Neighboring Parks

The Wave vs. White Pocket

The Utah-Arizona border is full of colorful rock formations. Many travelers have heard of the “Wave” but are unaware of the surrounding formations that are just as jaw-dropping.

The Amazing Wave in Coyote Buttes

The famous Wave in Coyote Buttes.
The famous Wave in Coyote Buttes.Dollar Photo

In Kanab, Utah, at 8:30 a.m., a crowd of anywhere from 30 to 130 people from around the world- Germany, China, France, Italy, America, Canada- anxiously fill in their applications and hope for the best. Everyone is crowded into a gymnasium at the Kanab Center in downtown Kanab, waiting for the lottery balls to fall. And what is all this suspense for? Permits to the incredible “Wave” in North Coyote Buttes.

The “Wave” is in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Arizona Strip and is undoubtedly remarkable. It boasts some of the most fantastic and colorful geology ever seen. Imagine hiking across what looks like once moving currents of now frozen rock, halted in pre-historic time just as the universe’s Great Painter was standing there with a bold palette of reds, oranges, tawny dark yellow sand and brilliant gold. It is a site beyond comparison and deserves its well vaunted reputation. 

As of Feb. 1, 2021, up to 64 permits are available each day, so while chances of getting a permit are limited, the odds are better than previous years when 20 permits were given out.

What many disappointed applicants don’t realize is that the “Wave” is just one of many astonishing sites lying within this great expanse of protected wilderness. Southern Utah is a vast complexity of rare and unusually beautiful places to explore.

White Pocket in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Sunrise at White Pocket National Monument.
Sunrise at White PocketDollar Photo

White Pocket is east of Coyote Buttes South and is only accessible by ATV’s or by high wheel base, 4-wheel-drive vehicles. There are tours which provide both means of transportation. No permits are needed.

Arriving at White Pocket inside Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, you are initially struck by the contrast of white rock in smoothly rounded mounds and cliff edges, dotted with two imperial looking spherical beehives rock cones – well these bees would be on steroids as the cones are 20-30 feet tall and no animal built them – just the wind, rain and sandblasting over millions of years.

Waves of white at White Pocket National Monument.
Waves of white at White PocketDollar Photo

Most striking of all, wave like pink, yellow and white candy striped rock faces greet you as if someone enormous took a big spatula full of soft molten Brighton Rock and drew it in perfect lines of pink and white across the rock, then swirled it around and around into great balls of yellow, pink and white, shaping swirling rocks, cones and giant sweets of rock.

Plateau at White Pockets National Monument
Plateau at White PocketDollar Photo

White Pocket is an incredible place with wave rock and more, yet there are no permits required to visit it and frankly, almost no people there.

It’s a national monument which means you are allowed to roam freely around it and walk wherever you wish – in fact we saw maybe only two professional photographers there plus us. The place was basically deserted so we had this jaw dropping work of nature all to ourselves. How rare in this world to find such a treat and get it all to yourself!

Home Base: Kanab Utah

How to get to Kanab

From Escalante Utah: Drive along Scenic Byway 12, ranked amongst the 10 most beautiful roads in the USA, then south on Highway 89.

From Page Arizona: It is common to approach Kanab from Page Arizona where there’s an airport. It’s a little over an hours drive on Highway 89.

From Las Vegas Nevada: Kanab is about a 3-hour drive east from Las Vegas passing through St. George and Colorado City.

You can camp overnight if you wish at White Pocket, but most people choose to stay in the film or movie town of Kanab with its film museum, lots of restaurants, hotels and motels. It was built around its film history which is alive and thriving today too. We stayed at the Parry Lodge – a historic hotel come motel where stars have stayed.

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