This little photographic jewel is a bumpy drive and a long, hot hike in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, near the border of Arizona and Utah. You can only get in by winning one of the twenty daily permits by lottery, but it will please the hell out of the inner workings of your cameras.
Upwards of 150 people show up daily for a shot at the permits but oh-so-many drive away stymied. Your chances increase if you apply on successive days and we lucked out on our second try. The hike itself is a beauty; we were given a photocopy of the instructions to hike in including pictures which you follow by distant landmarks rather than any discernible trail, over red sandstone and loose, soul-sucking sand. Small herds of mule deer ran at the base of the hills. The Wave itself is smaller than I’d figured, maybe the size of a football field but the surrounding area is all mind-boggling. Photo geeks clot up the scenery a bit, yelling at discontent wives to bring them extra filters and lenses, so you’ll have to choose your moments.
You can take side hikes down slot canyons or up the ridge to a natural bridge. Bring lots of water and a positive attitude— vultures and condors are circling should you falter!