The Wave and Buckskin Gulch, Coyote Buttes North

Finally after six days of trying to get a permit for The Wave I was successful with lucky number 12, on Saturday, June 20th. The Wave, located within the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, is the premier photographic destination in the US Southwest. Only 20 permits per day (10 on-line and 10 walk-in) are available and demand far exceeds supply, so I was ecstatic when number 12 was drawn on my sixth day of getting up at seven to be there early to pick my lucky number. On June 21st, Father’s Day, we were heading out to see The Wave at 6 am from Kanab. We watched the sunrise as we drove along US-89 to the turn off for House Rock Valley Road, and drove 8.4 miles to the Wire Pass Trailhead, which is the gateway to some spectacular scenery and hiking, including The Wave and Buckskin Gulch. It’s a six mile round trip hike in required to get to The Wave, and there are a small number of cairns along the way. We started our hike to The Wave by signing the trailhead register and crossing House Rock Road to follow the Wire Pass wash for a half mile to a sign marked Coyote Butte North on the right. It took us about 90 minutes to get to The Wave, and the light was still perfect, you want to be there just after sunrise, to get great photos of all the beautiful sandstone formations and colors in The Wave. We were fortunate to have The Wave all to ourselves for a short time, and then there were only six other people who showed up while we were there.

Some geological facts about The Wave:

“The Wave consists of intersecting U-shaped troughs that have been eroded into Navajo Sandstone of Jurassic age. The two major troughs which comprise this rock formation are 62 feet wide by 118 feet long and 7 feet wide by 52 feet long. The thin ridges and ribbing seen within The Wave are the result of the differential erosion of rhythmic and cyclic alternating grainflow and windripple laminae within the Navajo Sandstone.”

The Wave can be challenging to locate due to the lack of an established, marked trail. We had to choose our own route across the open desert, which requires traversing exposed sandstone , sand dunes, and sandy wash bottoms. We were given a map and photos with our permit for navigating to The Wave. We had no problem navigating our way to and from The Wave, and it was well worth the effort it took in getting the permit to view this phenomenal sandstone rock formation. The Wave was definitely one experience that we will never forget! Click on thumbnail to view images

The Wave

Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyons

Buckskin Gulch, located in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest US and possibly the longest in the world, at over 13 miles long, creating surreal patterns of light and sound.

“This is one of the truly classic hiking trails in the US, let alone the world, Buckskin Gulch swerves through a subterranean paradise for the senses”.

We began our hike from Wire Pass Trailhead toward the slot canyon where we came upon a boulder jam in the narrow wall, we were able to hike around this obstacle and then plunged back down into the Buckskin squeeze, and continued through the canyon, rarely more than 10 feet wide while the canyon walls soar hundreds of feet above the wash. We reached the confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch, where we met some other hikers who took our picture then we turned left (the wrong way) for a short time before heading back toward Paria Canyon. This part of the canyon was much more spectacular and well worth the long day hike in and back. The light on the high walls was surreal as we travelled through the twisting towering walls. Buckskin Gulch should definitely be on everyones bucket list of hikes in the USA. We were very fortunate to be able to do theĀ  Buckskin Gulch hike today because the road was closed to it due to the forest fires on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Click on thumbnail to view images