The dramatic, colorful sandstone undulations of The Wave are world-famous, and hikers and photographers come from the world over to experience the grandeur for themselves. The downfall of all this popularity COULD be crowding, but the Kane County BLM has managed to keep the wilderness feel of this eye-popping landscape relatively secure via an aggressive permitting system.
Permits are available via two methods: you can reserve your permit in an on-line lottery 4 months in advance (available to 1o parties/day) OR try for a day-of walk-in permit (available to 10 parties/day). Instead of explaining the entire permit process here, check out Kane County BLM’s extensive permit information; the permit for “Coyote Buttes North” is the one you’re after.
If you are lucky enough to get a permit for Coyote Butte North, the BLM will supply you a map with your permit. You still need to know how to use it, but at least it’s a start. For basic directions to trailhead and a visual preview of the hike, Debra Lauman provides a great primer. For a more factual, objective presentation, look at a hiking map of The Wave.
Photographing The Wave
There are diverse opinions on the best time of day to photograph the wave. Some say midday, when there few/no shadows in the center. I prefer mid-morning or mid-afternoon, however, when the light is gentler. The Wave landscape is so diverse, with so many twists, turns, and aspects, that any photographer worth his or her salt should be apply to find something that works.
The main problem, photographically speaking, is finding yourself at The Wave when nobody else is there… for that, the earlier, the better, as long as the sun is up. One reason I like winter Wave trips is your chances for a solo visit are much higher; choose a day like Christmas or Super Bowl Sunday, and you have a great shot at enjoying the magic of The Wave all by yourself.