Southwest Road Trip 2012 Day 5 (Part 1): The Wave Lottery and White Pocket

Misadventures-with-Andi-Road-Trip-ReportI swear to God this series is going to kill me, but I will complete it if it’s the last thing I do! Our trip schedule was just so extreme I had no time to write except for quick notes in my trusty Moleskine and when I got back from my trip I had 2000 photos and a busy work schedule which prevented me from getting this damn trip documented!  I am trying to figure out a system for my upcoming trip to Italy so that this process can go a whole lot smoother!

When I last left you (Day 4) we had spent an afternoon taking photos of Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona. For Day 5 we would once again get up at the crack of dawn so that we could photograph the Wahweap Scenic Overlook at sunrise:

Wahweap Scenic Overlook at sunrise

Wahweap Scenic Overlook at sunrise (via my iPhone)

We ate breakfast in the car and then drove 45 minutes to the BLM Office in Kanab, Utah so that we could participate in the daily lottery to gain entrance to see The Wave.  The Wave is a heavily protected sandstone rock formation that is famous with photographers.  It is tightly managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in order for it to remain savage and rural.  They let twenty people in a day. Ten from online applications and ten via a lottery held in their office in Kanab.  You can start completing an application in the office at 8:30 (Utah time). The drawing is held every day at 9:00 a.m.

The online information was a bit confusing which is why I am sharing it here.  I thought that they picked 10 groups a day, but it is ten individual people.  So if there are three spots left and a family of four is chosen, one person has to stay behind (which is exactly what happened when we were there).  In general, it is a bit of madhouse, although the staff does try to do their best to keep things organized.  There were 122 people trying for those 10 slots the day we went.

Running the Wave lottery at the Kanab BML Office

Running the Wave lottery at the Kanab BLM Office (iPhone photo)

They explain all the rules in English but there are a lot of foreign visitors that don’t necessarily comprehend English to the level that is needed to understand the process (I recommend printed versions in other languages). There was actually some “cheating” going on (although none of the cheaters won spots) and I think some of it can be attributed to language.  The hike to the Wave is 6 miles (round-trip) in full, exposed sun and you need to carry in a lot of water besides your equipment. It is not for the novice.

If you are selected it is for the next day and the next day only. We didn’t win a spot, but it didn’t matter because we had back-up plans in place.  In fact right after the lottery we met our White Pocket tour guide for the day, Virgil from Dreamland Safari Tours, who was whisking off to White Pocket.  Now I am not saying this because we didn’t get selected for a spot to see the Wave, but it has been said and confirmed by the locals who have had a chance to see both the Wave and White Pocket, that White Pocket is just as good, if not better.  I can tell you White Pocket is pretty impressive!

The other thing that I think is super important to note is that you should hire a local guide. People like Virgil, a Navajo Indian who spent his entire life in the region, along with the owner of Dreamland Safari Tours, Will James, know this land like the back of their hands.  It roads are pretty brutal and not only require a massive 4×4 but the knowledge of the roads. I cannot stress this enough.

Once our trusty guide, who kept us entertained with stories on the road, got us to White Pocket we were in complete awe.  We spent several hours there taking photos. Not enough time for Mr. Misadventures who is planning a weekend trip so that he can capture sunrise, sunset and everything in between with his camera.  This is the place that stuck with him the most, the one he cannot stop talking about and the one he wants to return to as soon as he can.  Here are some of his photos, they turned out better than mine, as usual.  However the first one at the entrance is mine courtesy of my iPhone:

Entrance to White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona

Entrance to White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona. (Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures)

The sandstone formations are insane. I still don’t understand how they could have happened. Yes, there is a scientific explanation, but it baffles the mind!

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona.

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona. (Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures)

Aren’t the colors and textures extraordinary?  It really is hard to wrap your head around it and capture all the parts.

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona.

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona. (Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures)

The sky against these rocks is beyond beautiful and I can only imagine what it is like and sunrise and sunset.

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona.

White Pocket Paria Canyon in Arizona. (Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures)

Virgil had to drag us off the rocks (my husband would have stayed there all day he if could) as we needed to refuel ourselves with water and lunch before heading to Cottonwood Cove, a part of the South Coyote Buttes which I will save for the next post.

Here are some tips for the The Wave and White Pocket:

> The Wave is part of Coyote Buttes North (they don’t say that on the site where you need to get your permit).
> If you really want to get to The Wave make sure you are optimizing all your chances by doing both the online and in-person permit process.  Still, your chances are very slim. The more days you can attend in person obviously the better.
> You also need a permit to access White Pocket and Coyote Buttes South, you can get these online and in-person at the BLM office unless you are going with a hired guide who usually has a blanket permit.
> I HIGHLY recommend you hire a guide. I cannot stress this enough.  Mr. Misadventures did a lot of research on White Pocket AZ guides, there are several in the area but he ultimately selected Dreamland Safari Tours and we were beyond thrilled with them.
> If you don’t hire a guide (God help you!) you need a 4×4.  You get to White Pocket via Pine Pocket Road and out by Pawhole Road.
> Instead of splitting your day into two spots, if you are an avid photographer spend the day only at White Pocket, you won’t regret it.
> Water, lots of it.

How about you? Have you visited White Pocket and have any tips?

About Andi Fisher

I'm a lifestyle blogger focused on travel and food. I love to travel via my stomach eating and seeking out local artisans to feature here. I'm a big supporter of the blogging community and love highlighting travel and food bloggers for you to meet.


  1. This is a stunning series of photos. I’ve never heard of it.

  2. Girlfriend, those are some killer photos!!

  3. Your hubby takes some amazing shots wow!

  4. Love this! I studied geomorphology in college (I was a geography major) so I’m a nerd for stuff like this. 🙂

  5. What fantastic images! I had no idea about the Wave permits until a couple months ago–so crazy!

  6. Absolutely breathtaking! I’m adding this to my Must Visit list.

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