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The Wave's stunning sights only seen by the luckiest hikers


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KANAB — Every morning in Kanab, the hopeful gather. Visitors must enter a lottery in Utah to get the chance to visit a stunning view on the Utah-Arizona border.

"We've tried five years in a row," said Phil Kirk from Bend, Ore.

It's a daily lottery that will have 10 winners and lots of losers. Some have won before and can't bear the thought of never going back.

"Oh, it's just unbelievable," Kirk said. "You just can't believe what you see down there."

People from all over the world often come over and over, hoping for their first shot at The Wave: a deposit of ancient sandstone from 200 million years ago.


It's on the bucket list, right? So you gotta go there.

–Travis Poulson, Salt Lake City resident


"It's on the bucket list, right? So you gotta go there," said Travis Poulson from Salt Lake City.

The KSL-TV crew took their chances along with 60 others. Often more than 100 people jam in, angling for 10 permits.

We were assigned ball number 12. The first ball drawn made the crowd wonder if the fix was in. Number 12 was the first number called.

The next morning, green permit flapping in the breeze, we headed up the trail. We hiked with California architect David Fox, one of 10 other hikers that day who won a separate online lottery six months before.

"Wow, this is really cool," Fox said while hiking.

The slick-rock wilderness is just a warm-up. It's a three mile hike starting in Utah, crossing into Arizona the last few hundred yards.

The suspense builds as you see the entrance ahead, the entrance to The Wave. Just 20 lucky people a day, and a few lucky dogs, get to do this.

How to apply for "The Wave" lottery

And then you're really there — a place that defies description: one of the most-often seen places on calendars and computer screen-savers but rarely seen in person.

"Well, I've seen quite a few pictures of it, and it doesn't quite do it justice," said Guy Evans from Petersburg, Ky.

People keep trying. We asked several hikers to give us their photos of The Wave, taken on their lucky day.

"You can see where, over eons and eons, the water and the wind just carved this in," Fox said.

"I love the way the colors and especially the way the ... light catches it," Evans said.

KSL-TV did its first TV story here 15 years ago. That story in 1998 generated so much interest the BLM computers crashed that night. After that, the agency raised the daily limit of visitors from 10 to 20; 10 are chosen online, 10 in person. Interest has been climbing ever since.

Photos from that one vantage point get all the attention worldwide. But there are other details that just astound people who visit, and that inspire the deepest feelings.

"You can see the hand of someone on this," Fox said, describing an area of the sandstone.

Visitors from all over the world say they are stunned by the sight. Antoine Dutertre made the trip all the way from France.


I'm incredibly glad I came! This is spectacular! Are you kidding? This is a once-in-lifetime scene.

–David Fox, California resident


"Yeah, I don't know, you have, like, the adrenaline is coming up, and you really have, I mean, physical goose bumps," Dutertre said.

Evans has a hard time describing the joy of seeing the sandstone at the Wave.

"It's kind of difficult to put into words when you see it. But it definitely touches part of you," Evans said.

And that's why people keep trying, and crossing their fingers.

"I'm incredibly glad I came! This is spectacular! Are you kidding? This is a once-in-lifetime scene," Fox said.

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UtahOutdoors & Rec
John Hollenhorst

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