More hikers could soon get permission to hike to the Wave in Arizona

Jan 17, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information 

Hikers hoping to visit the Wave — a striking geological formation in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the Utah-Arizona border — might soon find it easier to do so. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is increasing the number of visitor permits starting February 1 from 20 visitors per day to 64 and/or 16 groups, according to Lonely Planet.

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Half of the permits to access Coyote Buttes North, where the Wave is located, can be reserved up to four months in advance via lottery. Each application is $9 and is nonrefundable (and non-transferable). The other 50% of permits will be reserved for walk-ups at a cost of $7 per person.

The odds of getting a permit to visit during the high season (April through June and September through October) were about 4 to 5% in 2013, according to the Bureau of Land Management, and the number of applications for permits has increased in recent years. People lucky enough to get a permit hike 3 miles each way through tall sandstone buttes and sagebrush in order to see the Wave.

During peak season, the BLM gets as many as 400 applications per day. The proposed changes would allow more hikers to experience this beautiful natural site that features a sloping sandstone basin in vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange.

But not everyone is in favor of allowing more people in.

“It could mean more people in your photographs, more people walking off-trail onto sensitive soil, more wildlife disruption,” Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity in Northern Arizona, told USA Today about previous efforts to increase capacity. “The agency needs to make sure any user increase is compatible with environmental protection.”

The Wave is said to be one of the most photographed places in the US, and it’s also one of the country’s most exclusive hiking spots.

As the BLM’s website notes, some recreation sites have “changed operations or limited public entry to follow social distancing and related guidance from the CDC and local and state authorities” due to COVID-19. In general, the BLM recommends “visiting areas close to home while avoiding very popular or crowded locations where social distancing may be difficult, and limiting group activities to members of your household.” Check with individual field and district offices for specific details about operations before you hit the road.

Featured image by Lobineau / Italian Wikipedia

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