The Wave

In the Coyote Buttes ravine in Arizona, huge waves of richly-coloured sandstone undulate across the landscape, looking as though they were painted by a giant hand. 190 million years ago in the Jurassic era, these sandstone waves (dubbed “The Wave”) were actually sand dunes migrating across the desert, but over the years they have calcified both horizontally and vertically, becoming compacted rocks. Their strange ridges and troughs were created by millions of years of wind and rain erosion, whose twists and turns reflect changes to the wind patterns in the Jurassic period. Erosion still affects the Wave today, mostly by wind that is now naturally channelled through it. This formation is a snapshot in geological time, a breathtaking exhibit of the effect of natural forces on their environment. It can only be reached on foot via a five kilometre hike, and since the sandstone is fairly soft, visitors are highly regulated—only twenty people are allowed to walk on the Wave each day. Walking across the weird, topsy-turvy landscape would be a surreal experience in itself, but if you need another reason to visit, the formation also boasts the fossil burrows of ancient arthropods like beetles—as well as the imprints of dinosaur tracks.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)


Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic treasure. This remote and unspoiled monument contains 280,000 acres of diverse landscapes – including the colorful swirling stone of the Wave (shown here) – making it an international hiking destination. For those who don’t get a permit to the Wave, White Pocket in Vermilion Cliffs has similar geologic features and is worth the visit!

New photos by Bob Wick, BLM


The Wave

The Wave consists of 200 million year old sand dunes that have turned to rock. These large sandstone formations are located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona. The spectacular ribbons of various colors, called Liesegang Bands, were formed by the movement and precipitation of oxidizing materials such as iron and manganese in ground water. The Wave is accessible only on foot via a three-mile hike and is highly regulated.

Located in a remote area of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona (mypubliclands), White Pocket is a hidden treasure of swirling, twisting Navajo sandstone. Getting here is a bit of a challenge, but the reward is definitely worth the effort! David Lane captured this stunning 16-image panorama of White Pocket with the Milky Way glittering overhead. Of visiting White Pocket, David says, “As hard as it is to get there its even harder to describe. Every corner reveals explosions of color, something new and amazing.”

Photo courtesy of David Lane.


On this day in 2000, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona was established.

A part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands, this remote and unspoiled monument is a geologic treasure. Visitors enjoy scenic views of towering Vermilion Cliffs, deep canyons and unique wildlife like California Condors. And the colorful swirls of cross-bedded sandstone in Coyote Buttes are an international hiking destination, although a permit is required. CLICK HERE for more information.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This remote and unspoiled, 280,000-acre Monument - a part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands - is a geologic treasure, containing a variety of diverse landscapes from the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. 

Visitors enjoy scenic views of towering cliffs and deep canyons. Paria Canyon offers an outstanding three to five day wilderness backpacking experience. The colorful swirls of cross-bedded sandstone in Coyote Buttes are an international hiking destination.

A permit is required for hiking in Coyote Buttes North (the Wave), Coyote Buttes South, and for overnight trips within Paria Canyon. Visit the BLM Arizona’s website to learn more about this beautiful area and plan your visit.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist