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Wave Winter Wonderland

New Year’s Day | Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to my first trip report of 2015, and what an adventure it was! This was a fun trip report to write, not because the photos are necessarily great, but because it was a fun day in unique conditions. This may have been my tenth visit to Coyote Buttes North, but all the snow on the ground made this familiar area feel new and exciting. It’s amazing what difference a couple of days can make. Plus, we were the very first visitors to The Wave in 2015!

We woke up extra early on New Year’s Day since we knew that we would probably have to drive slower to reach the Wire Pass trailhead this morning. When we looked outside there was a layer of fresh snow on the ground, so I knew it was a good decision. After some breakfast we started the drive. Surprisingly, the highway in Arizona to the state line had been plowed overnight and wasn’t too bad, but once we entered Utah the road was covered in snow and there weren’t too many tracks. It was a slow drive in the dark to The Cockscomb with our speeds averaging about 35-40mph most of the way. A typical 30 minute drive turned into an hour.

After making it to House Rock Valley Road we found about six inches of fresh snow on the road with no existing tracks. This is the reason I drive a Jeep!

House Rock Valley Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Leaving the first set of tracks on the road.

First Tracks by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Snow on The Cockscomb with a little light barely showing through the clouds.

Cockscomb Snow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

As we guessed, there were no other vehicles at the Wire Pass trailhead when we arrived. There were no tracks coming from the other direction either. I’ve never seen the trailhead covered in snow, so I took a photo.

Wire Pass Trailhead by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

It’s a good thing we had brought along our snow boots and snow pants on this trip, just in case. We would be needing them today. We changed into our winter gear and started our hike to The Wave.

Surprisingly, the sun made a brief appearance as we hiked down Coyote Wash.

Sunrise by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane enjoying the sun.

Coyote Wash Sunrise by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Leaving the wash. The BLM has upgraded the sign where the trail leaves the wash since I was here in February.

Notice by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Hiking across snow-covered sand on our way to the sandstone pass. Seriously, the entire hike was very peaceful and serene the whole day, but it was definitely more work hiking through six inches of powder. A good workout for sure!

Snow Over Sand by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A yucca pokes through the snow.

Yucca Snow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I figured the first place we would have problems hiking in the snow would be over the first sandstone pass. We actually had no issues climbing up it, but we fell a few times coming down the other side…

Sliding Down by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The sun hidden behind a thick layer of clouds as we climb through the second pass. Even with all the snow on the ground and the sun hidden behind the clouds, there was really no wind today, which made the temperature more comfortable than our hike here on Monday.

Through the Pass by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane coming down the other side making sure not to fall this time.

Careful by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The snow made everything look new. I think it might be difficult for someone who has never been here before to navigate with only the map and photos the BLM provides when everything is covered with snow like this. Especially the type of visitors that Coyote Buttes North attracts who have little backcountry experience.

Winter Pass by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Finally, we reached the entrance to The Wave.

Wave Entrance by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I wanted to enter The Wave without getting too many of my footprints all over, so we went around to the side to see if we could enter through The Passage. We were able to climb up this way.

Snow Entrance by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I love the way the ridges catch the snow.

Lines in the Snow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Thankfully, there wasn’t too much snow in The Passage, so I was able to take photos of the contrast between the colorful sandstone and snow in here.

Through The Passage by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Since I entered from the side, I was also able to get some photos without footprints in the snow, too.

Colorful Snow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Snow Passage by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Ready to enter The Wave.

No Footprints by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

With no other tracks to be found anywhere, we could be positive that we were the very first visitors to The Wave in 2015!

Waveish by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Snow Curves by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Finally, a view of The Wave that I’m going to call the Snow Wave. I would have loved to have stayed all day to see if the sun would come out again and melt some of the snow, but we had to get back home, so we couldn’t stick around long. Plus, I’m pretty sure the sun never came out enough the rest of the day to melt any snow.

Snow Wave by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane in the Snow Wave.

Diane in the Snow Wave by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Rounded Corner by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Catching Snow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Red & White by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Our footprints in The Wave as we explored the area.

Tracks from The Wave by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Snow to Stone by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We stayed for a little while taking photos and climbed up above The Wave to check things out, but soon it was time to turn around to hike back out. We had a long drive ahead of us. Diane takes one last view from The Wave before we leave.

Entrance View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Carefully descending the steep slope down to Sand Cove Wash.

Heading Back Down by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

It’s amazing how different everything looks covered in snow.

Whiteout by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane hikes ahead as I take plenty of photos on the way back.

Ahead by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The clouds briefly thinned exposing some blue in the sky.

Light Blue by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We followed our tracks on the way back to make the hiking a little easier. We hadn’t seen anyone else all day until we were close to the first pass along the trail. Then we encountered a few groups that were trying to follow our tracks, but seemed to be slipping all over the place. I wonder if they ever made it all the way?

Coyote Buttes Snow Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Following Our Tracks by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The sun came out again when the clouds thinned.

Blue Sky by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

One last photo looking towards The Dive before we crossed the pass and finished the hike to the trailhead.

Winter Dive by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we reached the Jeep we changed back out of our winter gear into more comfortable clothing so we could start the long drive back home. By this time the roads had been plowed and were mostly in good shape for the rest of the drive home. We made it home late and went right to bed. We were exhausted from the hike and drive. Still, it was a great way to start the new year!

>> Wave Winter Wonderland Photo Gallery


  1. Joyce Sanders
    Joyce Sanders January 15, 2015

    Wonderful photos. Thanks for allowing us to travel along with you.
    I’ve been to the four corners several times and love it’s beauty. Since I live in Ohio I am so happy to see photos of this area. And your commentary is spot on. Well done.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat January 15, 2015

      Thank you Joyce!

  2. Alice
    Alice January 15, 2015

    Excellent trip! You began 2015 so beautifully 🙂 Superb pictures!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat January 15, 2015

      Thank you Alice!

  3. Pamela
    Pamela January 15, 2015

    As always, with your photragraphy, I feel as tho I am tagging along behind you. Thank you

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat January 15, 2015

      Thanks Pamela!

  4. Sanna
    Sanna January 15, 2015

    Great adventure, great photos!! Three times we tried to get a permit for September/October 2011 but we didn’t win the lotterie 🙁 I have seen many wonderful, unforgetable spots in the world, but the wave is still my favorite. Maybe I’ll get one day a permit and the dream comes true. 🙂

  5. Carmen Becker
    Carmen Becker January 15, 2015

    I so enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures. I am 72 years old and partially disabled, so I will not be hiking any more in my life, and it REALLY blesses me to see your wonderful photos and sort of “go along” on the hike with you. How great for you to see this lovely place the first thing in the New Year! And to make the first tracks! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  6. Snowcatcher
    Snowcatcher January 27, 2015

    What a degree of magic and intrigue snow adds to one of the most beautiful places on earth! You are so fortunate to have so many successful trips to The Wave, and this one definitely takes the cake! How awsome to be the first hikers there this year!!! Gorgeous photos!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat January 27, 2015

      Thank you Snowcatcher. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

  7. John Spurr
    John Spurr February 6, 2015

    Awesome stuff, Randy! You mentioned the folks inexperienced in back country hiking who are able to go into Coyote Buttes North. I think that the three people who died there in July 2013 were among those, and I’d say that’s the fault of the lottery system in place now. Back before the lottery, only those folks who were really on top of the process would get permits because it was first come, first served, and I’d say those folks typically knew what they were getting into. With the lottery, anyone in the world can get lucky and get a permit no matter how inexperienced they are in desert hiking, and some of them won’t take the information they get from the BLM seriously.

  8. Jules Mcgee
    Jules Mcgee November 15, 2023

    Awesome Snowy Adventure! May I ask how in the world you have gotten a permit 10 times for North Coyote Buttes? I definitely have not had that kind of luck. Any suggestions?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat November 15, 2023

      The permits used to be easier to get on the old system before the lottery was moved to if you knew when they released the unclaimed permits from the lottery. Those days are long gone, though.

    • William
      William February 1, 2024

      This blog was written almost 10 years ago before The Wave went viral on social media

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