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 twenty permits per day (10 on-line and 10 walk-in) are available and demand far exceeds supply. During the most popular months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 150 people applying for the ten 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 Coyote Buttes North. Online permits and permit information can be obtained from the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at Coyote Buttes Permits. Twenty people are allowed into Coyote Buttes North each day. Permits for a total of ten people are issued via an on-line lottery and another ten permits are issued via a walk-in lottery. The walk-in lottery occurs the day before the permit is valid, except for November 15th to March 15th when permits for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are all issued on the preceding Friday.
Permits for Coyote Buttes North are very difficult to obtain, with demand greatly exceeding supply. All Coyote Buttes North permits are awarded by lottery. The on-line 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 application fee is $5 per group. There is a maximum group size of six people. You are only allowed to apply once each month. If you apply more than once and win a permit it will be forfeited. Each person in the group is allowed to apply separately provided they do not share an email address. For example, if there are four people in the group a total of four applications can be submitted. On each 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 +1 435 688-3200 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.
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
To apply for an on-line permit go to the BLM permit website at https://www.blm.gov/az/paria/lotteryapply.cfm?areaid=2, watch the video, confirm that you have watched the video, and click on the I Agree button. On the next screen you need to enter the number of people in your group (maximum six) and select three dates. The bottom of the screen shows the number of applicants by day, normally Tuesday through Thursday will have the lowest number of applicants. After completing the rest of the application the credit card payment screen will appear, pay the $5.00 fee for your group, and wait until the first day of the next month to hear if you have been successful.
Walk in permits are issued one day in advance of your hiking date in Kanab at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) visitor center. The address is 745 E. Highway 89, the phone number is (435) 644-1300. The visitor center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM seven days a week. The visitor center is on the North side of Highway 89 as you head east towards Page just after the Kanab City Cemetery. If you pass the Comfort Inn you've gone too far. 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 two groups of four and a single, 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. Based on this data I drew the following conclusions:
Additional information about permits can be found on my permits page here.
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.
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 some 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 Wave Slot Canyon
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'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 incredibily 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 email@example.com 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.
On Christmas Eve a 14 year old girl from San Jose, California fell to her death at Horseshoe Bend. The girl was seen last seen at 2PM that day, and was reported missing by her parents at 4PM. An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter was dispatched and located the body of the girl at the bottom of Horseshoe Bend that day. Due to darkness search and rescue teams recovered the body on Christmas day. Preliminary investigation indicates the fall was accidental.
Once again some agencies of the US government, including the BLM which manages the The Wave permit area, are shutdown. The Wave itself is open so if you have a permit go. If you do not have a permit and are considering bagging The Wave illegally keep in mind that BLM law enforcement personnel are still on duty and will be patrolling the permit area. The average fine for hiking to The Wave without a permit exceeds $1,000.
The BLM walk-in and on-line lotteries are closed until further notice. If you have already applied on-line for an April permit I'm sure the lottery will be held once the BLM reopens. My best guess is that if you have not yet applied and the government remains shut past December 31st you probably won't be able to apply on-line for an April permit.
There have been twenty US government shutdowns since 1976, lasting seven days on average. We are now in the fourth day of the shutdown. Of the twenty shutdowns nine have lasted four days or more, with an average length of twelve days, so it is certainly possible that the current shutdown will run into the new year.
If you are currently in southern Utah / northern Arizona the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Arches national parks are open, as are the Page slot canyons. The White Pocket is open. Vermilion Cliffs and the Grand Staircase National Monuments are open for hiking but visitor centers are closed and BLM emergency response is unavailable. Local government response is still available, so call 911 in an emergency. Glen Canyon NRA is closed, however Horseshoe Bend is open.
May the holiday season bring only happiness and joy to you and your family and may your New Year be filled with fun and adventure.
I have updated the Arches gallery and map to include two new locations: Cove Arch, and Cobblestone Arch. I have also updated the Covert Arch gallery with shots taken in good light at sunset. Cove Arch is in the Windows section of the park and frames Double Arch nicely. It's close to the road but access requires you cross a narrow ledge with exposure. Cobblestone Arch is 0.5 miles off the Delicate Arch path. It gets great light at sunrise but is close to the ground and difficult to shoot.
Covert Arch is my favorite arch in the park. It's in a great setting and gets good light at sunset. It is seldom visited since access requires a long drive from Moab and an off-trail 2.5 mile round trip hike. I have now been there three times and have not seen another person during these visits. If you're looking for some solitude in one of America's busiest parks try these out, you'll be glad you did.
The Rimrocks is an area of hoodoos and badlands in south central Utah about thirty miles east of Page. I have divided the area into three sections. The first section contains the well known Toadstool Hoodoo, a very photogenic reddish brown and white hoodoo. Access is easy. Only a 2WD vehicle and a 0.7 mile one-way hike is needed.
On the cliffs above Toadstool is a second area of hoodoos, The Upper Rimrocks. To access the hoodoos on top of the cliffs take Cottonwood Canyon Road for 3.0 miles to a turnout on the left side of the road, and then hike 0.6 miles south to the cliff's rim. Below you you'll find over one hundred hoodoos of all sizes and shapes in an area known as The Hoodoo Forest. There are several faint usage trails leading from the rim to these hoodoos. Be careful as the sandstone is very soft and the way down is steep and exposed. Unlike Toadstool the hoodoos in this area are primarily white. They photograph best at sunrise and sunset when they take on a golden color.
The third section of hoodoos is The Lower Rimrocks. They lie below the rim about one mile west of Toadstool. To access them park in the small turnoff on the north side of Highway 89 just opposite the Paria Contact station at milepost 20.8. Hike about one mile northeast to an area with a hoodoo known as Skinny or Long Necked Hoodoo. Skinny is in a small side canyon and probably is never lit at sunrise or sunset. The best chance for good light is at the winter solstice.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the busiest shopping day in the United States. It is also the busiest day for walk-in permits at the Kanab BLM office. The BLM Kanab office is open this coming Friday and, based on past experience, it will be busy. Last year over 300 people applied on Black Friday for a permit to visit The Wave. Permits were given out for three days for ten people each day, making the odds of getting a permit less than ten percent. If you hate crowds like I do I suggest you look to work off Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere. Good alternatives are The White Pocket, The Upper White Rocks, Edmaier's Secret and West Clark Bench, the slot canyons around Page, Yellow Rock, and the chinle formations along House Rock Road.
Best of luck to those who do brave the crowds, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all.
This past week I visited Wind Pebble Canyon which is upstream of Antelope Canyon. Wind Pebble is a collection of three short slots the first two of which are quite photogenic. The canyons are named after the moqui marbles embedded in their walls. The Wind Pebble canyons are on Navajo land and you must take a tour to visit them. Tours are offered by Antelope Canyon Valley Tours. I took the photo tour which ran six hours and costs $250 per person. The hike to the slots is 2.8 miles round trip. It ends with a climb up three well secured ladders and a gain of 300 feet in elevation.
Following temporary repairs ADOT has reopened Highway 89 between Cameron and the turn-off to Tuba City.
If you are driving to The Wave or other points in Northern Arizona from Flagstaff your trip just got much longer. On October 3rd a 30 foot section of Highway 89 collapsed between Cameron and the turnoff to Tuba City. Highway 89 is closed in both directions at the site of the collapse. The closure is expected to last for multiple days. In the interim those traveling north from Flagstaff should either take 40 East to 87 North to 264 West to 160 West as recommended by the AZDOT, or take 40 East to exit 211 (the Townsend Winona Rd) to Leupp Road to Highway 264 West to 160 West as recommended by Google Maps. More information can be found at https://azdot.gov/media/News/news-release/2018/10/04/closure-of-multiple-days-expected-on-us-89-north-of-flagstaff.
Per Fstoppers, False Kiva in Canyonlands has been closed. The National Park Service closed the area in early August due to two incidents of vandalism. First photographed by Tom Till, False Kiva is simply magnificent. It is truly a shame that a few ignorant people ruin things for so many. Hopefully the same will never happen to The Wave.
About 15 miles from Cameron, Arizona the Little Colorado River (LCR) begins a serpentine dance on its way into the Grand Canyon. In a distance of less than ten miles you can find five horseshoe like bends in the river. The first bend is named "Hellhole Bend" after the many sinkholes in the area. The other bends are nameless but equally magnificent. The rims tower 1,500 to 2,000 feet over the Little Colorado, compared to about 1,000 feet for the better known "Horseshoe Bend" near Page.
You will want to photograph the bends when the Little Colorado is flowing. This occurs five to ten times a year, typically in April and in the summer. If the LCR is flowing in Cameron it should be flowing at the bends. You can check the flow level at Cameron remotely at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv/?site_no=09402000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060. You want a flow of at least 200 cfs. You also need a Navajo Parks and Recreation permit to visit the area. You can get one in the Cameron Parks and Recreation office located at the intersection of Highways 64 and 89 (diagonally opposite the Burger King). The office is open seven days a week in the summer months, and weekdays the rest of the year, from 8AM to 5PM Navajo (DST) time. You should call first; they are occasionally closed.
A map with directions to the bends can be found by clicking on the image to the right. A high clearance 2WD vehicle is needed to get to the bends. The map also contains information about the Hopi Salt and Horse trails down to the river. These trails are moderately difficult and typically involve camping at the river overnight. All trails into the Little Colorado River Gorge are currently closed by the Navajo Nation due to excessive heat. They will reopen after summer.
A gallery with many more images is also available.
Apparently Christophe and his son were issued a rare same day permit during the walk-in lottery held Monday. This may have resulted in his death. Someone returned two Monday permits to the BLM that they could not use. The permits were added to the walk-in lottery held Monday for use that day. The lottery is held at 9AM and is followed by orientation/safety instructions, with the entire process taking up to an hour. Including the 90 minute drive from Kanab to the Wirepass TH it is possible Pochic and his son did not reach the trailhead until 11:30, close to the hottest part of the day. If so, the BLM needs to change its process so that same day permits are not issued, especially in the summer months. The BLM has had no comment pending further investigation. More information can be found at fox13news in Utah.
In an apparently heat related incident Christophe Pochic, 49, of Belgium died on Monday while visiting The Wave. His body was discovered near The Wave at 9:15 PM on Monday by two BLM rangers. Pochic was in good health. Temperatures reached 101° F in Page on Monday. There is little shade to be found on the hike to The Wave, and the light colored Navajo Sandstone in Coyote Buttes North amplifies the heat. Pochic still had water in his pack. While adequate water is necessary to prevent heat stroke or exhaustion, it is not sufficient to keep your body cool. In the summer months the BLM normally has volunteers present along the way to The Wave who can help if you need water or become lost. If you must visit The Wave in the summer months I suggest you begin your hike at least 30 minutes before sunrise and plan to be out of the area by noon. More information is available on the St George News website.
I've updated the Coyote Buttes North, Coyote Buttes South, and White Pocket galleries with Favorites sub-folders. My image galleries were created to give trip planners an idea of what they might see at different locations and have not always been shot in best light. The Favorites sub-galleries contain a much smaller set of images and show only the best locations in good light.
The Palouse, a region in the northwestern US, is the premier wheat growing area of the United States. In late May of this year I took a creative photography workshop there with Denise Ippolito which I highly recommend. Denise is very imaginative and took us to several locations that were new to me including the wind turbines area, several lone trees, and a leaning schoolhouse. Spectacular clouds were present for most of the workshop resulting in many good images.
I've added a Palouse map to the website showing many good shooting locations, and have updated my Palouse gallery with images from this past workshop. Since the gallery contains over 150 images I've created a favorites subset showing 19 of my best images, shot in good light and with dramatic clouds. If you just want to see what the Palouse can offer start with these, if you are actually planning a trip to the area I would review the entire gallery to help select shooting locations.
City of Rocks National Reserve in south central Idaho is a premier rock climbing destination. It is less than three hours from Salt Lake City. City of Rocks is a great location for photographers and reminds me of a less crowded Alabama Hills. It has many arches, spires, and historical sites. In spring wildflowers abound, and during the third and fourth weeks of October the many aspen change color. This makes October the best time to visit. A gallery of images of City of Rocks can be found here, and maps can be found here.
Recently I stopped by both Radio Tower Rock and Waterholes Canyon while traveling through Page. The New Wave area has become very popular for overnight car/tent camping. I saw nearly ten vehicles parked there. There is also a new heavily cairned trail going to Radio Tower Rock, so expect to see more people there in the future. On the night I was at Radio Tower Rock no one else was present. To minimize shadows Radio Tower Rock is best shot near sunset during the spring and summer months. The Radio Tower Rock gallery has been updated with several new images here.
Waterholes Canyon tours are available from 7:30 am to 5:00 PM at the old Waterholes Canyon trailhead. Tours of the Great Wall area also available until 5PM, just stop at the TH and ask about a tour. You must go in with a Navajo guide. You can probably arrange a Great Wall tour after 5PM, ask at the trailhead for costs and availability. The Great Wall photographs best at sunset.
Effective May 1 you can only visit Waterholes Canyon via a guided tour. You can no longer explore the Waterholes area on your own. Canyon tours are operated by "Waterholes Canyon Experience" and start at the Waterholes Bridge parking area at 7:30 AM and new tours run every 30 minutes or so depending on demand. Tours cost $35 per person and last about 75 minutes. On the tour you are driven to the powerlines at 36.82815, -111.49434, you then drop into the Waterholes slot, and hike downstream for about one mile back to the Waterholes Bridge parking lot. Waterholes Canyon Experience can be contacted at +1 928 660-2031.
Note that the tour only covers the slot canyon between the bridge and the powerlines. Unfortunately you can no longer visit The Great Wall, Waterholes Arch, or Waterholes Bend on your own. A far as I know there are no tours offered to any of these areas.
My thanks to reader George Lin for letting me know about the change to Waterfalls access. I hope to take the new tour in the near future and will update this article shortly thereafter.
Over the past month two people fell to their death at Horseshoe Bend. On May 7 Azcentral reported that a Phoenix man fell to his death, and in a separate incident Azcentral reported on April 23 that the body of a missing Buckeye inhabitant was found at the bottom of the Bend. I have heard that the first fall was due to a piece of rock on the the rim breaking off. I have not been able to confirm this. The National Park Service is constructing a viewing platform at the rim to help prevent such accidents from happening in the future.
In March I visited Iceland for the second time and drove the "Ring Road". March is a good time to visit Iceland. On the plus side temperatures are relatively mild running from 35° F to 50° F, the aurora was out on several occasions, and there were far fewer tourists than in the summer. Tourism is exploding in Iceland, in 2010 Iceland had about 500,000 visitors, by 2017 it had grown to 2.2 Million. Seventy percent of all Icelanders now believe there are too many tourists, versus only 30 percent in 2014. Going in the winter is one way to avoid the crowds. Negatives include limited hiking both on and off-trail, uncertain footing on ice and snow, most roads to the spectacular interior are closed, and frozen waterfalls. While most waterfalls we saw were flowing, we were very disappointed in that Kirkjuellsfoss, the waterfall popularized by Game of Thrones, was frozen and made for a poor photo. Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon had very little ice in it. I'm not sure if this was due to the time of year or was just a random occurrence. We expected poor driving conditions in March but were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get around the island.
I have updated my Iceland gallery with images from the March trip here. I've also extensively revised my Iceland map. It contains many more locations than the previous map, and has sample images and shooting recommendations. The only area not covered by the map is the West Fjords Region, which will have to wait for a future trip. If you're planning a trip to Iceland you should review this map. Many of the less known locations shown are better photographic subjects than those you'll find in guide books and commercial tours, and you might well have them to yourself.
On March 26 a sandstone boulder near The Wave was inadvertently dislodged and rolled over the arm of a 21 year old female causing a deep laceration. Another member of her party had cell service and called 911 for help. Kane County Search and Rescue and Classic Air Medical responded and a technical rescue was performed using a rope lowering system. Based on the photos I have seen I believe the injury occurred on the west side of Top Rock in an area little visited. Fortunately the woman was not hiking alone as it is unlikely she would have seen anyone else in that area. Additional information and photos are available on KSL News Radio's website here.
On February 23 a 64 year old female fell right at the entrance to The Wave. Bruce Speer, a guide with Grand Circle Tours and a member of Kane County Search and Rescue, was able to call for help and the woman was transported by helicopter to Page Hospital. An image of the accident scene and more information can be found at http://www.sunews.net/article.cfm?articleID=2343 .
From the image you can see that there was a good amount of patchy snow present on the north facing Wave entrance, and that it couldn't be easily avoided. Winter is a difficult season in which to visit The Wave, snow adversely impacts photos, and slips on snow or sand covered slickrock can easily happen. House Rock Road can also be impassable. The plus side is that December through February are the easiest months in which to get a permit.
West Clark Bench is the area on top of the cliffs east of Edmaier's Secret. It is heavily cross-bedded and reminds me of a mix of Top Rock and The White Pocket. It is best after a rain when its many water pockets are full. I have been to West Clark Bench three times now and have not seen anyone else. The best features I have found in my limited explorations are a small but dramatic arch and an S Curve nearby. Both are best photographed at sunset. Thanks go once again to Philippe Schuler for providing me with the GPS coordinates of the arch.
The Associated Press has reported that there were 160,000 people applying for the 7,300 available Wave permits last year, making the odds of getting one in the lottery 4.6 percent. If you applied via the on-line lottery every month at the end of the year you would have had a 43% chance of getting a permit. Permit demand increased by 20% in 2017, and increased at an annual rate of 16.5% since 2013 when there were 87,000 people applying.
What can you do to increase your odds?
Above all - persistence matters, and best of luck!
The Wave walk-in lottery process is well documented in two videos made by Jennifer Kumar. Jennifer recently posted two videos of the walk-in lottery on Youtube. The first video covers the lottery held on December 28, 2017. This lottery was for permits for December 29th and had over eighty applications. The second covers the lottery held on December 29th for permits from December 30th through January 2nd (four days). There was an all-time record of 398 applications on that day. Since most applications include several people usually only three or four groups win a permit each day. Assuming 2.5 people per group there were nearly one thousand people trying for the forty available spots on the 29th, making the odds of winning a permit around 2.5%.
If you feel very lucky and would like more information on how to apply for a walk-in permit please click here.
My Depth of Field app, DOF Easy, has been released for both iOS and Android devices. DOF Easy is unique among Depth of Field Calculators. With most DOF Calculators you enter the focus distance and the aperture and the calculator tells you whether your scene will render in focus. DOF Easy inverts the problem. DOF Easy starts with information about the scene (a range of distances) and the app tells you where to focus and what aperture to use. It also shows blur amounts as a function of distance. Users can easily see how the amount of blur, in pixels, changes with distance from the focal plane.
A web based version of DOF Easy is available at www.thewave.info/DOFEasy/index.html should you wish to try the app before installing it on your phone or tablet. The app is available on the Google Play store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=info.thewave.DOFCalc. To install it for iOS on your phone search for DOF Easy Belvin in the Apple App store. The app is free for both platforms. Please give it a try.
Cerro Gordo is a small ghost town in the Inyo Mountains of eastern California. It is about 45 minutes from the town of Lone Pine. There are several largely intact buildings remaining, of which the American Hotel is the most photogenic, especially the inside. Although the hotel is currently being renovated you may be able to gain access to the interior.
Cerro Gordo ghost town is at 8,500 feet in elevation and is accessed via Cerro Gordo Road. This is a steep packed dirt road. A 2WD vehicle is normally sufficient, except following rain or snow. While the road is not difficult to drive, it is steep, narrow, and there are drop-offs. Some will be uncomfortable driving it. The town is privately owned and only gets a few visitors per day. It is open every day from 9AM to 4PM in the winter months, and from 9AM to 5PM when daylight savings time is in effect. Admission is $10 per person and a liability waiver form must be signed. The website cerrogordomines.com contains more information about access. A visit to Cerro Gordo can be easily combined with one to the Alabama Hills. Shoot Cerro Gordo mid-day, and the Alabama Hills at sunrise and/or sunset.
The interior of the American Hotel is spectacular and by itself is worth the trip. Be sure to photograph the bar and the painting by Sylvia Winslow. The poker room is also a good subject, as are the interiors of the Assay Office and the museum. The bunkhouse has been renovated and can be skipped. The remains of the Ice House frame dry Owens Lake in the far distance.
Horseshoe Bend at Sunset
Waterholes Canyon Sand Fall
The Great Wall
The Second Wave at sunset
The Alcove on Top Rock
Melody Arch and The Grotto
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
Radio Tower Rock
Bar in the American Hotel
The Poker Room in the American Hotel
Bottles in the Cerro Gordo Museum
DOF Easy for iOS
West Clark Bench Arch
Kirkjufellfoss Image By Anjali Kiggal [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
Hvitserkur Offshore Rock
Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon
City of Rocks
Palouse Wind Turbines
Tennessee Flat Rd Lone Tree
Leaning Schoolhouse on Fugate Rd
The third bend after sunset
The first bend at sunset
False Kiva Panorama
Highway 89 Sinkhole
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 Wave slot canyon soft sediment deformation
Canyon X Floor
Wind Pebble Canyon Slot 2
Wind Pebble Light Chamber
Skinny Hoodoo in the Lower Rimrocks
Curved Hoodoo in the Upper Rimrocks
Covert Arch Sunset
Double Arch seen through Cove Arch
Winter Solstice Full Moon
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