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Coyote Buttes South Hike – The Wave Alternative

Last Updated on September 25, 2020

Social media have immense power. They created the Wave Arizona in Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness as the most famous rock formation on the border of Arizona and Utah. Thousands of people are trying to get the Wave permit every day. They want to take an Instagrammable photo. However, the Wave is the only small northern part of the fantastic Coyote Buttes area. Coyote Buttes South Hike is even more delicate sandstone formations.

More colorful and picturesque than the Wave. Fragile windswept layers with the vivid display of colors fill the desert oasis of Coyote Buttes South, which looks like a fairytale. The area is also limited to 20 people per day because it’s such a world unique formation. But, people often don’t know that the Coyote Buttes South exists. So, it’s worth going to Coyote Buttes South Hike. It is a fantastic experience in the desert wilderness. In our article, you will find out how to get a permit to the Coyote Buttes South. We will tell you how the hike looks, how to prepare for it, and much more.

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Coyote Buttes South

Coyote Buttes North vs South

Where is Coyote Buttes?

Coyote Buttes is a part of the 112,500 acres (455 km2) Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. It is spanning south-central Utah and north-central Arizona. South of US 89 halfway between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. It is divided into two areas: Coyote Buttes North with world-famous the Wave, and more remote and fragile Coyote Buttes South.

Visiting Coyote Buttes North as well Coyote Buttes South areas requires a hiking permit. Most important is to know that permits are issued for 20 people per day, 10 of them online in advance, and 10 during the walk-in lottery the day before the hike. It is a wilderness desert area, without marked trails, administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While Coyote Buttes itself is in Arizona, the closest place to stay in is Kanab, Utah. And BLM Kanab Visitor Center administrates this area. Coyote Buttes is just a couple hours from the Grand Canyon South Rim and Grand Canyon North Rim, so it’s worth considering this place during Arizona road trip.

Coyote Buttes South

What is Coyote Buttes?

Coyote Buttes are stunning, colorful, and delicate Jurassic Navajo Sandstone formations, as hoodoos, cones, ridges, and ravines. They are very photogenic, look like from another planet. The variable coloration of the sandstones is a result of various iron oxide pigments within the layers. The colors span from reds and pinks to yellows and oranges, and even some green. The Coyote Buttes area includes dramatic swirling erosional rock formations such as The Wave in the Coyote Buttes North.

In Coyote Buttes South erosion has created unusual and different formations and strata, some soft and fragile like glass, but some hard as a rock. This desolate land contains twisted and striated sandstone formations. Some are delicate as spider webs or butterfly wings, so be careful not to destroy them. All of the sandstone creations are slowly crumbling as they continuously succumb to the forces of nature.

PRO TIP: The best-described hikes and the most exciting trails in Utah you can find in Mountaineers Book 100 Classic Hikes: Utah.

Coyote Buttes

Coyote Buttes South Parts

Coyote Buttes South offers the most pristine nature. It is so remote and wilderness area, that it is challenging to meet other hikers throughout the day. Coyote Buttes South Hike is a strenuous hike because there are no marked trails, no mobile coverage, and is high sun exposure in desert terrain.

Coyote Buttes South is divided into two areas, Cottonwood Cove and Paw Hole. So, you must drive (road accessible only for high clearance 4WD vehicle) to two separate entry points or hike cross-country to see both parts. If you must choose one, go to Paw Hole. Coyote Buttes South, with its rock piles (also known as teepees), fins, and arches, is so enthralling that you don’t want to leave.

Coyote Buttes South Hike

What is the difference between Coyote Buttes North and Coyote Buttes South?

On the Coyote Buttes North, there is only one primary formation, which you can see – the world-famous Wave.

South Coyote Buttes lies just south of the Wave, and it is a more variety of sandstone buttes formations. South Coyote Buttes are lesser-known and harder to get. There is more variety of sandstone formation, and the views are stunning. The colorful stripes and abstract rock shapes provide infinite opportunities for taking pictures. The Wave is a shorter hike while Coyote Buttes South is an all-day hike adventure in a remote, desolate land.

Finally, the chance of receiving a permit to Coyote Buttes South is much higher than getting a permit to the Wave. So, if you want real adventure and you want to take unique photos, Coyote Buttes South is for you.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget a map for this hike; there are no marked trails. It’s Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

Paria Canyon, Kanab, MapVermilion Cliffs and Grand Canyon Hikers guide to Paria Canyon
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Coyote Buttes South Permit – How to Get It?

Obtaining the permit to Coyote Buttes South is much easier than the Wave permit. There are days when in the BLM Kanab Visitor Center 100-200 people try to win the Wave permit. And 1000+ people trying to get it online. So, obtaining this permit is more difficult than a permit for the famous Havasu Falls. Just after the Wave lottery, Coyote Buttes South permit lottery begins. And only 10-40 people are staying to draw permits for Coyote Buttes South. We were in both parts of Coyote Butts, and we can’t understand why so few people decide to see these unique southern rock formations.

So, there are two ways to obtain a permit for hiking to Coyote Buttes South. You can try to get an online permit. However, if you are staying in Kanab during your Arizona road trip, you can enter the walk-in lottery the day before the hike at the BLM Kanab Visitor Center.

Coyote Buttes South permit fees are $5 per person per day. Coyote Buttes South area is open only to 20 permit holders daily (10 people from walk-in lottery and 10 online permits). Only day hikes are permitted. Overnight camping is not allowed. Dogs are allowed (fee is $5 per dog), but they must be on leash, and waste must be packed out.

BLM Kanab Visitor Center – Walk-In Lottery 

The BLM Kanab Visitor Center is located on Highway 89, 1 mile east of junction with alternate 89.
The address is: 745 East Highway 89. Phone number: 435-644-1300. E-mail address: [email protected]
Summer Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sunday – Saturday, beginning mid-March
Winter Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday

From mid-March to mid-November, the walk-in lottery occurs 7 days a week and permits for 10 people only are drawn for the following day. From mid-November to mid-March, permits are issued Monday through Friday (except for federal holidays) with the lottery for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday permits occurring the Friday before the weekend. Walk-in lottery for Coyote Buttes South starts at 10.00 a.m. Mountain time, after the Wave lottery (9.00a.m.), but check if any changes have been made on the BLM website. You must pay for walk-in permits with either cash or check.

Coyote Buttes South Permit – On-line Permit

For Coyote Buttes South, you can get online permits using the calendar option only. However, you can get a permit up to four months in advance. If you are planning a trip less than four months in advance, you have two options: you can check the calendar on the permit page to see if any slots are available, or you can try to get a walk-in permit in Kanab the day before you want to hike. But, before you get your permit, read all rules on BLM website. In our opinion, it is worth taking advantage of the vast knowledge and experience of rangers in BLM Kanab Visitor Center before this hike. So, even if you have an online permit, visit BLM Kanab, and ask rangers about weather conditions before you go.

coyote buttes formations
coyote buttes south hike

Applications beginning at noon on:

  • January 1 – for a permit during April
  • February 1 – for a permit during May
  • March 1 – for a permit during June
  • April 1 – for a permit during July
  • May 1 – for a permit during August
  • June 1 – for a permit during September
  • July 1 – for a permit during October
  • August 1 – for a permit during November
  • September 1 – for a permit during December
  • October 1 – for a permit during January
  • November 1 – for a permit during February
  • December 1 – for a permit during March
Beyond the SandsThe Vermilion CliffsBeyond The Waves
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Coyote Buttes Weather

The best season for the Coyote Buttes South Hike is spring, fall, and winter. There is no shade, you have to hike in deep sand, no marked trail, and the direct sun makes this hike extremely hot in the summer. Monsoon season can make the area very dangerous for both hikers and drivers. For a reason, that flash floods can ravage the road and the park. And it happens, so always check the weather before your hike. The best idea is to ask about weather conditions in the BLM Kanab Visitor Center.

Below, we’ve compiled charts with the lowest and highest average temperatures in Coyote Buttes South. Moreover, we have also prepared average precipitation for each month.

Coyote Buttes South Map

The Coyote Buttes South permit is just the beginning of the adventure. You should be prepared well for this hike. Your safety is most important. There is no phone coverage. Furthermore, there are no designated trails. It is pure wilderness. So you should take a detailed map and a good GPS with you. For your safety, you should tell someone, as friends or family, who will not be on the hike when you are going to start the hike. You can stay night before in Kanab (Utah) or Page (Arizona) if you plan this hike. There are two main access points for the Coyote Buttes South area Paw Hole and Cottonwood Cove, and we prepare the map below with main points in the area.

How to Get to the Trailhead?

It is not easy to get to the trailhead. You must have 4WD high clearance vehicle. First of all, you have to reach House Rock Road. House Rock Valley Road runs north/south between Highway 89 in Utah and Highway 89A in Arizona. House Rock Valley Road is renamed House Rock Road once you cross the Arizona state line, so you’ll see the road referred to with both names.

So, from Kanab, Utah, drive 40 miles east on US-89. Turn right onto House Rock Road, a dirt road located between mile markers 25 and 26. You must turn just before a guardrail and a sweeping left-hand curve in the road. Next, you must drive for 17 miles. You will travel past the Wire Pass parking lot at 8.3 miles, and then the Utah – Arizona state line. When you near 17 miles, look for an unmarked turn-off on the left side of the road. There is a small parking Lone Tree, before turn-off. Parking for the Paw Hole Trailhead is 2.5 miles from the turn-of.
If you are going from Page, Arizona, the distance is similar.

A 4WD high clearance vehicles are required to get to the South Coyote Buttes trailheads. Be aware that even with a 4WD, the main road, due to the clay content, is impassable and dangerously slippery if wet. It is challenging to get to the trailhead, the road is really rough, so drive carefully. Moreover, if you don’t have experience with driving in sharp rocks and deep sand, consider living your car earlier on the parking named Lone Tree reservoir. Then you have to walk through deep sand around 2.5 miles to get to Paw Hole trailhead. So, start your adventure early in the morning.

Because we had a camper truck, which is a heavy vehicle, even though we had the 4-wheel drive, we left our car in the parking lot Lone Tree before the turn-off. Then, we walked 2.5 miles in the sand to the Paw Hole trailhead. Our car was heavy, but we saw a regular pick-up that stuck in deep sand on the road. So, pack appropriate tools to deal with flat tires or car issues on the road.
But, if you have an only 2WD vehicle, or you are not sure if you can drive this rough road, leave your car at Lone Tree and hike 2.5 miles.

Coyote Buttes South Hike

How Looks Coyote Buttes South Hike?

For us, it is one of the best hikes in Arizona. Coyote Buttes South Hike is a strenuous hike because there are no marked trails, no mobile coverage, and is high sun exposure in desert terrain. Moreover, there is a high probability that you won’t meet other hikers throughout the day. You have endless possibilities to take beautiful photos. The fantastic rock formations are so unique and incredibly gentle, so watch every step, to not destroy them. Before you go, check our hiking tips and our packing list below.

First of all, take a minimum gallon (3,7 liter) of water per person for your hike. The temperature can often be well over 100 degrees in the summer.  We like this Osprey Water Reservoir. It is comfortable, durable, and perfect for long hikes.
OUR TIP: Start hydrated yourself a day or two before the trek, drinking a minimum 0,5-0,6 of a gallon (2-2,5 liters) of water daily. There isn’t any water available on the trail, so plan to hike in the coldest part of the day, start it early in the morning.

Paw Hole

When you get to Paw Hole, you start your hike from the parking area. Look for the small arch at the top of the first hoodoo. There are no marked trails. This route is more of an exploration around the rocks. However, do not climb to the fragile rock and watch your step. From the parking area, you will see a small fence, go through it, heading for the buttes.

All around you, you will see dunes and beautiful sandstone bowl at the end of the dunes. Hike around the bowl and along the sand toward the hoodoos to the northeast. Once you turn west and top out on the ridge, House Rock Road appears to the west. You will see a variety of oddly shaped, fragile rock formations. You will find plenty of photo opportunities there. Just use your creativity. You have to hike in deep sand and sharp but breakable rock.

Other posts about Arizona with tons of tips and exiting information you will find in our Arizona PhotoTravel Guide!

Cottonwood Cove

If you want to get to Cottonwood Cove, you have two options. You can walk there from Paw Hole hike, or you can back to the parking and drive to the Cottonwood Teepee parking area. You need to turn north, or left, just before the windmill and other dilapidated structures. Travel north through the gate into the South Coyote Buttes Special Permit Area. Leave any barriers behind you. The road becomes impassable, and you will find parking area. Both north and west from the parking area are massive hoodoos called the Cottonwood Teepees. You can hike over the desert sand to the rock formations.

What is Coyote Buttes South Hike Elevation?

South Coyote Buttes Elevation is 5789 feet.
Top of Cottonwood Teepees Elevation is 5933 feet.
Paw Hole Starting Elevation is 5950 feet.
Paw Hole Highest Elevation is 6350 feet.

Hiking Tips For the Coyote Buttes South

First of all, there is little or no shade, and sand reflects the sun amplifying the effects of heat. So, carry with you plenty of water in a water reservoir and salty snacks, no matter when you hike. You need at least one gallon of water per person, because there is no water sources. We were doing this hike at the end of November, and it was hot. There were over 78 degrees Fahrenheit. But, the hike was amazing. The land is a desert wilderness, so you can also choose to climb around on your own. However, it’s easy to get lost, so a topographic map and GPS watch or GPS handheld is must-have in our opinion.
Below you can check out our hiking tips and our essential packing list for this hike. If you need any equipment, check out rei.com, which has great deals and frequent sales.

Balance Water and Food

Drink lots of water the day before your hike. Because if you wait until you are thirsty in the desert, you will already be dehydrated. Drink when you are thirsty and stop when you are quenched. Snacks are also important during your hike. Because over-hydration can lead to hyponatremia. So, balance water and food during your hike.

Take Care of Your Body

Watch your body while hiking. Even experienced hikers have weaker days. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, take a rest. Drink and eat salty and high-proteins snack and rest as long as you feel better.
If you are cold, put on extra layers and eat. If you are hot, drink more water and rest. Protect your body by the sun, take a sun hat and sunscreen. It’s the best idea to have long sleeves and pants to protect your body against the sun and sand. Moreover, clothes should be airy and quick-drying.

Knows the Signs of Hyponatremia, Hypothermia and Heat Illness

Signs of Heat Illness

Heat illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure human body to heat. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat exhaustion, as well as the more severe disease known as heat stroke. Signs of heat illness are headaches, dizziness, vomiting and nausea, cramping, and decreased urine output. So remember that hydration is most important during your hike, so start drinking water day before hike. Moreover, take a lot of water, but you should balance it with high-energy foods, as high protein bars or beef jerky. Rest in the shade, and remember to protect your head, and body by the sun.

Signs of Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a low sodium concentration in the blood. It is caused by over-hydration. So you should always balance hydration with salty and high-protein snacks and meals, or electrolytes, or protein bars, and you should rest frequently. Mild symptoms include a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, difficulty walking, and poor balance. Severe symptoms include confusion, seizures, and even coma.

Signs of Hyphothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) in humans. Symptoms depend on the temperature. Hypothermia is a condition in which heat is lost faster than the body can produce it. It occurs when someone is exposed to external factors that lower body temperature for a long time, e.g., ice water or in the cold. Signs of hypothermia: uncontrolled shivering, exhaustion, and confusion.

The best idea is to take extra dry clothes, like thermal underwear (for men or women), and put on dry clothing. Drink water and liquids, protect yourself from cold, wind, rain, or snow by using warm clothes (as waterproof layers, warm hoodie) and emergency shelter or emergency sleeping bag. You will need them if you lost your directions, and will have to stay for night in the desert wilderness. Remember that in the desert after sunset, it immediately gets dark and cold, and temperature differences can be up to 30 degrees, and more.

Protect Yourself – Coyote Buttes Packing List

Below you will find the most important and necessary things that we took with us on this hike.

Hiking boots are essential for this hike. It's a desert area. You are walking through the sand. There are sharp rocks, cacti, spines. In this area lives lizards, snakes, scorpions, so protect your feet and ankle.
Extra Clothes. Even for all-day hikes, we dress in layers. We always have high trekking shoes with reliable traction, and we use trekking poles, too. But we always put it in the backpack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. We add a warm hoodie, raincoat, gloves, a hat, and socks,in case of weather breakdown.
First aid kit with blister care, duct tape. It will help you handle unexpected moments (includes CPR Mask, Bandaids, Blanket, Tourniquet and more)
Headlap or flashlight with spare batteries. Yes, we take it with us even if the hike is lasting only a few hours during the day. A long time ago we lost during the day and then we had to come back through the wilderness at night. You never know what will happen, that's why we always have headlamp with us.
GPS watch or GPS device allows you to find your location on a digital map accurately. They are waterproof and robust. Another option is to use a smartphone with a GPS app, but often there is no connection on the trails. If you have a phone, remember not to use its battery. Finally, monitor your battery power.In our opinion, a mobile is not enough.
Water is most important even during short hikes, so bring a sufficient amount of water, minimum gallon per person, and extra water in case of emergency. . There is no water sources on the Coyote Buttes South. The best idea is to take a light water reservoir.
Always carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stranded or injured on the trail.
Take a salty snack, as high energy protein bars and beef jerky or other high - calorie meals, as nuts and sandwiches. Always take extra portions in case you have to stay in the desert for a night.
Emergency sleeping bag, which serves as your emergency blanket, survival shelter, and emergency bivy sack all-in-one.
Pocket Knife with Multitool it's ideal for outdoor activities like camping, and hiking. It's essentail for gear repair, food preparation, first aid.
Always take a map of the area. The best idea is to have a topographic map. You can use App with your hike, but remember that there is no coverage often on the trails, so you should have printed maps too.
Sun protection. Always pack with you and wear sunglasses, sun-protection hat and sunscreen.
Emergency Whistles is must-have, too. Battery in the cellphone will run down, or there will be no coverage on the trail, and this is the only way you can call for help.
Fire Starter, because in case of an emergency, you need to have reliable supplies with you for starting and maintaining a fire.But remember that you can use it only in case of danger. You can't make campfires in this area. And it is not allowed to stay overnight.
Pack all your things into a comfortable backpack. Hiking through the sand and rocks is strenuous, so it's good to have a backpack with a hip belt, which will relieve your spine.

Don’t Forget To Insure Yourself Before Your Trip

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the van escape

Hi, we are Agnes & Chris! Welcome to The Van Escape! We are travelers, photographers, and bloggers. Our goal is to share travel & photo experience and inspire you to outdoor adventures through America. We love wildlife, off the beaten path places, soaking in hot springs, and van life. We also like cities by night and tasting local food & wine. We give you ready itineraries, hints, and essential tools to prepare you for your unforgettable lifetime journey. We only describe the places we have been, which we know and recommend without hesitation. All photos are also ours. We are so glad you’re here!

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