You’ve won the lottery! Now it’s time to start training so you can make the most of your time in North Coyote Buttes. For most folks, eight weeks should be enough prep time. (It probably took way longer to get your permit than it will take to get ready.)
The round-trip hike to the Wave, Arizona is just over 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) if you take the most direct route there and back. The average hiker takes about 90 minutes to go straight to the Wave, and another 90 minutes to get back, so you’re looking at a minimum of 3 hours of active hiking over bare sandstone, through soft sandy hills and up and down uneven steps of rock.
If you decide to tour with us, we will probably walk about 8 miles so we can visit other sites in North Coyote Buttes. The more fit you are, the more your guide will be able to show you. And there is a lot to see besides the Wave. Trust us, you want to see it. Expect an elevation gain of about 500 feet, long stretches of soft sand and uneven ground on the way to and from the Wave.
Try to exercise 4-5 days a week if possible for the two months leading up to your trip. Start small if you have to, and work your way up to larger goals. Here’s what you are targeting:
- Endurance. You’ll be exerting for a good part of the day on your Wave hike. Be ready to put some miles on so the experience is fun, not painful. During your training, try to include a couple of long walks or jogs so you are confident you can go the distance.
- Cardio. Build up your cardio endurance until you can walk briskly for 30 minutes. This will help you tackle those hills.
- Strength. Building leg and core strength will help you feel great through the hike while carrying your backpack. You’re going to be carrying at least 6.5 pounds of water, or more if it’s hot out, plus your camera, sunscreen and other essentials. It adds up. Here are a couple of links to sites that offer good strength training exercises: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hiking-training.html, https://www.backpacker.com/skills/how-to-get-in-shape-for-hiking#section_4
- Balance. Folks with poor balance tend to struggle on this hike. You will be traversing naturally stepped rock and sloped sandstone most of the time. Simply increasing core strength can help with balance, too. Also, yoga offers some fantastic balance exercises if you think you could use improvement. If you need help with balance, hiking poles can help, too. We have awesome Leki brand poles we’re happy to loan you. If you bring your own poles, please be sure they have rubber tips to protect the fragile stone.
- Good hiking skills. Hiking the natural terrain of North Coyote Buttes is not the same as simply walking along a flat, level sidewalk where every curb is a predictable, measured height. Get out to a state park and walk natural terrain if you can. Hit the beach until you feel comfortable walking at least a mile in loose sand. Also get used to walking in hilly terrain. If you are a flatlander, you might need to get creative. Walk up and down stairs at your office, the mall or on the high school stadium bleachers to get used to hills, which use different muscles than flat ground. If anyone laughs at you or asks what you’re doing, seize the opportunity to brag about your Wave permit. That’s right, you showed them.
- Shoe fitness. Get your shoes in shape, too. Especially if you’re wearing stiff shoes such as leather boots, you need to break them in. Do some of your training in the shoes you plan to wear to the Wave. Be sure your toes don’t rub when you walk downhill. Notice any hot spots on your feet. Blisters can be prevented with mole skin or proper socks, but if you’re getting hot spots you might want to replace the shoes. High top boots provide ankle support but they’re not absolutely necessary for this hike. It’s most important to wear shoes that are comfortable for many miles and have good traction on the bottom for tackling steep sections of slickrock. Pro tip: High top boots, gaiters, or long pants that hang over the top of your boots can all help keep sand out of your shoes.
Get rest, too
Don’t overdo it just before the hike. We know you’ll want to tackle Angel’s Landing in Zion and do some strenuous hiking in Bryce during your stay in Kanab. It’s great that you’re crushing it, just don’t wear yourself out in the couple of days leading up your Wave hike. We know you’re excited about seeing the Wave, we’re just as excited to share it with you. But get a good night’s sleep. And eat a good breakfast, real food with protein and energy. Froot Loops don’t cut it.
Just how hard is this hike?
It’s so subjective, what one person calls easy another person finds extremely strenuous. We would say most people who are fit and hike rugged terrain regularly would call this a moderately difficult hike. We have also heard many guests say, “That’s the hardest hike I have ever had in my life!” If you prepare, you should do fine. Last year, we guided a couple in their mid 70s on the hottest day of the summer. They had been applying for permits for 10 years so they didn’t want to sit it out just because the weather was hot. It was 104 and sunny. But these two were prepared and did quite well. Many breaks were taken on the way back in any pocket of shade we could find and we even poured ice water over each other’s heads. We’ve also hosted much younger groups who struggled on cooler days simply because they weren’t ready. Over the years we’ve had a handful of guests who couldn’t make it to the Wave. That’s disappointing for both the guide and the guest. We want you to make it. We want it to exceed your expectations in every way. A trip to North Coyote Buttes usually does. So be prepared.