Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) AZ – (3.6.15)

The Wave

As a bachelor party send off for a good friend Mark Allen, a motley crew of outdoor advocates and me decided to take him to the desert for 3 days of fun in the sun (and apparently snow). We plan to explore 3 different hikes on or around the Paria Plateau including Coyote Buttes (The Wave), Vermillion Cliff Sand Hill Crack Loop climbs, and a final Vermillion Cliff ascent via Cathedrial Wash from Lee’s ferry.

Just a few incredible formations in the Coyote Buttes

Day 1: We set out from phoenix full of excitement and anticipation for the long weekend of enjoying the outdoors to come. Phoenix was still warm when we left the afternoon for the long drive up to the Paria Plateau. After a quick stop in Flagstaff Az for food we continued driving our loaded down rig (5 guys plus gear whew thank the lord we had a tough truck (appreciate it Stevo!)) towards the trailhead. We reached the dirt road that lead to the Cottonwood Cove trailhead on the southeast side of the Coyote Buttes area around midnight; we were all so exhausted after the long trip we set up camp only 3 miles in just before finding a few large half frozen waterholes. The ground was frozen and hard as rock, perfect for staking a tent!

Cottonwood Spring just 1/4 from trailhead

After crashing out in 20 degree (F) temps we woke after the sun rose to spark up a fire and get breakfast rolling. Before I knew it we were loading back into the truck and finishing out the last few muddy miles to the trailhead. Parked, Grabbed packs, and filled with excitement to see The Wave we headed out. We had a nice 4-5 mile trek (one way) across open desert to reach the rock formations that housed The Wave. As we neared the first formations we stopped for a quick break to climb up and on everything! The whole crew looked like kids in a candy store; the rock formations were out of this world and would be indescribable without the aid of pictures (which still don’t do them justice).

TeePee like formations on the East side of Coyote Buttes

After exploring the first group of formations we trekked across open desert up a good 40 degree sandstone grade which leads to the ridge that would take us to the wave. Pools of water and lone pines growing out of the rocks stood sporadically throughout the area. The temps although cool, were surprisingly warm with the unforgiving sun beating down on us from the 6000 feet elevation. We reached the top of the Coyote buttes and walked north towards The Wave along a main ridge with drop-offs on either side.

Looking back across the valley from the ridge leading to The Wave (click to enlarge)

We finally reached the last Northern facing drop-off before our target, after scoping out the decent, we bombed down the smooth carved sandstone. On our way we bumped into a BLM Volunteer, who was sure to make sure we had our permits. After a quick chat we trekked on, totally star struck with the rock formations and taking pictures as if we would have amnesia once we left and only the pictures would stand as proof that this place existed. What an incredibly beautiful area. The Wave is special; however the entire area is filled with equally stunning and spectacular rock formations (so don’t get sucked into just this one spot!).

Formations after the dropoff just above the Wave (click to enlarge)

Once realizing our time was growing short we headed back up the sandstone slope to the ridge where we trekked back across some of the most breathtaking land in Arizona to the trailhead. What an awesome day, well worth the drive, 4WDing, and time to snag permits. Truly a once in a lifetime experience (the BLM makes sure of that)!

Wow! (Click to enlarge)
Awesome sandstone fins on the way back to Cottonwood Trailhead (click to enlarge)
  • Appraching the first formations
  • Killer colors

HIKE INFO: Used this page for trail head info, yet made our own GPS to The Wave across Coyote Buttes:


  • Weather: Hi mid 50s, Low in the mid 20s, Blaring Sun (felt like 80s)
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder Bar, 2oz Beef Jerky
  • Time: 7.5 hours
  • Distance: approx 8-9 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,500 feet


  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)


  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Patagonia Long Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners