The Wave, Paria Canyon, Arizona-Utah
Length: 12 miles (13.3 kilometers) out and back
Wow Factor: Find the most unique and lovely feature carved into red sandstone desert canyons.
Do It: The sandstone formations and erosion-carved slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau are so stunning and varied, it’s hard to choose just one as the most photogenic. But the Wave, deep within the canyons of the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the Arizona/Utah border, may just be the weirdest and most wonderful result of what ancient, uplifted red rock and eons of wind and water can create. Rain and flash floods began sculpting the Wave, exposing different grain layers of Jurassic-era sandstone in the canyon over millennia. Then wind finished the job, smoothing out a unique piece of natural art: a canyon that captures the undulating movement of water and wind over the rock. It’s also an accomplishment to get here—the easiest hike via Wire Pass Wash rambles through unforgiving sandstone desert, and there is no maintained trail to the Wave itself, so finding it requires GPS skills.
Don’t: Hike to the Wave without a permit. Part of the beauty of the place is that the crowds are limited thanks to a 20-person-a-day limit in the Coyote Buttes North Area.