The Wave is the premier photographic destination in the US Southwest. It is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Utah Arizona border. In addition to The Wave Coyote Buttes North contains many other spectacular rock formations. These include The Second Wave, The Alcove, Top Rock Arch, Melody Arch and the Grotto, Sand Cove, and Fatali's Boneyard. The Wave is best photographed from mid-morning to early afternoon so as to minimize the extensive shadows; the other areas listed above are best photographed mid-late afternoon.
A permit issued by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is required to see The Wave. Only 64 people per day (48 on-line and 16 walk-in) are allowed in the area and demand far exceeds supply. During the most popular months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 300 people applying for the sixteen walk-in daily permits. In the other months you usually have much less than a 50% chance of getting one at the daily lottery. Your chances are better if you're going alone, or in December - February.
A six mile round trip hike in required to get to The Wave. Since there is no trail to The Wave you should be able to use a map and compass or GPS to help with navigation. The BLM provides a map with your permit and instructions on getting to The Wave, and there are a small number of cairns on the way. Over the past five years five people have died on the way to/from The Wave. If you are not sure about your navigation skills I strongly suggest you hike in with a guide or a friend with these skills. Do not go alone. If you use a GPS be sure to mark the Wirepass trailhead and other key points along the route. Stay with your party. Four of the five fatalities were heat related, so if you go in the warmer months bring plenty of water, at least four liters, and preferably more.
In order to visit The Wave you need a permit for an area called Coyote Buttes North. Online permits and permit information can be obtained from the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM). At most 64 people, 16 groups are allowed into Coyote Buttes North, whichever comes first. Note that Permits for a total of 48 people, 12 groups are issued via an online lottery and for another 16 people, 4 groups via a walk in lottery. The walk-in lottery normally occurs the day before the permit is valid.
On-line Permits for Coyote Buttes North are very difficult to obtain, with demand greatly exceeding supply. Almost all online Coyote Buttes North permits are awarded by lottery held on recreation.gov. The lottery opens up four months in advance of your trip date. You have the whole month to apply. For example, for a January 15 permit you would open the lottery page in September. The fee to enter the on-line lottery is $9 per group effective June 1, 2020.
Wave permits are non-transferable except for up to three specific people you list when you apply for the lottery. These people are called "alternate permit holders". If you win a permit and are stopped by a ranger on your hike to The Wave either you or a listed alternate permit holder must be present with your group. If not your group may be ticketed. Alternate permit holders must have an account on recreation.gov.
You may only apply once per month to the lottery. If you try to apply more than once at checkout you will get the message "You have excellent taste! However, you are only allowed to submit or be listed as an alternate permit holder on 1 lottery application or hold 1 active permit(s) reservation at a time." Note that if you list someone as an alternate permit holder they cannot apply for a permit that month as well. If there are several people in your group each can apply to the lottery separately provided you do not list the other members of the group as alternate permit holders.
On each lottery application you can select up to three dates. The drawing is held the day following the close of the lottery (i.e. October 1 in our example). Shortly after the lottery closes you will be notified via e-mail whether you were successful or not. If you do not receive a notification by the 2nd of the month check your spam folder. If you still haven't received notification it is likely you typed your email address incorrectly on the application. In this case you should call the BLM at (435) 688-3200 or email them at email@example.com for a status. If you win the lottery you will have to pay an additional $7 per individual fee for the North Coyote Buttes permit.
On very rare occasions a permit may become available due to a cancellation. The Coyote Buttes North permit calendar shows any such availability.
Coyote Buttes North Lottery Schedule
for a permit during
January 1 - 31
February 1 - 28
March 1 - 31
April 1- 30
May 1 - 31
June 1 - 30
July 1 - 31
August 1 - 31
September 1 - 30
October 1 - 31
November 1 - 30
December 1 - 31
Walk in permits are issued one day in advance of your hiking date in Kanab at the Kanab center. The Kanab Center is located at 20 North 100 East on US 89 two blocks east of the Best Western Red Hills. Visitors are asked to park on the east side of the building in the rear parking lot. From March 15 to November 15 permits will be issued every day of the week excluding national holidays. During the winter months (approximately November 16-March 15) weekend and Monday permits are issued on Friday. The lottery in Kanab is held at 9 AM Utah time. If you are hiking alone your chances for a permit are better than for a group since there are relatively few single hikers looking for permits. For example if permits were already issued for three groups of five, and you are the only single left you will get a permit unless a group is willing to be split up.
The number of applicants at the walk-in lottery varies greatly by month, and slightly by week day. I recently received data from the BLM showing the number of applicants by day for the period Nov 5,2012 - November 30, 2013. From 2013 to 2018 the number of permit applications has nearly doubled so your odds are only about half of what the 2013 data shows. The data was generally of good quality but there were some limitations: the lottery is not held during weekends during the winter months, it is not held when the office is closed for national holidays, and the government shutdown occurred in this period. There were also a very small number of points where data was not available. After reviewing the raw data I adjusted it so that no data was missing. Based on the adjusted data I drew the following conclusions:
Additional information about permits can be found on Coyote Buttes permits webpage.
December - February
It is "relatively" easy to get permits in December, January and early February, especially through the walk-in process. Permits are hard to get around the Christmas and Ne Years holidays so avoid these times. There is a good chance there will be snow on the ground in the winter months. Snow makes hiking difficult and photographing the patterns in the red rock chancy. If there is snow you may be limited to shooting southern exposures such as The Boneyard and Sand Cove. Average cloud cover is also high in the winter months, and House Rock Road is often muddy and difficult or impossible to drive on. The South Buttes are even higher in elevation than the Wave, about 6,200 feet, or four degrees cooler. This makes snow even more likely in the South Buttes, and it will last longer. I have been to Cottonwood Cove when the north facing exposures had over a foot of snow on them.
March - May
These are good months to visit, especially April and May when cloud cover is low and temperatures moderate. Getting a permits is very difficult. Average wind speed is highest in the southwest in the Spring. The wind comes from the Southwest in this area all year round peaking in the afternoon. Sand Cove runs North - South and forms a natural wind tunnel. This makes good photography of Sand Cove and The Boneyard difficult in the Spring. Average cloud cover is low during May.
A very good month to go to The Wave if you don't mind the heat. Cloud cover is low as is precipitation. The best month for night photography as the Milky Way stretches across the sky.
July - August
I used to believe these were the worst months to go to The Wave. I now believe they are reasonably good, if you are prepared and can stand the heat. Average daily high temperature at the Wave is 101 ºF in July and there is little shade. If you go in July do not plan to be out all day. Either go in the morning when temperatures and cloud cover are lower, or go in mid afternoon if the weather looks cooperative. In 2013 there were three heat related fatalities at the Wave, and there was another heat related death in 2018. Go prepared. If you plan to stay the whole day you will need to find shade. A space blanket can help, you need to elevate it with hiking sticks, rocks, bushes, ... A good place to find natural shade is on Toprock at the Alcove. Finally bring at least one gallon of water per person in July and August. You will need it. I have seen recommendations of nine liters per person per day when temperatures are this high! Keep water inside your pack so it stays cooler, and bring some of it in the for of ice. There is a good possibility of afternoon thunderstorms or even hail. Mornings are cooler, often clear, and have little wind. It's likely you can get a good photograph in the morning, and if the weather cooperates you may get a great one in the afternoon! With luck there will be water at the Wave or in the water pockets south of The Wave. Water pockets won't last long given the average July August temperatures though. If there are water pockets look for tadpoles and tadpole shrimp. If there's a lot of water you may even hear toads croaking! (males calling for females). Permits, though still difficult, are easier to get than during the peak months.
September - November
Excellent months for visiting, Page and Kanab are less crowded than during summer vacation, and cloud cover and temperatures are reasonable. Permits are very difficult to get. The rest of the Southwest is also beautiful at this time of year with the Aspens changing in late September/early October, and the Cottonwoods in late October.
Another good source of climate information based on the Page airport data can be found at Weatherspark.com.
There are two entry points to Coyote Buttes North, Wirepass Trailhead (WP) and The Notch. The Notch is no longer actively publicized by the BLM. The trail from the Notch is poorly defined. I strongly recommend access from the Wirepass parking lot. To get to the Wirepass trailhead take Highway 89 to House Rock Road. The House Rock Road turnoff is between mile posts 25 and 26 on Highway 89 in Utah. House Rock Road is normally passable by passenger cars. Do not take this road if it is wet. It is clay based and impassable even to 4WD vehicles when wet. When the road is muddy it is like driving on ice and there are drop-offs. When dry take House Rock Road for 8.4 miles to the WP parking area on the right. You can dry camp at the Wirepass trailhead, and a toilet is present. Better camping with fire pits, tables, and pit toilets is available at the Stateline Campground, one mile further south just off House Rock Road.
Begin your hike to the Wave by signing the trailhead register and crossing House Rock Road. Follow the well defined trail east for fifty yards until you enter the wash. Wirepass wash feeds into Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in North America. Continue walking down the wash. About .55 miles from the trailhead you will see a sign marked Coyote Buttes on the right. Turn right and follow the good trail up the hill and across the sage field. At the end of the field you will cross a wash. This wash also flows into the Wirepass slot canyon one half mile downstream. Total distance across the sage field to the wash is about .65 miles. After crossing the wash hike up the slickrock to a sometimes cairned saddle. If you have a GPS mark this location. You are now in the permit area. From here there may or may not be cairns and they may or may not be accurate. There are a small number of BLM sign posts in the area at critical locations, one can be seen about 50 yards east of the saddle. Note its location, on your return this marker will tell you where to turn to the west. From the saddle proceed south, after .35 miles or so you will see a twin butte with a downed barbed wire fence on its left (east) side, either go over the fence (easy but a little exposed) or walk around the buttes via their the west side. Continue heading almost due south aiming for the crack in the cliffs to the south. After another .8 miles or so you will cross another small wash, continue heading towards the crack in the Wall and go up the sand dune. There should be a clear trail up the sand dune unless it had been very windy overnight. You will shortly arrive at The Wave. It is about 2.8 miles in total from the WP trailhead to The Wave.
It is fairly easy to get back to your car, even at dusk. The small sign posts installed by the BLM will glow in the dark if a flashlight is shined on them. Make sure that when you return you do not try to cross the ridge too early after heading north. Look for the sign post referenced above, it will tell you when to turn to cross the ridge. It should be easy to cross over the small ridge; if not you have turned west too early. Conversely if you go too far north you will end up in or overlooking Wirepass slot canyon. If so turn around and try again. For an interesting story of someone who got lost on the return, see Trouble in Coyote Buttes. If you get lost or injured and need help try to gain elevation. You may be able to get a cell signal. I have gotten service via Verizon, and a friend via AT&T.
The Second Wave
From Sand Cove hike east north-east and scramble up the cliff until you reach a flat area just before a much steeper cliff. The Second Wave is at the foot of this steep cliff. It is a great late afternoon location, but only fair the rest of the day. Shoot it from the small sand dune a few yards south, or from the rocks to the south east about ten feet above it. Make sure the cliffs to the west are in shadow. Shoot until the Second Wave goes into shadow. Leave a bit earlier if you are concerned about hiking back to your car after sunset.
To return to the Wirepass parking lot head north passing back through The Wave. There should be many good photo-ops along the hike back so don't put your camera / tripod away too soon. After leaving The Wave head down the sand dune, cross the wash, and head north to retrace your steps back to your car. "The Dive" and the North and South "Teepees" will be in good light on the way back. You will need a long lens to shoot them. If you hurry you should be able to get back to your car 30-45 minutes after sunset. Warning - if you do not have good navigation skills or have a GPS and know how to use it, you should leave The Second Wave well before sunset.
About half of all visitors to Coyote Buttes North never explore much beyond The Wave. This is especially true in the summer and winter when extreme temperatures, lightning, or snow cover tend to keep visits short. In view of this I've added some thoughts on how to photograph just The Wave. A gallery showing what I believe to be the classic images of The Wave is here.
The Wave opens up in three directions, to the north (the direction you came in on), to the east, and to the southwest. Each of these openings has a good photo associated with it. Below is a map showing the topography of The Wave.
To view the map in Google Maps please click anywhere on the map above.
Permits to The Wave are so hard to get that I'd suggest you shoot from all three directions on your first trip. All can be shot in the morning in good light. In addition to these images there are many other possibilities, see the main Wave gallery for more ideas.
This image is best mid-morning. By late morning the wall on the left (the south wall) is starting to go into shadow, especially in the winter. You'll need a wide or ultra-wide for best results. The image shown was shot at 14mm. The "Eye of The Wave" is shown on the right. It is a great example of soft-sediment deformation.
This image is best about an hour after sunrise when the south wall is in light, and the side walls are in shadow. A few hours later the side walls are partially lit and the image suffers. Water is often found at the entrance to The Wave, especially in summer. Only a little water is needed to get a good photo, even one inch will do. Shoot close to ground level to emphasize the little rocks in the water, with a wide angle to normal lens. Both vertical and horizontal compositions work.
The last image, is of a short slot canyon which gets excellent reflected light in late morning. Watch your DOF when shooting this. You may want to smooth out the sand in the slot using a cloth, jacket, or rain jacket before shooting. It is very difficult to remove the footprints in this sand using Photoshop.
I have added some new images from the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah wilderness and the Bisti Badlands. My best images (seen to the right) were shot at night with the Move-Shoot-Move tracker. A tracker allows for long exposures times without creating star-trails. By using 3 to 5 minute exposures I was able to use ISOs as low as 200 to 400 and still get sharp stars with good color. The Move-Shoot-Move tracker only weights about one pound and is small enough to carry with you on hikes.
I have added information on three arches I visited on a recent trip to the Aztec, New Mexico area. The first arch, Rooftop Arch, also known as Little Delicate Arch, is small but quite spectacular. Rooftop Arch is best shot mid-afternoon.
Nearby Boulder Arch is very photogenic but difficult to access. I was unable to get to its base but did get a good image from above.
Arch Rock is best at sunset and is also excellent at night when the Milky Way frames it nicely.
The Navajo Nation Parks reopened today. Parks reopened include Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Lower and Upper Antelope Canyons. Parks have been reopened at reduced (50%) capacity. See the Farmington Daily Times for more information.
I have added images of magnificent Poncho House Cliff Dwelling in Southeast Utah. Poncho House consists of three distinct groupings of dwellings. The upper two are inaccessible. The ruins sit high above a bend in Chinle Creek and are best visited in the fall when the Cottonwoods along the creek are changing color. To visit Poncho House it is mandatory that you go with a Navajo Guide. Guides willing to go to Poncho House are hard to find. I suggest you start with guides who go to Monument Valley or Canyon de Chelly. The Navajo Nation parks are currently closed due to Covid concerns. I have been told that Navajo Nation lands will not be open to outsiders until 70% of the Navajo Nation has been vaccinated.
I have added new images taken in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Most of the new images were taken east of The White Pocket or along the Loop Road. Both areas are very isolated and the roads are sandy; a 4x4 high clearance vehicle is necessary. My thanks to Dave Coppedge who has extensively explored Vermilion Cliffs and generously shared photogenic locations. He also named the various features he found. The area Dave refers to as the Blimp Hangar is especially pristine. I've been there twice and saw no human footprints on the hike or vehicle tracks on Wrather Arch Road. I saw Bighorn Sheep on both occasions. Unlike the area surrounding The Wave the rock fins were largely unbroken. Please tread lightly here.
I have added a gallery with images taken in the Narnia Slot Canyon. Narnia is a short slot canyon in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument which, for now, is all I'll say about its location. Narnia gets good light around 10AM in the morning. The opening to the slot is narrow and tortuous and some people have been unable to access the slot. Knowing this we hiked in carrying an eight foot telescoping ladder. The ladder allowed us to easily enter the canyon. Narnia was named by Dreamland Tours of Kanab, Utah. Both Dreamland Tours and Action Photo Tours lead trips to Narnia. Only small groups can be accommodated and participants must be physically fit.
I've updated the Death Valley gallery with images taken in Butte Valley. The Geologist's Cabin and spectacular Striped Butte are definitely worth a visit. I have also added new images shot at the Ibex dunefield. Butte Valley is one of the more remote areas in the park and 4WD is needed to get there. The Geologist's Cabin in only six miles from Barker Ranch where Charles Manson lived until his capture there. The road between the Geologist's Cabin and the Barker Ranch is very rough and a lifted 4x4 may be needed to traverse it. On the way to Butte Valley you're likely to see both Big Horn sheep near the Warm Springs Talc Mine and burros within Butte Valley. I have also updated the Death Valley map to show the locations of the various cabins within Butte Valley and the location of the Barker Ranch.
I've updated the Alabama Hills gallery with new images of Boot Arch, Whitney Portal Arch, and Eagle Eye Arch. The new images added are identified by white stars in the upper right corner of the thumbnail, or you can use the search search facility in the sidebar. New images are those shot in the last 60 days. An eight foot telescoping ladder was carried to the base of Whitney Portal Arch so that Lone Pine Peak and Mount Whitney could be framed by the arch. I've also updated the Alabama Hills map to show the hike to Whitney Portal Arch and the locations of sixty dispersed camping sites in the hills. The BLM recently issued a revised management plan for the Alabama Hills area with fewer campsites so now might be a good time to visit the area. The plan is not yet in effect. Now is also an excellent time to shoot the The Milky Way over the Trona Pinnacles.
I've added a gallery of images from three areas in Southeast Nevada. The areas covered include Valley of Fire State Park, nearby Buffington Pockets, and Little Finland. If you are in the Las Vegas area or traveling from Las Vegas to southern Utah all three are worth visiting. I have also included maps and travel directions to each. The maps include travel directions and trails, free campsites, and the locations of some of the spectacular rock formations in the area.
On Friday January 8th the Bureau of Land Management approved an increase in allowed visitation to The Wave. Up to 64 people or 16 groups will be allowed to visit each day, whichever comes first. The online lottery will grant permits for up to 48 people or 12 groups, whichever comes first, and the walk-in lottery for up to 16 people or 4 groups, whichever comes first.
Here is the information I received from the BLM:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved a proposal to expand visitor access to the world-famous geologic feature known as the Wave, located in the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The Environmental Assessment (EA) went through an interdisciplinary resource specialist and public review process. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) along with three Decision Records (DR) were signed on January 8, 2021.
One DR authorizes the increase in permit numbers, up to 96 people per day and up to 16 groups per day which, ever comes first. Under this new decision, implementation of the number of hiking permits issued for the Wave will increase from 20 to 64 people per day and up to 16 groups per day, whichever comes first. The BLM could implement further increases or decreases in the future based on monitoring of resources and social conditions.
A second DR authorizes the proposed improvements at Lone Tree, Cottonwood Cove, Paw Hole, and White Pocket trailheads and the VCNM Administrative Site within the Arizona Strip Field Office. A third DR authorizes the proposed improvements at Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch trailheads and additional route markers as described in Alternative A of the EA within the Kanab Field Office.
The EA, FONSI, and the three DRs can be found at the BLM’s NEPA Registrar ePlanning: https://go.usa.gov/xyxtK. The approval of these Decision Records constitutes the final decision of the Department of the Interior and, in accordance with the regulations at 43 CFR 4.410(a)(3), is not subject to appeal under departmental regulations at 43 CFR 4. Any challenge to this decision as approved by these Decision Records must be brought in the Federal District Court.
Implementation for the permit increase will begin February 1, with the majority of additional permits being available to the online lottery. Distribution of permits will be as follows:
The BLM will work closely with Arizona and Utah county governments to discuss implementation details and practices, including exploring potential opportunities for regional economic development.
This is the abridged title of a must read article by Matt Kloskowski, a photography educator based in Tampa, Florida. Photo Collecting works as follows: you see or find a photo you like and then make the effort to go to that spot and take that photo. There's nothing wrong with this. I've done it many times and will continue to do so. And I know many well known landscape photographers who do the same.
The Peach Rock image to the right is a good example of an image I "collected". It's very similar to one by Laurent Martres. When I first saw his image I was struck by how the soft light on the ground drew your attention to Peach Rock. Of course I also wanted to come away with something more my own. I thought the entire area was gorgeous so I shot the Peach Rock Panorama image above as well.
By the way if you love the southwest and don't own Laurent's books Photographing the Southwest Volume 1 -- Southern Utah and Photographing the Southwest Volume 2 -- Arizona do yourself a favor and buy them. They are filled with great locations and advice.
The process of making a photo is different in that you make the effort to avoid preconceived compositions or locations. Last summer I went to Badlands National Park which seems to lack iconic images. I still came away from some very good images but the trip was not as productive as most of my trips. I will need to revisit Badlands and spend a lot more time there to come back with great images. Making photos in new locations takes more field time than "collecting" them.
Finally I've added a gallery of images taken in Joshua Tree National Park with the locations of many "icons" taken under varied conditions. Feel free to "collect" them or to go one step further and make them your own.
Most Death Valley services including ranger programs, lodging in the park, campgrounds, and backcountry campgrounds are currently closed due to California's "Stay at Home" order. Trails, viewpoints, and roads are open, crowds are non-existent, and winter temperatures are moderate. This makes it a great time to visit the park if you are willing to do some driving each day. All four major Death Valley dune fields are accessible from just outside the park if you camp, and there are motels within 35 minutes of Mesquite Dunes and the Panamint Dunes. I've added some images taken on a recent trip to the Panamint Dunes and have updated the Death Valley maps to include some camping opportunities just outside the park. I've also added locations and travel directions to the Barker Ranch where Charles Manson was captured and the photogenic "Geologists Cabin" and "Striped Butte" in Butte Valley.
Hiking through Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon's tall Navajo sandstone walls is the ultimate southwest backpack. It should be on all desert rats bucket list. I have added a gallery of images of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River to this site. Images were taken during a recent three day backpack covering lower Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River from the White House Trailhead to Wall Spring. I have also added a map suggesting shooting locations and covering some of the logistics of backpacking in Paria Canyon.
Effective this Friday November 20 the Kanab office of the BLM is moving to winter hours. The Kanab BLM office will be closed on weekends until mid-March. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday permits will be issued on the preceding Friday. In the past there have been nearly three times as many lottery applications on Fridays so there is little advantage to applying on a Friday.
The BLM office will be closed on Thanksgiving so a two day drawing will be held on the Wednesday before. The BLM office is open the day after Thanksgiving and a three day drawing will be held then.
For Christmas a five day drawing will be held on December 23rd. For New Years a five day drawing will be held on December 30th.
The walk-in lottery is held at 9AM MST at the Kanab Center at 180 E 100 N in Kanab, Utah. Plan to arrive at 8:30 to give you time to complete the application.
Cedar Wash Arch is a spectacular arch in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It is ten miles from the town of Escalante. The arch has a span of 24 feet. The arch is made of Entrada sandstone and is white in color. Most people photograph the arch from the top of the surrounding cliffs but the arch photographs much better from below. The cliffs surrounding the arch are finely detailed and contain many surface pockets / tafoni. The tafoni make excellent foreground, as do the pine trees in the area. I have added a small gallery of images of Cedar Wash Arch to this site. I have also added a map suggesting shooting locations and showing the short hike to the arch. The maps page includes a link to a Caltopo map of the area as well as a Google map.
Devils Tower is a butte in northeast Wyoming high above the Belle Fourche River. It is perhaps best known as the site of the climatic scenes in Spielberg's movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". I have added a small gallery of images and a map suggesting shooting locations to this site. The maps page includes a link to a Caltopo map of the area as well as a Google map. Caltopo maps have several advantages over Google Maps.
I've added images of and travel directions to Fantasy Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Fantasy Canyon is a small area of incredibly shaped sandstone figures about 40 miles south of Vernal, Utah. Fantasy Canyon is best known as the home of Teapot Rock made famous by Michael Fatali in his image "Back Of Beyond". Unfortunately Teapot Rock was damaged in 2006, probably by vandals, and Fantasy Canyon is no longer the attraction it once was. It is still worth visiting if you are in the area.
Dinosaur National Monument contains two visitor centers separated by 30 minutes of driving. The westernmost visitor center is the Quarry Visitor Center near the small town of Jensen Utah. If you want to see dinosaur fossils start your visit here at the Quarry Exhibit Hall where there is a wall of naturally embedded fossils on display.
The Canyon Visitor Center in Dinosaur, Colorado is the gateway to the eastern side of the park. Highlights of the eastern side include Harpers Corner and Echo Park. Close to Echo Park there is an overlook of the Green River as it wraps around Steamboat Rock that rivals the overlook at Horseshoe Bend. Steamboat Rock overlook is not well known and you'll probably have it to yourself. Highly recommended.
The Wave has reopened and the walk-in lottery is being held again. House Rock Road is open again.
St George News reports that the Pine Hollow wildfire has forced another closure of The Wave. The fire is now largely contained and it is hoped The Wave will reopen within the next week. House Rock Road is closed from its north end and also from the south just above the Lone Tree trailhead. Both Coyote Buttes South and The White Pocket are open but you need to access them from Highway 89A.
The Wire Pass and Magnum fires are now largely contained. The Wave and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are open. The walk-in lottery is being held as normal in its new location. Both US 89A and UT 67 are open. The southern part of House Rock Valley Road is still closed. Since this is the only way to access Coyote Buttes South and The White Pocket both are still closed.
St George News reports that a wildfire near the Wirepass trailhead started at 11PM on Friday night. Due to the fire the Wirepass and Buckskin trails and The Wave are closed as is House Rock Road from both its north and south ends. The Wirepass fire is very close to the Magnum Fire and high winds are expected tomorrow and Monday.
I've added images and travel directions for two groups of small arches near Factory Butte. The first grouping is well known and frames Factory Butte nicely. There are four arches in total, all are photogenic. The arches are best shot near sunset. These arches are about 400 feet east of parking 2.2 miles down Coal Mine Road.
The second grouping consists of more than 100 tiny arches near the old Factory Butte Coal Mine. They are in a small area of wildly eroded rocks reminiscent of Little Finland but with the colors of the Bisti Badlands. The area can be accessed by taking Coal Mine Road 9.7 miles and making a right. Continue 0.7 miles and park, the arches and eroded rocks are just to the west. You are unlikely to see anyone at either set of arches.
On Monday June 15 the American Hotel burned to the ground, as did the nearby Ice House and the Crapo House. The American Hotel was 149 years old when it burned down. The probable cause was 100 year old electrical wiring insulated with paper. The American Hotel was the premier site for photographers at Cerro Gordo, and will be missed. Fortunately plans for the hotel exist and it is expected it will be rebuilt though of course it will never be the same. Friends of Cerro Gordo has set up a tax deductible GoFundMe to help with the rebuilding. Please donate if you can.
Both The White Pocket and Coyote Buttes South are currently closed due to the Magnum Fire which is now 33% contained. Firefighters are working to contain the fire west of House Rock Road. Coyote Buttes North is currently open. Maps showing the progression of the fire can be found at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/maps/6748/ , and a smoke forecast at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/map/6748/1/98428.
The Cliff Dwellers Stone House, aka the Blanche Russell House, in on US 89A which runs between Jacob Lake and Bitter Springs in Arizona. The unique house is built around a large fallen boulder. In good conditions, which are rare, the house is quite photogenic and worth an early morning stopover on your way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or Coyote Buttes South.
I used to believe the house was built by the Navajo, but the truth is more interesting. In 1927 Blanche Russell's husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the two decided to move west from New York seeking drier climate. Blanche was reportedly a Ziegfield Follies dancer. About nine miles west of Lees Ferry their car broke down and they decided to camp amongst the boulders at Cliff Dwellers. Blanche loved the area and they decided to buy the land and build a house there, using a boulder as a start. They operated a roadside trading post where they sold food and gasoline and operated a restaurant. The trading post was quite successful and the area became known as House Rock Valley. It may well be that House Rock Road is named after the house Blanche built with her husband. They ran the trading post for about ten years and sold the property to Jack Church who three years later sold to the Greene family. The Greene's started the first guided trips down the Colorado, and built the Cliff Dwellers Lodge and restaurant.
The best side of the Stone House faces east so morning is the best time to photograph it. Normally there are Navajo craft stands interspersed among the balanced rocks so I suggest you arrive as early as possible before the stands are set up. Navajo businesses are currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic so now is a good time to visit. You will need to clone out graffiti and a porta potty from your images if you want a more natural look.
The walk-in lottery for next day permits resumed on June 15 in Kanab at a new location. The lottery was moved to the Kanab Center at 20 North 100 East on US 89 two blocks east of the Best Western Red Hills. Visitors are asked to park on the east side of the building in the rear parking lot. Applicants should bring their own pencil/pen to complete the application and should wear masks. There is no cost to enter the lottery. If you win there is a $7 per person fee to hike to The Wave. There were 90 people applying for the ten available slots on Tuesday June 16th.
Effective June 1 several changes were made to the on-line lottery for Wave permits. Here's a brief recap:
The walk-in lottery is still suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If the BLM can find a way to safely hold the walk-in lottery by July 1st the walk-in process will resume at that time. If not the ten permits will be added to the on-line lottery.
I've added new galleries covering Cobra Arch and the Paria Windows to the website, as well as travel directions and maps. Cobra is a scenic arch with a span of 35 feet. It is best shot from late morning to late-afternoon. The trail to Cobra Arch begins at the Middle Route trailhead on West Clark Bench. The hike is seven miles round trip and is best done in the cooler months. The Paria Windows are a group of tafoni on the east shore of the Paria River about two miles downstream from the White House trailhead. Tafoni, also called honeycomb weathering, refers to small rounded holes on slanted to vertical walls. The Paria Windows are best shot in shadow. Since the windows face west plan on being at them within a few hours of sunrise, the earlier the better.
I have also updated the Edmaier's Secret gallery with several new images including a hoodoo made of Lace Rock southwest of Teepee Dome, and an incredibly large expanse of crossbedded sandstone and fins centered at 37.036600,-111.995687.
I've updated the Coyote Buttes South Gallery with many new images. My favorites were taken at night at The Control Tower and The Witches Hat. I have also added several new locations to the gallery. The best of these is the Rainbow Cove area with its very colorful leading lines. Many thanks to #DrAdventure for generously suggesting this location and others. Rainbow Cove is best shot when totally in shadow either early or late in the day. Images of a nice alcove in the Pawhole area were also added, as were images of The Hydra and also The Olympic Torch. The last are best shot at dawn. The Coyote Buttes South maps page was updated with these new locations.
In April I made four separate trips to Coyote Buttes South and only saw two other hikers. There was no evidence of other daily visitors at either the Pawhole or Cottonwood trailheads. While permits for the current month are sold out, August permits are still available on the Coyote Buttes South permit calendar as of May 2nd.
The walk-in lottery for Wave permits is still closed. It was hoped that the walk-in permits would be added to the on-line calendar or on-line lottery. This has proven to be impossible due to the complexities of the current lottery system. The entire lottery system is being moved to Recreation.gov effective July 1. Should the Covid-19 closure still be in effect in July the walk-in permits will be added to the on-line lottery for November permits.
If this is as confusing to you as it is to me you may want to read the details at https://www.blm.gov/alert/az-covid-19-updates about 2/3 of the way down the web page.
Since I'm largely stuck at home I've taken the time to update some of the galleries with images from recent trips. I've updated the Death Valley Gallery with new images from the Badwater salt flats and the Mesquite Dunes Note that Death Valley and most California National and State Parks is currently closed to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Two Guns is an underrated destination just off I40 thirty miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona. It has an incredibly rich history which includes an Apache Death Cave, Route 66, Billy the Kid, a train robbery, buried treasure, a Mountain Lion Zoo, and Russell Crowe, believed by some to be the current owner. A brief history can be found on my maps page, more details can be found on wikipedia. A gallery of images of Two Guns can be found here.
I've added a small number of images taken in the "semi" ghost town of Goldfield, Nevada. The International Car Forest is an unusual open air museum just south of Goldfield. Its many cars are buried on end so the car forest is best shot at night in late summer or fall when the Milky is largely vertical. The Subway to Nowhere in Goldfield is well worth a brief stop during the day. I have also updated the Rhyolite Nevada ghost town gallery with some new images taken at sunrise.
I've updated the Cerro Gordo Mine ghost town gallery with images from a recent trip. Cerro Gordo is more accessible than it used to be with on-line tickets available and you can freely wander the American hotel. Tripods are allowed. On weekdays Cerro Gordo still receives few visitors. I've also updated the Alabama Hills gallery with some images of Lathe Arch shot with a Laowa 10mm full frame lens. This ultrawide lens is just perfect for capturing unusual subjects and creating unique perspectives.
Preliminary - Effective today The Wave walk-in lottery has been suspended until further notice. The walk-in lottery will not be held tomorrow (Thursday 3/19). There are no plans to temporarily increase the number of permits available on-line at this time. I'll post more details as they becomes available.
All tours of the Navajo Nation slot canyons in Page (e.g. Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, Canyon X, ...) has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Monument Valley Tribal Park is also closed. Other closed areas include the Four Corners Monument, the Little Colorado River Tribal Park, the Bisti Badlands, Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly Campground, and others . You cannot visit any Navajo Nation park at this time. More information can be found in the Farmington Daily Times, the Phoenix New Times, and Fox 13 Salt Lake.
Mono Lake is an excellent three season destination. At 6,400 feet it normally gets snow in the winter so if you plan to visit then check snow cover levels in advance. Information on how to check snow depth levels in the US can be found on the Mono Lake maps page. There are two areas of photographic interest at Mono Lake. The first is called the "South Tufas". At sunrise and sunset you can often get nice reflections of limestone columns (known as Tufas) in the lake with the Eastern Sierra's in the background. Sunrise usually works better than sunset since winds are calmer then.
The second area is known as the "Sand Tufas". While the South Tufas are large and rock-like in appearance the Sand Tufas are delicate and have many branches. They form fantastic shapes are are best photographed up-close. If possible shoot at sunrise following a windy night so that the footprints around the tufas are filled in.
I've added images of two slot canyons near Kanab, Utah. The first is Red Canyon, also known as Peekaboo Canyon. Red Canyon is accessible via a very sandy 4WD road off of Highway 89, or via a seven mile plus round trip hike from the Red Canyon TH at 37.154676°, -112.573318°. The second slot is Upper Red Cave, also known as Heart Vein. Upper Red Cave can only be accessed by crossing private land with a locked gate. The canyon also has several three to eight foot climbs which will be difficult for most without a ladder. I recommend going with guide Jim Anderson of Kanab, Utah. Jim will bring a telescoping ladder to help with the climbs, and also has a key to the gate. Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +1 435 689-0621. A map with the location of Red Canyon can be found here. The map page also contains the excellent BLM OHV road maps of the Kanab area.
On December 20th White Sands became our 62nd National Park. For now expect little change in the operations of the park; even the signs have not yet been changed. Over time expect increased attendance, more funding, and hopefully more opportunities to explore the park. A gallery of images of White Sands appears here, and a page with park information and photographic tips here.
I've updated the Monument Valley gallery with images from a recent trip to Hunts Mesa.
I've also updated the Adeii Eichii gallery with new images from the Sky City and Hopi Clown areas. The "road" to the Hopi Clown has deteriorated in the last few years and since we are now in rainy season I advise not going there at this time.
The Rimrocks gallery contains new images of the white hoodoos 200 yards west of Toadstool Hoodoo. Thanks to Stan Wagon the Rimrocks map now shows a route from the Lower Rimrocks to the Upper Rimrocks. His most recent Utah trip report discusses the route and shows an image taken during the hike. Stan also has an incredible image of a sandstone stalagmite on his blog. The stalagmite is located deep in Sidestep slot canyon and is only accessible to rock climbers.
I've added images of a group of very scenic hoodoos near Kanab, Utah to the Western Grand Staircase / Kanab gallery. The hoodoos were shot about an hour before sunset which was not optimal, sunrise or the blue hour would work better.
Reader Anthony Marko recently sent me an image of an arch visible from the Notch Trail. I have had reports of an arch near The Notch from others but Anthony is the first person to document it to my knowledge. The arch has a span of about ten feet and is less than one mile from The Wave. I've added some images of the arch to this gallery, and a map showing its location to the Coyote Buttes North maps page. I've also added tracks showing the route to The Maze Petroglyph and of the Notch Trail to the maps page. On my last visit I also noticed a very scenic area .2 miles northwest of Sand Cove, I've added some images to this gallery.
The BLM has issued a preliminary environmental assessment on the impact of increasing the number of permits issued for Coyote Buttes North / The Wave. As a result they have asked for input from the public on three alternatives. The alternatives are:
The group size limit of 6 would be unchanged, and no proposal was made as to how permits would be issued. Under alternatives A. and B. it was proposed that parking areas be expanded and that additional route markers be added if necessary. It was also proposed that up to four vault toilets be added at The White Pocket parking area, which I am strongly in favor of.
If you feel strongly about any of the three alternatives I urge you to visit the BLM's eplanning website and complete the comment form. Alternatively you can comment in person, for locations and dates of public hearings see here.
Lees Ferry, best known as the jump off point for Colorado River rafting, is a great destination in itself. Historically Lees Ferry was the only place within hundreds of miles to cross the Colorado River. Today it offers many photographic opportunities and good hiking. Good images can be had along the Spencer Trail, of the Colorado River, of an old Mormon fort, of John D. Lees Lonely Dell Ranch, and in the Balanced Rock area. A map containing many of the points of interest in the area and GPS tracks of the hikes can be found on the maps page.
Great advice from famed war photographer Robert Capa. Wide angle lenses let you get physically close to your subject. Getting close to your subject emphasizes it, and for me the incredible fine lines and sandstone patterns are the star of the show at The Wave. While a normal to short telephoto can also record these patterns, a wide angle allows you to capture them in their magnificent environment. Ultra-wides also present enormous depth of field. At f/8 if you focus a 10mm lens at the hyper-focal distance of 17 inches (measured from the sensor, not the end of the lens) inches everything from 8.5 inches (from the sensor) to infinity will be in focus.
I recently had the opportunity to photograph The Wave using a 10mm (full-frame) lens. Conditions at The Wave were almost perfect except for the heat. The day presented great clouds, there was a water pool at The Wave, and there was little wind to disturb reflections. To beat the heat we went in an hour before sunrise and had The Wave to ourselves for almost two hours before others arrived.
Most of the images below were taken at a distance of six to twelve inches from the front of the lens. Images were shot at f/8 and the camera was mostly hand-held due to the difficulty of accurately setting up the tripod at such short distances. More images mostly at 10mm can be found at this gallery.
Navajo Parks and Recreation has suspended the issuance of permits to the Tatahatso Point area along the east rim of the Grand Canyon. Other areas along the east rim such as The Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, The Hopi Salt Trail, and the bends along the Little Colorado River are not affected.
I've added images of the "Sky City" area to the Adeii Eichii Cliffs gallery. I've also updated the Adeii Eichii Cliffs map with the locations of Sky City and some nice formations 1/2 mile north of it. I've left images of the "Eye of the Needle" in place, however the arch collapsed sometime in early-mid 2019 and is not longer worth shooting. A Navajo Nation $12 per person per day permit is required to visit Adeii Eichii Cliffs. The road to Adeii Eichii Cliffs is very rarely taken, be sure to download a track from the maps page before undertaking it as the road is very faint in places.
I have added a gallery of images from the western side of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the surrounding area. Locations added include the Flag Point Dinosaur Track Site, The Great Chamber, and Inchworm Arch. Travel directions to Inchworm Arch have been added, and directions to the Flag Point Track Site are available upon request. I have not added travel information for The Great Chamber as the fins in the alcove are very fragile and the area will not support a large number of visitors.
The Bureau of Land Management is tentatively proposing an increase in the number of visitors allowed to visit The Wave each day. Currently 20 visitors are allowed, under the proposal 96 visitors per day would be allowed. As a first step, the BLM has asked that interested parties comment on the increase and on the permit process in general. Comments can be submitted to:
BLM, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790
Three public hearings will be held in early June to review these comments. More information about the proposed change and the dates and locations of the hearings can be found at https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/projectSummary.do?methodName=renderDefaultProjectSummary&projectId=122125.
All comments must be received by June 21, 2019.
Once all comments have been received and issues evaluated an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be ordered. The EA will be available for public review once complete. If you wish to receive notice of when the EA is complete please mail/email the BLM at the address above. The entire process of determining the scope of the EA and ordering it, completing the EA, and implementing a revised permit system could take a year or more to complete.
The proposed increase affects only the Coyote Buttes North permit area, Coyote Buttes South is not affected. Visitation for Coyote Buttes South will remain at twenty visitors per day.
Readers Mark and Tanner Fredrickson recently hiked to Lower Sidestep Canyon from Churchwell and sent me their GPS track. Thank you Mark and Tanner! The route they took back to the their car was enough shorter than the route I was familiar with (via Wahweap Creek, 2.5 miles versus about 4 one way), that I decided to test it out. The hike itself is straightforward, from the reservoir off road K7065 north of Churchwell hike ENE about 2.25 miles to the rim of the West Fork of Wahweap Creek. There is a well defined drop down into the canyon via a sand and clay dune at 37.15308, -111.72434. The hike down the dune is steep but quite easy. When you reach the bottom of the dune you'll be in a scenic portion of the West Fork of Wahweap Creek, with Lower Sidestep Canyon about 1/3 of a mile north on the left (west) side of the West Fork. Full travel directions to Sidestep Canyon can be found here.
Once you are in Lower Sidestep you'll find it quickly slots up. The slot is very narrow and you will need to remove your pack to get through. There was a little water in the canyon. Since we were low on time we only went in a short distance but still found many good opportunities for photos and plan to go back again and spend more time. The West Fork of Wahweap Creek is also very scenic with many hoodoos and side canyons to be explored. While the West Fork is best at sunset the trail back to the rim can be easily seen from a distance. Images of Sidestep Canyon, the West Fork, and the Upper White Rocks can be found here.
I've added a few images of the Trona Pinnacles to my Lone Pine Area gallery and updated the Alabama Hills map with the locations of several additional photogenic arches. The Trona Pinnacles are about 90 minutes south of Lone Pine and are an excellent location for night photography while the Milky Way is out. To aid in shot planning I have added a table showing when the center of the Milky Way becomes visible by month. The table was created using the excellent app Photopills which is available for both Android and Apple phones.
I've added many images from a 2017 trip to Yellowstone to the Yellowstone gallery, and updated the Yellowstone map with many shooting locations. The 2017 trip was in May which is a good time to go as the crowds are much smaller than in summer. Some roads in Yellowstone, like the south entrance road, are still closed in early May so if you do go then I suggest going later in the month. Winter remains my favorite time to visit the park. Yellowstone is currently open despite the government shutdown though some services are not available. More information about the impact of the shutdown on Yellowstone can be found at https://yellowstoneinsider.com/ .
I have added images from the east most tributary of Coal Mine Canyon and from nearby Ha Ho No Geh Canyon to the Coal Mine gallery. Images have also been added for the incredible balanced rock seven miles south of Tuba City. The Coal Mine map has been updated and travel directions added for these new locations.
The Second Wave at sunset
The Alcove on Top Rock
Melody Arch and The Grotto
False Kiva Panorama
Lace Rock near The Boneyard
Leading Lines at Sand Cove
Last light on The Second Wave
Wide-angle view of The Wave
The Wave Startrail
The Milky Wave
The view north from The Wave at dusk
The Classic Wave
Looking North at Dusk
Under that Serious Moonlight
Eye of The Wave
Slot Canyon Reflection
The Southern Wave
Cottonwood Cove Storm
Coyote Buttes South
The Second Tree
Blue Hour at The White Pocket
Delta Pool at The White Pocket
North end of The Monolith
The Wave slot canyon soft sediment deformation
Coal Mine Canyon Bathed in Fog
Ha Ho No Geh Badlands
Globe Rock Sunstar
Tangled Creek Dead Trees
The Milky Way over the Trona Pinnacles
Lower Sidestep Canyon
The Scenic West Fork of Wahweap Creek
Dual Hoodoos at Sunset
The Great Chamber Sunburst
Flag Point Dinosaur Footprint Pictograph
Point Hansbrough seen from Tatahatso Point
The Wave at 10mm
Reflection at The Wave
Looking North at 10mm
The Wave slot canyon at 10mm
Bend in the Colorado River
Growth in Demand for Wave Permits
The Notch Arch
The Kanab Hoodoos
Monument Valley seen from Hunts Mesa
Ward Terrace Hoodoos
The White Hoodoos
Yucca in White Sands National Park
Upper Red Cave
The Doll House
Three Story Ruin at Dawn
Mono Lake South Tufas
Sand Tufas near Navy Beach
Mountain Lion Zoo at Night
Subway Station to Nowhere
Badwater at Night
Mesquite Dunes at Dawn
The Control Tower at Night
The Paria Windows
The Stone House
Balanced Rock seen through Window
The American Hotel
Three Hole Arch
Coal Mine Area Arches
Fantasy Canyon Hoodoo
Devils Tower at Sunset
South Unit Hoodoos
Cedar Wash Arch
Slide Rock Arch
Peach Rock Panorama
Laughing Donkey formation in Little Finland
Striped Arch in Buffington Pockets
Boot Arch at Sunrise
Whitney Portal Arch shot from a ladder
The Geologist's Cabin and Striped Butte
The Ibex Dunes at Sunset
Narnia Slot Canyon
The Spiral Domes
Jail in Gleeson
The Milky Way over Arch Rock
The Bisti Wings
The Alien Throne