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The Wave Revisited

Coyote Buttes North, Arizona



     Four years ago, we visited a magical place called Coyote Buttes, located in a remote area on the Arizona/Utah border, and in 2006 we returned to further explore the hidden wonderland of exhumed desert sand dunes.

     Representing the Natural Born Hikers on this adventure, were Sully, Weisey, Ola, and Pick—a gang of four who set out to experience everything that the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness had to offer, and our first destination was the formation known as “The Wave.”

     Tucked away within the maze of cliffs, canyons, and buttes is a destination unlike any other on the Colorado Plateau. Here, in the area called simply “The Wave” of Coyote Buttes, there exists a psychedelic microcosm of sensuously sculpted sandstone worn smooth by wind, water, and time. The intricate layers in the rock are composed of giant dunes deposited approximately 150 million years ago during the Jurassic period. As you hike along the sandstone highway in this fantastical place, imagine that this was once a vast Sahara-like desert along the west coast of North America.

     The four of us marveled at the amazing formation, taking time to explore all the less obvious nooks and crannies, and then we set out to find Hamburger Rock and the Second Wave—two areas that would be new to all four of us. (If you would like to read our detailed description of our first hike to The Wave via the Wire Pass Trailhead, please visit our original trip report.) .

     We set off towards the Second Wave—in what we thought was the right direction—but ended up climbing way too high above The Wave, like all the way to the top of the cliffs! This hair-brained stunt didn’t seem to phase Pick or Ola, but Sully and I were none too pleased—for some reason we were both pretty sure that we were climbing towards our death, a situation that Pick and Ola found very amusing. When we finally reached the top of the cliffs, we admired the view over the expanse of colorful sandstone, the view was so beautiful that even Sully and I could appreciate it! We peered through the arch-like window located at the top of the cliff down at The Wave, which was now several hundred feet below us. Indeed, so was Hamburger Rock and the Second Wave, which we figured out after about an hour of exploring the cliff tops—hindsight is 20/20!

    If, like us, you set out to find these formations, this is what you need to do to easily get there. First, once you find “The Wave” don’t climb up to the highest point on the eastern horizon, instead, make your way to the top of “the bowl” of The Wave—then head in a south to southwest direction until you see the hummocky known as Hamburger Rock. This bright yellowish orange rock formation stands about four feet high and totally looks like a hamburger when viewed from the south side, once you find this rock you are very close to the Second Wave, just keep hiking south. The Second Wave consists of long sweeping parallel lines that curve one way and then another. If you can time your arrival to near sunset, the last rays of the sun will turn this area a warm glowing red, just remember to allow enough time to navigate your back out of Coyote Buttes, you don’t want to get caught out here at night!

     The four of us enjoyed the changing colors of sunset, and then began hiking back to our car. We laughed about our misadventure, and despite our little navigation error, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at The Wave, proving once again that it is not only the destination but the journey that makes it all worth while!

    GPS Coordinates for The Wave: Waypoint N3659.764 W11200.365

    The Wave April 30th, 2002

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