Pictures of The Wave are ubiquitous; if you’re a human who has internet access, chances are good that at some point you’ve come across the surreal sandstone images on your Microsoft wallpaper or on your best friend’s “Places to See Before I Die” Pinterest board. If you’ve convinced yourself that you would like to transition from looking at photos to experiencing the place first hand, read on for three important tips for hiking The Wave in Arizona.
- Tip #1: This isn’t your average hike. The Wave is on a lotto system and they only allow 20 people to trek through the sandstone on any given day. For more information on the lotto, click here: Understanding the Permit Lottery If your attempts to secure a permit via the online lottery continually fail, your best bet is to travel to the Visitor Center and try for a walk-in permit. (After all, if you fail to secure a permit, you can always hike at nearby Zion National Park) Whatever you do, DO NOT try to hike The Wave without the permit–the fine is steep, there are rangers on the trail, and they monitor head count with cameras embedded in desert shrubs. (I found one of the cameras in a bush while looking for a shady place to lay down and die–for an explanation of my near death experience, see tip #2)
- Tip #2: Do not hike The Wave in the summer. It’s extremely hot in the Arizona desert. Yes, your odds of getting a permit in the summer are better, but PEOPLE HAVE DIED. If you aren’t used to the heat and can’t possibly carry the 2 gallons of water and Gatorade it’s going to take to sustain your life, don’t do it. I hiked the wave in July and it was miserable. If you go in the summer, trust me, you will be too busy googling “signs of a heat stroke” and applying your 14th layer of SPF 70 to care about the breathtaking Jurassic era sandstone. I was only two miles in before I had gone through three bottles of Gatorade and several Twinkies. (Yes, Twinkies. You see, I decided early on that weight trumped nutritional value when it came to food. In fact, I highly recommend this calorically dense, light-weight hostess product when hiking The Wave–especially in the summer–and I say this despite the fact that I am unpaid for my endorsements)
- Tip #3: Familiarize yourself with the map from the Visitor’s Center, and know how to use a compass. This trail IS NOT MARKED. Now, I’m not saying you need the navigation skills of a Navy Seal, but you can and will get lost if you don’t pay attention. In fact, some people never actually find The Wave! Imagine the embarrassment of returning to your office (larger in girth due to your excessive consumption of Twinkies) without one single picture of The Wave to show your co-workers. The humiliation will be intolerable and you will have nothing to post on your Instagram account.
The Wave is one of the most beautiful sites on earth, and if you are lucky enough to secure a permit I highly recommend the hike. Be tenacious with your lotto attempts, and if you must go in the summer, finish your Last Will & Testament, begin your hike at sunrise, and pack plenty of water and Twinkies. You will thank me.