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Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area

U.S. Hwy 89 A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036, USA

Riding the Wave

Bordered on the south by its eponymous deep-red cliffs, the national monument is home to broad plateaus, endangered California condors, and some of the oldest petroglyphs in the United States. But the area’s greatest hit is the Wave, a dramatic, undulant orange rock formation. There are trailheads, maps, and minimally marked checkpoints along the trail leading to the famous spot, but unless you opt to hire an authorized guide, you’ll have to pick your way carefully across relatively untouched desert—that is, if you manage to snag one of the 20 daily hiking permits. Apply online four months in advance or enter the daily lottery at the visitor center in Kenab, Utah. Didn’t make it? Grab a map, make sure you have a spare tire, and explore the monument’s lesser-known slot canyons and gulches, or head to the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park; both are within a two-to-three-hour drive. You can always try again the next day. Permits are $6 and $7.

More Recommendations

AFAR Local Expert
over 3 years ago

Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness

Technically, some of the 112,500 acres of this designated wilderness area cross over from Utah into Arizona, but don’t worry, there aren't any passport control checkpoints while you’re adventuring. The ever-brown Paria River (“paria” means “muddy water” in the Paiute language) runs through the region's spectacular deep, striated, and eroded canyons. The river meets the Colorado at Lee’s Ferry, the site where many Grand Canyon river-raft trips begin. Coyote Buttes Special Management Area is part of the greater wilderness area as are notable features like Buckskin Gulch, Cobra Arch, Wire Pass, and Steamboat Rock. Day users don’t need a permit but overnight visitors do.
AFAR Local Expert
almost 8 years ago
Winter at the Wave

Winter at the Wave

Hard to definitely pinpoint on a map, the Wave is a gorgeous rock formation near the Arizona and Utah part of the Coyote Buttes, in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Don't rush off there expecting to just show up and visit, as this area is tightly controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and only 20 people are allowed in on a daily basis. You can apply for permits online or participate in the daily lottery to get a day pass to see these magnificent rock formations. No matter what time of year you go, you will be blown away by the stunning rock and textures made by wind, water and time.
over 4 years ago