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Grand Canyon Hikes

The Wave, Arizona - An Easy Guide

  • 6.5 miles - Moderate Effort
  • Or: 9 miles to Melody Arch
  • 4-6 Hours (Total)
  • Expect to See Some Other Hikers
  • 1,000 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 4,820 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

Hiking to The Wave in Arizona can be overwhelming. There are permits, a remote location, and off-trail hiking. I'll show you how to hike it safely and easily in this guide. Despite all the hassle, the Wave is spectacular and worth it.

In this Guide:
  • The Wave Permit
  • Planning Tips
  • Hike Directions
  • Hidden Attractions

Where is The Wave?

The Wave Location
The Wave is one of the most remote hikes you can find; it's not close to any major city.

The Wave Planning & Permits

The Wave Permit
You need a permit to hike The Wave. Don't show up without one, there are rangers checking for them.

Gear Recommendations

The Wave Phone Gps
Having GPS navigation, like that seen here on a smartphone, will make this hike much easier.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2Hit SOS or just tell loved ones that you're running late where your cell phone has no service.  Review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The best hiking footwear I've ever owned. No blisters. Get them wet, they dry quickly. Lots of cushion and comfort.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProHiking maps, route info, and fitness stats on my wrist. Review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26Lightweight, carries all your gear, and your back doesn't get sweaty. Oh yea, it's also one of the most inexpensive packs you can get.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated July 2024)

The Wave Trail Maps

The Wave Trail Marker
There are minimal trail markings on the hike. In general you're hiking from landmark to landmark. I'll show you the way the BLM recommends you navigate later in this guide.
The Wave Tmap
The BLM does a good job with the map they give you. Between that and this guide, you should be more than okay.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

The Wave Elevataion Profile
Even though there is some climbing, it's a lot of up and down on small hills. In the heat it can be more taxing than you'd expect.

Before You Go

The Wave Features
While The Wave is the star of the show, the hike there and back is also spectacular. Most of what you see was sand dunes about 180 million years ago.

Getting to the Trailhead

The Wave Trailhead Road
There are about 8.5 miles of dirt road between the Wire Pass Trailhead and RT-89, the nearest paved road.

The condition of the road to the trailhead can vary. Generally in dry conditions, it's pretty tame. After rain or snow the mud can be extremely slippery, almost like ice. I've seen low-clearance cars at the trailhead over the years, so it is doable. But if you're traveling here and renting, I highly recommend opting for a 4-wheel drive vehicle like a Jeep. It will take any anxiety about the drive out of the equation.

The Wave Trailhead Road 3
The trailhead is well-marked.
The Wave Trailhead Road 2
And the parking lot is massive. You should be fine finding a parking spot.
The Wave Trailhead Road 4
There are toilets but no water or other facilities.
The Wave Trailhead Road 6
Before you start your hike, leave the car portion of your permit on the windshield and sign into the register. When you leave, sign out here.
The Wave Trailhead Road 5
If it's a monsoon the road can become impassable, but in tame wet conditions expect to get muddy.

The Wave Hike Directions

The Wave Hike Directions 2
The trail starts at the end of the parking lot, close to the toilets and permit sign-in.
The Wave Hike Directions 3
There's a sign at the start, just across the road.
The Wave Hike Directions 4
In less than a minute you're out in the wash. Make the left, which is counterintuitive because The Wave is southeast from here.
The Wave Hike Directions 5
Follow the wash for 0.5 miles. There should be a good amount of footprints to help confirm that you're in the right place.
The Wave Hike Directions 6
After about 0.5 miles look for a trail to the right going uphill.
The Wave Hike Directions 7
There's a short uphill.
The Wave Hike Directions 8
Follow the sandy path until you see the ridge in the distance. We're aiming for the notch in front of us. This section has lots of sand and is generally easy to navigate.
The Wave Hike Directions 9
Here's a closeup of the notch that we're aiming for.
The Wave Hike Directions 10
When you get closer to the notch you'll start to see lots of footprints heading up.
The Wave Hike Directions 11
And then you climb up the sandstone to the gap.
The Wave Hike Directions 12
At the top of the gap, bear right.
The Wave Hike Directions 13
This next section is over rock, and footprints can be hard to find. In general, keep the steep slope to your right and follow it around. Try to stay at roughly the same elevation, not climbing the steep slope, and not descending down to the left.
The Wave Hike Directions 14
Eventually the Twin Buttes come into view. We're aiming for the are just to the right of them.
The Wave Hike Directions 15
Go up and around the right of the Twin Buttes.
The Wave Hike Directions 16
Now we have the longest stretch, which is the last one to The Wave. Luckily it's pretty much a. straight line.
The Wave Hike Directions 17
If you look closer to the point in the distance, you see a crack in the rock. The Wave is just underneath that. We're aiming for the crack and the sand dunes in the front.
The Wave Hike Directions 18
There are lots of sand sections on this part where you can follow footsteps.
The Wave Hike Directions 19
As you get closer you'll be able to see the sand path climb toward The Wave.
The Wave Hike Directions 20
Do the last sandy climb toward the notch.
The Wave Hike Directions 21
On your left is "The Mini Wave."
The Wave Hike Directions 22
And then as you enter the sandstone, you've reached The Wave!
The Wave Hike Directions 23
For the classic photo, go into the middle, turn around, and shoot.

The Wave Featured

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.