This is the first time we are “reviewing” a spot that we did not visit. It was high on our list of things to do when we were near Kanab, UT, but alas it was not meant to be. We made four unsuccessful attempts to obtain permits to hike The Wave.
The Wave is an incredibly popular destination and the Bureau of Land Management limits the number of permits issued to just 20 per day. They limit the people to help preserve the beauty of The Wave. There are two ways to obtain a permit. Each method issues 10 permits per day each for a total of 20.
The first method to obtain a permit is an online lottery. The lottery page can be found here. The online lottery opens as 12pm MT on the 1st of each month. The permits issued during that month are for hikes four months later! That means, if you want to hike in June, you must apply for the permit in the month of February. When applying, you can enter three different days in the month for your hike. It costs $5 to apply online and the fee is not refundable. The lottery takes place the 1st day of the next month (in our example, March 1). Winners are notified by email and are required to pay for the permits within 14 days of notification (as of this writing permits are $7/person).
The second method is the walk-in lottery. The walk-in lottery takes place at the Kanab, UT Visitor Center. Applications are taken from 8:30am-9:00am for a permit to hike the following day. From mid-March to mid-November, the lottery is held every day. From mid-November to mid-March, the lottery is held Monday-Friday. On Friday they choose for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Since we did not have any clue when we would be in Utah, the online lottery was not going to work for us, so we had to do the walk-in lottery. We were there in April, so the lottery was being held each day for the following day’s hike. Here is the process. You need to arrive at the visitor center between 8:30am and 9:00am to fill out the application. The application only takes about 2 minutes to fill out so sleep in and get there about 10 minutes until 9:00. It requires the hike leader’s name and address, the names of everyone in the party, emergency contact and your vehicle’s license plate number. You can only fill out one application per group. For example, Jason could not fill out an application as hike leader and include me as a party member and then I turn around and fill out an application as hike leader and include Jason as a party member. If you tried that, you were eliminated and asked to leave. At exactly 9:00am the lottery is closed to applications and the officer calls out each applicant’s name and gives them a number. A bingo lottery ball with the corresponding number is added to the bingo ball machine. After everyone receives their number, the bingo machine is “shuffled” and a ball is removed. Remember, only 10 permits are allowed per day for the walk-in lottery.
We tried four different times to obtain permits and each time there were approximately 55-65 applications. But that doesn’t equate to a 10 in 55 chance of winning. The chance of winning depends on how many people are in each group. For example, if the first ball chosen was for a group of 4 hikers, 4 permits were gone and only 6 remained. If the first ball chosen was for a group of 2, only 2 permits were gone and 8 remained. They continued to draw until all 10 permits were used. If there were several big groups called, the number of draws would could be as few as 2. Towards the end of the lottery, it would get real interesting. For example, if there were 2 permits left and a group of 3 was drawn, they had the choice of leaving a member behind or withdrawing the application. That happened one of the times we were there, and the group declined the invitation instead of leaving a member behind. Another scenario could and did play out as well. That is only one spot remaining at the end. In that scenario, they would allow for 11 permits to be issued instead of 10. Because they do not encourage people to hike alone, they allow a plus one in that case. But only a plus one. If a party of 3 was called, they would have to limit to 2 or withdraw the application.
If you plan to be in the area, you want to try to get a permit for this hike. The pictures we have seen are breathtaking. You just need to either plan well in advance or spend your mornings at the visitor center. Either way luck has to be on your side!
Good luck and if you are able to go send some pictures our way. We would love to see what we missed!