Interesting facts about the Wave (Arizona)

the wave

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in Arizona, near its northern border with Utah.

It is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes a section of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau.

The Wavev elevation is somewhere around 1,590 meters (5,225 feet) above sea level.

It got its name because its landscape has been carved by erosion to resemble an ocean wave.

The Wave consists of intersecting U-shaped troughs that have been eroded into Navajo Sandstone.


Geologists estimate the Navajo Sandstone that comprises the rock formation was formed between 150 million and 200 million years ago, in the Jurassic Period.

The swirling stripes of stone were originally carved out by water erosion and weathered further by windblown sand.

The two major troughs which comprise this rock formation are 19 meters (62 feet) wide by 36 meters (118 feet) long and 2 meters (7 feet) wide by 16 meters (52 feet) long.

The troughs have smooth, curving walls that display every detail of the Jurassic sedimentary structures.


This sandstone formation is brushed in hues of brick red, orange and tan.

The Wave is well-known among hikers and photographers for its colorful, undulating forms and the difficult hike required to reach it.

An ideal time to photograph the Wave is the few hours around midday when there are no shadows in the center, although early morning and late afternoon shadows can also make for dramatic photos.


Above and slightly west of the Wave is what many call “the Second Wave”, or “the middle Wave”, which has fainter colors but is still of interest to most visitors and photographers.

On its résumé, the Wave refers to its stripes as lithified eolian laminae, but that just means rock layers made of windblown sand.

After a rain storm, numerous pools form which can contain hundreds of tadpole shrimps. These pools can be present for several days.


Not many knew about the Wave, till the late 1990s, when featured in German travel brochures along with making it to the movie, Faszination Natur in 1996. It was only then, that The Wave became popular among European backpackers and travelers that helped put this rock formation on the adventurers’ map.

Today, thanks to the internet, the Wave is one of the most famous features in the world.

This natural wonder attracts people from all over the world, with well over a thousand people a day applying for just twenty permits. Ten of the permits are available in advance by an online lottery conducted four months before the month for which the permit is sought. The remaining ten permits are made available by lottery the day before one’s intended hike.