The best alternative to The Wave in Arizona is The Swell. Countless tourists show up at the Utah-Arizona border assuming that they can simply hike to The Wave. Many are shocked to find out that a permit is needed and the chances of getting one are slim to none. As a result, many visitors are left with a “Now what?” feeling.
There are countless horror stories of people applying for The Wave permit over several years and never winning. While the odds significantly increase for locals, if you’re visiting for just a few days or a week the odds of winning can be disheartening.
Also, there is a $9 nonrefundable application fee for both the advanced and daily permits. As a result, tourists may apply a few months before their trip, and (most likely) get denied―and, apply again within two days of your chosen dates and (most likely) get denied again. When this scenario occurs, which is probable, applicants are out $18.
In 2019, about 200,000 people applied for a permit to hike to The Wave. Only about 7,000 permits were issued. Therefore, your chances of winning a permit through the lottery are less than four percent!
For a simple hike, it’s quite a complicated process. Below are the details of The Wave, and the best alternative, “The Swell.”
When you’re ready to go on an amazing excursion, this is the most popular tour in Southern Utah.
Lottery Process For The Wave
The Wave is located within the Coyote Buttes North region of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. To access the trails of Coyote Buttes North a permit is required.
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There are two ways to apply for a permit: advanced and daily. Applicants apply for both permits on recreation.gov.
Applicants may apply for the advanced permit exactly four months before their desired date. For example, if you’d like to hike The Wave in August, you would apply for an advanced permit anytime in April. Other important details include:
- Applicants are only allowed to choose three specific dates within the month.
- A maximum of 6 people per group are allowed per application.
- The lottery occurs on the first day of the following month.
- A total of 48 applicants are randomly chosen.
- There is a $9 application fee.
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Hikers may apply for the daily permit two days before their preferred hiking date. Also, applicants must submit applications via a mobile device that allows location tracking.
To clarify, applicants must be within a specific geofence area to apply. This includes basically everything between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona. Other important details include:
- Each application requires a $9 fee.
- You must apply on a mobile device using the recreation.gov app.
- Applications must be submitted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (The system follows the current time in Utah).
- At 7:15 p.m. on the same day of applying, the lottery results are distributed.
- The daily permit is a three-day process: on day one apply, on day two receive the permits and pay the additional hiking fee, then on day three hike The Wave.
In short, applicants could potentially apply for the advanced permit and the daily permit, paying $9 each time, and never win. The money paid is non-refundable.
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Finally, if you win the lottery, you must pay an additional $7 hiking fee per person. We don’t think money should be driving this process, and with the limited odds of winning, we decided not to apply.
Money to Hike
As budget-savvy travelers, we can’t fathom the idea of paying to hike. It’s sickening. Most of the best hikes around Page, Arizona including Antelope and Waterhole Canyon now require visitors to go on Navajo-guided walks which cost $50+ per person!
When you include the cost to apply for the permits, the general aggravation of applying, and the likelihood that you’ll lose the lottery, you may be better off focusing your energy elsewhere, like on “The Swell.”
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The Swell is The Wave’s Sister Formation
The Swell looks similar to The Wave, is easy to get to, and is free! We randomly came across this hidden gem when touring The Chains―the area where Lake Powell meets the Glen Canyon Dam. Here are the Google Maps coordinates.
About 1000 feet in front of the dam, is a chain that crosses the entire length of the canyon, hence the name, “The Chains.” Its purpose is to prevent boats from getting too close to the dam.
The Swell is located about 200 feet from The Chains’ parking lot.
When we were walking down to “The Chains” viewpoint we stumbled upon this miniature canyon enclave that was remarkably similar to The Wave. We couldn’t help but notice the lovely curves and lines of the pocket-sized formation.
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While there’s never a substitute for the original, the best alternative to The Wave is The Swell.
Another significant aspect of The Swell is that, unlike The Wave, no one has ever died visiting it. Being so close to the parking lot, there’s no chance of getting lost or dehydrated. As a result, it’s completely accessible and safe to visit, making it family-friendly.
Finally, tourists to the area with short attention spans, people who don’t care for hiking, or anyone else that’s been denied a permit to The Wave but want to get a similar picture should head to The Swell.
There’s little doubt that the best alternative to The Wave is The Swell.
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