Applying for one of the coveted daily permits to hike the sandstone rock formations of The Wave in northern Arizona is about to get easier, but it comes with a catch. You'll still need to be in the general area to apply. 

Starting March 15, the Bureau of Land Management will no longer conduct the daily lottery for permits in person in the Kanab visitors center. Instead, the process will move to a mobile-based system using geofence technology to ensure applicants are in the area when they apply for the few available daily permits.  

Coyote Buttes North, located in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument just south of the Utah border, earned the nickname The Wave for its striking, undulating rock formations. To protect the fragile landscape from overuse, the Bureau of Land Management requires a permit to hike the geological wonder created by erosion. 

But snagging a permit is as formidable as hiking the strenuous 6.4-mile round-trip trek itself, which winds through a challenging wilderness area with no cell phone service 

The Bureau of Land Management issues just 48 permits through its advanced lottery and an additional 16 permits daily, though that number is up from years past when just 20 advance and 10 daily permits were issued. Though the BLM has issued permits since the 1980s, in 2018 more than 200,000 people applied for the little more than 7,300 permits available each year. 

The Wave reflections
The daily lottery for The Wave will move to mobile device with the help of geofencing technology ©francesco riccardo iacomino/Getty Images

While the daily lottery's geofence prevents you from applying from just anywhere, it does make it much easier to apply for a permit if you are taking a trip through Southern Utah or Northern Arizona since you won't have to physically be present in the office for the lottery. Instead, a member of your group just needs to apply from within the geofence and be able to pick up the permit from the office in Kanab, Utah or Page, Arizona during the allotted time. 

The new mobile, geofence lottery only applies to the daily lottery. The advanced lottery, which happens four months in advance, will still be available from any location through recreation.gov. 

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How to apply for a daily permit for The Wave

Before you apply for the permit, make sure you are prepared for the physical demands of the challenging terrain and are comfortable navigating wilderness without use of cell service.

You'll also need an account at recreation.gov and a mobile device. Laptops and desktop computers will not work. 

Two days in advance of the day you plan to hike, between the hours of 6am and 6pm Utah time, you'll need to apply from your mobile advice through the recreation.gov app while within the geofence. 

According to a map on the BLM website, the geofence includes Page, Greenhaven, Marble Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs, Jacob Lake, White Sage, Fredonia, Moccasin, and the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation in Arizona. It also includes  Big Water, Paria, Johnson Canyon, Kanab, Mt. Carmel, Orderville, Glendale and East Zion in Utah.

The BLM will notify winners by 7:15 pm Utah time. If selected, the next day you will need to pick up the permit at 8am and attend a safety briefing at 8:30 am to prepare to hike the following day.

The lottery costs $9 to enter. If selected for a permit, you'll then be charged $7 per person or dog. 

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Where to go instead: The New Wave

If you’re in Northern Arizona, there’s another spot where you can see similar rock formations on a hike that’s far shorter, less challenging and does not require offline navigation. 

Rock formation The New Wave in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
"The New Wave' is a trail in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Page, Arizona © Melissa Yeager/Lonely Planet

Dubbed “The New Wave,” the 1.25. mile trail starts at the Beehives Campground Trailhead in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Page, Arizona. While it may not have the widespread acclaim of the permitted version a few miles away, it does not require a permit, has an "easy" hike rating and still gives you a chance to take in some spectacular geology. 

The sandstone foundations are just as fragile, so be mindful to stay on the trail and practice the principles of Leave No Trace. 

You can combine this with a trip to see Horseshoe Bend or to tour Antelope Canyon on nearby Navajo land.

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