Can’t do The Wave Hike in AZ? Try These 7 Alternative Trails

If you (like so many others, including myself) find yourself unable to do the Wave hike in AZ due to its very restrictive permit system, just know that this particular trail isn’t the only one of it’s kind and there are at least 7 alternative trails out there (updated) that are just as good if not better (and none of them even require permits either).

the wave utah new 02

One of the most important things I’ve learned through my nature travels in the US is that there are many look alike places out there and even something as “unique” as the Wave isn’t really the case.

You just have to explore less commercialized areas to find them and I’ve done that research for you (other blogs simply show you what’s near the Wave vs actually showing you hikes that look like it).

2 important things to know about the Wave Arizona hike (and alternatives to it):

1) Something most people don’t know is that the Wave hike actually starts in Utah and passes into Arizona State (where most of the trail is in).

2) But more importantly, the larger region this hike is in has several spots that have the same type of terrain and mountains, which means there are plenty of spots that look like the Wave.

Now with that said, let’s get to the main focus of this post which is me showing you actual alternatives to the Wave hike, including where to find them too (some are close to where the Wave is, and others are in other states):

Here are the 7 alternatives to the Wave Utah hike (and Arizona) that look like it:

the wave hike az alternatives

  1. White Pocket (Utah).
  2. Fire Wave (Nevada).
  3. Cathedral Wash (Arizona).
  4. Zebra Slot Canyon (Utah).
  5. John Day Fossil Bed National Monument (Oregon).
  6. New Wave trail (Arizona).
  7. White Wave (near Kanab Utah).

Note: When I started this post, I had 5 Wave hike alternatives.

Today it’s up to 7 and these are the closest hikes/trails/terrain in looks that resemble the Wave and in some cases are better looking in my opinion. And the beauty is that none of these hikes require a permit.

You may have to pay an entrance fee in some cases to enter the regions where you’ll find these hikes, but overall, there aren’t going to be large crowds in these places like you would find waiting in line to try and get a permit to the Wave.

1) White Pocket hike:

white pocket vs the wave hike

Location: Arizona, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Family friendly trails? I would say no because it’s tough to reach by car.

Description: White Pocket is a very special hike in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument area that has mountains and terrain that very closely resembles the Wave.

And aside from being a great Wave hike alternative, here’s another benefit:

It’s also extremely close to the actual Wave hike, so if you can’t win a lottery to go there, White Pocket is the next best (and closest) hike that is and it’s only about 30 minutes away.

Just as well, this hike is also FAR less crowded (almost empty), and doesn’t require a permit to get to but it is accessible by driving through rugged roads, so you should have an all wheel drive if you go.

Because White Pocket is in a far more remote area of the Vermilion Cliffs, I would recommend being cautious before going here.

2) Fire Wave hike:

fire wave hike vs the wave in arizona

Location: Nevada, specifically Valley of Fire State Park (maybe 3 hours west of the Wave hike).

Family friendly trails? Yes.

Description: The Fire Wave might be the closest look alike hike on this list to the Wave.

It is located in the oldest park in Nevada (Valley of Fire State Park) which is small, but it offers amazing adventures, hikes and scenery, one of which is indeed the Fire Wave hike, that is one of the park’s most popular trails (for obvious reasons).

The only thing needed to get into this park (and on this hike) is an entry fee for your car upon entry.

Other than that, there is no permit required to hike the Fire Wave (or any hike in this park to my knowledge).

It’s also under 2 miles long and is very easy to hike for most people.

The only thing you’ll want to watch out for the animals here and hot weather most of the year (go here in the winter to avoid that).

3) Cathedral Wash:

cathedral wash hike alternative to the wave

Location: Arizona, also Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Family friendly hike? No.

Description: In my opinion, Cathedral Wash is one of the best hikes in all of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, as well as in all of Arizona State.

It’s also a bit challenging in parts, but since we’re comparing it to the Wave, the question is: Does it look like it?

In my opinion, the answer is yes if you change the colors of that hike.

I’ve done this trail and highly recommend it. Like all of the other hikes on this list, it too requires no permit (other than a pass to enter the Vermilion Cliffs), and it’s also barely crowded. I only saw 2 people on this trail when I went there.

This hike also changes terrain and by my count, there are 3 different terrain changes as you go through it. The one you see here is the second one which is my favorite and the closest look alike to the Wave.

The hike is 3 miles long in and out.

4) Zebra Slot Canyon:

zebra slot canyon vs the wave hike

Location: Utah, specifically Grand Staircase Escalante.

Family friendly hike? No.

Description: Zebra Slot Canyon looks like a slot canyon version of the Wave.

It is a challenging and fun hike you will find within the Grand Staircase Escalante region of Utah, which in my opinion is one of the best parts of that state.

You can see a list that I linked to for what else there is to see, but long story short, this particular hike will take you through narrow gorges/canyons, and sometimes there’s even water in there.

If you’re into adventurous hikes and want to avoid the crowds, Zebra Slot Canyon is where you want to be.

If you want to find even more challenging hikes like this one, there are 2 others close by called Peekaboo Slot Canyon and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon, both of which are part of 1 hiking trail that gets very tight in spots.

Additionally, there is also an awesome place called Coyote Gulch in this region I highly recommend checking out if you’re more of an advanced hiker.

5) John Day Fossil Bed National Monument:

John Day Fossil Bed National Monument alternative to the wave hike

Location: Central Oregon.

Family friendly hikes? Yes.

Description: I never believed Oregon has a place that looks like the Wave, but John Day Fossil Bed National Monument sure does have that same look and feel to it.

It is a national park with mountains (called Painted Hills) that bear a lot of beautiful colors (red and white) that also look a lot like the Wave and even some of the hikes on this list (particularly White Pocket). Another awesome thing is that they also look similar to the Painted Mountains (in Peru).

Out of every option on this list, this particular spot is the easiest to access and hike on.

Not many people know about it because most of the time, tourists focus on the main attractions Oregon has to offer like the many waterfall hikes there, the Oregon Coast, Portland and Columbia River Gorge and many of the hot spring areas in the state (all of which are awesome attractions by the way).

But east Oregon also has a lot to offer, and this particular spot is one of them that I would recommend you visit if you’re looking for Wave hike alternatives. Nearby you will also find beautiful Oregon State parks like Smith Rock State Park (another gem worth checking out).

6) New Wave Trail:

new wave trail page arizona alternative hike

Location: Outside Page Arizona (1 hour from the Wave hike).

Family friendly hike? Not really.

Description: Firstly, I want to thank Kevin Eassa for sharing this location in his video here.

The New Wave Trail is a pretty similar in views to the classic Wave hike, but it’s got a bit less color and less detail in the rocks. Never the less, the area is very beautiful and some people might think you visited the official Wave hike after seeing it.

One of the other benefits to exploring this hike is that there is no permit needed (to my knowledge) to access this hike and it’s not far from the road in general, although cell phone reception might be bad here.

Either way, for less crowds, less red tape and seeing what else is out there in terms of Wave hike alternatives, this is an awesome one to list and considering it’s not far from Page Arizona, it also means it’s close to the official Wave and White Pocket hikes, meaning if you can’t get the permit to go there, you’ve got at least 2 alternatives now nearby!

7) White Wave (near Kanab Utah):

white wave hike alternative to classic wave trail

Location: Near the town of Kanab Utah.

Family friendly hike? No, it’s pretty long and difficult at about 8 miles (but amazing).

Description: After doing a post about the best things to do in Kanab Utah, I discovered that one of the best gems near that town happens to be a hike that is literally a Wave look alike but is completely made up of white rock.

Yet the same wave elements you see in all the other alternatives on this list are present there.

What’s more is that this hike is one of many amazing areas near the town I highly recommend you explore and on top of that, they are all so close to each other than if you go, you can easily explore this and the tons of other amazing hikes and trails within a few days, all while enjoying staying in Kanab, Utah.

I’m so glad I discovered this hike exists and when it comes to logistics, if you can’t do the Wave hike, go up 1 hour to Kanab and try this one instead.

8) Bonus: Wire Pass trail

wire pass trail near the wave arizona hike new 02

Location: Literally the same trailhead that leads to the Wave hike which is in Utah (but there’s a fork and you’ll go east, whereas with the Wave trail, you’ll go south into Arizona).

Family friendly hike? Yes.

Description: This last option is NOT a Wave hike alternative but I’m including it on this list because I did this hike with friends and family and only later realized that we started on the same trailhead that actually connects with the Wave trail.

I’m adding this hike to the list because it’s close to White Pocket (the first alternative to the Wave hike above), and it’s also an amazing hike that is in the area, so if you are exploring Vermilion Cliffs and try your luck at getting a Wave permit, but aren’t able to, add this (The Wire Pass) trail as another stop. Trust me, it’s awesome.

There’s so many beautiful and different looking hikes in this region (and in Utah and Arizona overall). Why limit yourself to only the Wave and places like that look it when there’s so much more you can see?

And the Wire Pass Trail is one of many examples of this (see the best hikes in Utah for more examples). It does also require a permit, but it’s nothing crazy like with the Wave (no lottery stuff). You just have to pay $6+ so you can park your car in the area.

More recommendations from other users (alternatives to the Wave):

I’m always up for learning what others recommend about this topic, and one of the top ones is a post here on Tripadvisor where similar Wave alternatives are recommended, but there’s 200+ comments, so you may find even MORE alternatives there!

Is hiking gear needed for these Wave like hikes? Yes:

More common questions about the Wave hike:

How difficult is the hike to the Wave?

It’s a moderate and above level hike for most people and it takes about 3-4 miles to reach it from the trailhead.

How long is the Wave hike in Arizona?

6-7 miles total. Most of the hike involves walking to the actual Wave part.

Why is the Wave hike in Arizona famous?

Because it is very beautiful and has a lot of people sharing it on social media.

Can you visit the Wave in Arizona?

Not without a permit or winning a lottery to get that permit.

More hikes like the Wave to come!

One thing I can tell you for sure, it’s that the regions near the Wave (in Utah and Arizona) have similar terrains and that makes it very likely to find hikes like the Wave in more than just the areas I shared on this list. In fact, there another good article called the best day hikes in Arizona you should see for even more amazing trails (some similar to the Wave) you can find in Arizona (some near Page).

And before I finish up, let me just say that above I mentioned how the Wave isn’t the only type of popular hike that has alternatives. Here are at least 2 other popular hiking destinations (hard to reach or expensive) that also have them too:

1) Antelope Canyon. Another super popular, crowded (and expensive) hike. Guess what? Here’s a list of Antelope Canyon alternatives.

2) Another popular one is the Narrows hike that’s in Zion National Park. You don’t need a permit for that but it is often crowded, but just like with the Wave and Antelope Canyon, you can find a lot of Narrow hike alternatives here too.

The point is that if there is a super famous hike in the states, there’s a good chance there’s many look a like hikes close by, less crowded and even better.

If you’re someone who knows about these other spots (Wave hike alternatives that is) and don’t mind sharing their names, I’d love to hear about them below!

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16 thoughts on “Can’t do The Wave Hike in AZ? Try These 7 Alternative Trails”

  1. I have always loved to hike but have more time now since I am 70. Or don’t I? Lol, no matter I am determined to make the most of each day. I live 1.5 hours away from Yosemite National Park but I have adventured the year to the bottom of Bryce Canyon, Red Rock Canyon and the Petrified wood State park and Arches a few months ago.

    Zion is hard to get a permit to so I am exited about the article alternatives to the Wave. Is there any chance the info can be sent to my email? I have just signed up for your newsletter. Thanks so much. All who are young, don’t take a minute of your life for granted! Keep moving! Electronics will always be here but your ability to move won’t. GO FOR IT!

    Reply
    • Hi Lora, thanks for signing up for my newsletter and you can always message me here (or email) if you have questions on what to see. I am very inspired by your adventurous spirit and hope you see many more places and that my blog helps you find that (just be careful with some spots!).

      Other than this, I’m surprised you said it’s tough to get a permit for to Zion National Park. There is no reservation needed to enter the park, but there ARE permits to enter certain parts in the park like the Subway and possibly the Narrows. You would have to check the site, but I know Arches has begun doing that since 2021.

      Reply
  2. Hi Vitaliy,

    Your post is gorgeous! I actually lived in Arizona for 16 years and never went hiking, but loved the mountain scenes there. I have heat strokes pretty easily so I didn’t venture up the mountains too many times.  

    I love the patterns in the rock formations! They are beautiful. The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument looks like maybe one I could try since it seems more shaded. Next time I am around Arizona I’ll have to check it out. I appreciate you writing the list of alternatives.

    Thank you,

    Chastity

    Reply
  3. I’ve always wanted to do the Wave hike, but like you, had no luck with the permit situation. However, I really enjoyed reading your alternative choices. These are some beautiful options, some of which I’d never heard of. I wasn’t aware of White Pocket, but that looks like a super place to visit that is similar to the Wave. Plus I like the sound of it being less crowded. I’m definitely going to write these spots down and will hopefully get the chance to visit in the future. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Reply
    • No problem! White Pocket is the closest alternative on this list and everyone I know who has been there raves about how awesome it is Lee 🙂

      Reply
  4. These are all dream-hiking sites, unique and worth seeing. I am surprised to discover that some sites like the Wave Hike in AZ, require a special permit. It is sad that you are not able to go?! However, these 5 alternative trails are amazing! The Zebra Slot Canyon really caught my attention. It looks like an adventurous and fun hike to do with its narrow gorges. How long does it take to do this trail? Thank you for this helpful and informative article!

    Reply
    • Zebra slot canyon takes a few hours to hike mostly, but if you like these types of canyons, nearby that area (Grand Staircase Escalante) are 2 more called Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons, both of which are part of 1 trail that is a 5 mile loop (although the spacing there is much tighter).

      Reply
  5. I live in South Africa and this is the first time that I have heard of places where you need to have a permit to hike. We just hike where ever we feel like it here, and sometimes there is only a minimal fee or donation needed, so I guess we are lucky.

    The National Bed Monument in Oregon looks amazing and is definitely something we don’t see here. I am planning a trip to the US in a year or so and will definitely add this one to my bucket list.

    Reply
    • I have found again and again that the US houses nature spots that can be found everywhere in this world. So while I would love to visit South Africa one day, I’m pretty sure there’s many places there which you can also find here in the states as well.

      Reply
  6. This was a great article. I liked the references used. The Wave hike is hard to get to do. There were a couple of the hikes that looked very similar though. Have you done a similar article like this on Havasu falls? I think it would be a good one to cover as well because it isn’t as easy to get into. 

    Reply
    • Hi Amber, I have not yet done an article on that, but I know a bit about it. The summary is that it’s located inside Havasupai (an Indian Reservation) west of the Grand Canyon. You need to reserve a visit there a year in advance and when you arrive, stay either at a campground inside this region or at their hotel. Day trips are not permitted there.

      Reply
  7. The more I read your article, the more I’m interested in hiking. I understand that Fire State Park is maybe the best option for someone who would be a beginner like me. I live in Canada so, I wonder if you have ever visited some places like Grizzly Lake Trail, Yukon or West Coast Trail, British Columbia.

    Reply
    • I’ve explored quite a bit of Western Canada, and out of the list you made, BC would probably be the closest. In fact, here is a short compilation of the spots I’ve seen:

      Vancouver Island (great place!)

      Vancouver itself and the coast to it.

      BC and Alterba, specifically the Canadian Rockies which I absolutely loved!

      Canada is an astounding place for nature, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  8. I have a couple of friends who have been able to do the wave hike, but literally, they are lucky like lottery winners for getting this amazing opportunity! I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of Zebra slot canyon before, as the photos of the area look absolutely stunning. That one is going on my list to try the next time I am in the area. Thank you for sharing these beautiful gems!

    Reply
    • Hi Aly, your friends certainly are lucky to have done the Wave, but since you mentioned Zebra Slot Canyon, that one is about a 5-6 hour drive up north (to Utah) and is in a very remote place. The closest hike that looks like the Wave is in White Pocket, which is about 30 minutes away, so if you’re in the region, I’d recommend that one.

      Reply

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