The wave photo in marble canyon arizona

Marble Canyon, Arizona

The Wave

The wave photo in marble canyon arizona

When it comes to jaw dropping visuals in pictures, you won’t believe your eyes in person when you see what happens when rippling sand dunes are frozen in the rock of Arizona. This is by far one of our most favorite places we have visited!

You will find this breathtaking view over 5,000 feet above sea level in the Coyote Buttes ravine, and it is known at the Wave. It is one of the most amazing geological formations in the world that began to form 190 million years ago. The Wave almost looks like stretched taffy in which the sandstone structures sit and are an array of orange colors. It is as if it frozen in time as a polaroid remembering the natural forces the environment endures and creates. 

Let’s go back in time

So over time, the Navajo Sandstone dunes that are found in the Wave formed over time due to being calcified up and across making the rocks hard and compacted over time. The way the lines seem to wind through the canyon, creates an illusion made slowly by wind and rain erosion. No one knew about the Wave until the 1900s when it popped up in travel guides from Germany and appearing in movies in 1996. Once Europeans began visiting the area, it became more and more popular. 

Some people describe the experience as wild and feeling like you have vertigo or are walking through a dream. If you are into photography, you can get the best shots during the middle of the day when the dunes show no shadows or go at dawn or dusk if you want the dramatics of photos with high domes of shadows bouncing off of them. 

Plan ahead

You can still visit the Wave today, but only 20 people at a time are allowed in a day and are required to have permits because they are still prone to damage. Make sure to check the weather as rain storms make the Wave impossible to get to. The rain causes pools to form over a few days, containing fairy shrimp and tadpoles. When going to the Wave, it involves a 3-mile hike (6-mile round trip), so be sure to dress appropriately, and pack snacks and waters. You should probably have a GPS handy too because many people do get lost without ever reaching the dunes. You can get permits online, in person with lotteries, and you can pay to have a tour guide. 

Best time to visit: When planning your visit, the best time to go is either fall or spring when the weather is mild and not too hot or cold. Summers in Marble Canyon reach over 100 degrees, and winter holds freezing temperatures not ideal for visiting. 

Where to stay: The closest places to stay the night are in Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah. Both cities have a variety of places to stay/eat. There are also campgrounds including Stateline Campground and the White House Campground. More information can be found here.


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