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by Ben the Grate
April 7, 2003
I strongly recommend a stop in Kanab for dinner at the Rocking V Cafe. It's right on the main street, and it's a REMARKABLE place! The owners were in the movie business in Hollywood and got fed up, moved to this tiny town in Utah, and opened a FANTASTIC restaurant with unbelieveably reasonable prices...in the middle of nowhere! Cuisine is continental with a Southwestern flair. The soups are DIVINE!
After a nice meal in Kanab, you've got a 3-hour drive back to Vegas. The only tricky part of the road is following it through Hurricane, Utah, right before you hit the interstate. Stop and ask questions if you get lost.
From journal The Most Amazing Day Trip from Vegas
Hiking this trail requires a permit from the Bureau of Land Management. You can reach them by calling (435) 688-3246. They allow 10 hikers per day, and this area is becoming more popular, so I recommend you contact them seven months in advance of your Las Vegas trip, especially if you're traveling in summer.
Leaving the Wire Pass Trailhead you follow the wash downstream. After about 1/2-mile you will come to a gentle curve to the right where a broad, well-worn trail veers up and to the right. It climbs up to the top of a low ridge, turns south and levels off, heading toward a horizontally striated butte.
About 1 mile from the start, the trail ends just after crossing a wash and arriving at the bottom of a low, bare-rock ridge. Veer left and climb an easy gully up to a saddle at the top of the ridge. From the saddle, contour around the other side of the ridge and proceed south paralleling the ridgetop. The ridge to your right rises and you continue to head south up and over a low rise. From here you should recognize two prominent twin cones almost straight ahead of you. Head for the left side of these cones. There, about 2 miles from the start, you will cross the border between Utah and Arizona, marked by a rather desultory barbed wire fence. In the distance, almost due south, are the buttes where "The Wave" is located. There is a prominent black crack running vertically down from the summit toward the base of the mountain.
Head directly toward the crack, across relatively flat, bare rock and arrive about 20min later at a flat rock bench overlooking a wash with the black crack buttes on the opposite side. Cross the wash by a prominent black marking on the rock in the creek bed. Climb the rockface veering a little right toward a shallow, steep gully heading up toward the black crack. Stay in this shallow gully as the slope eases, and it will lead you directly to the bare rock entrance to "The Wave".
The area covered by "The Wave" is not large but you should take time to explore the various gullies where this unusual psychedelic phenomenon is most prominent. You can also climb above the contorted, wavy strata into the bowl at the base of the black crack that served as your navigational beacon.
Return the way you came, having made sure to bring along plenty of water! This hike is unbearably hot.
Step Three is to decide WHICH trail you want to hike. There are two trails from this parking lot, both lead to stunning scenery that will haunt you forever.
But there are significant differences.
The two trails are WIRE PASS and THE WAVE. The Wire Pass trail takes you through the narrowest "slot canyon" in the world to the longest slot canyon in the world. The canyons, which resemble caves more than canyons, are deep and very narrow, at times so narrow that each of your shoulders touch both walls! The erosion patterns inside the canyons play with the ever-changing light that filters in through the canyon opening hundreds of feet above your head to create an amazingly eerie visual feast.
The Wave trail takes you across open desert for 3 miles to a phantasmagoric scene of twisted bands of colorful sandstone too bizarre to be made by nature, but too complex to be made by man. It's a VERY, VERY strange place.
Wire Pass is shorter, as short as 3 miles roundtrip (longer depending on how much you explore), but it involves a bit of rock climbing and may not be good for families. The Wave is 6 miles round trip, but is relatively flat and easy.
Wire Pass can be hiked by anyone any day without a permit. The Wave is limited to 10 hikers per day, and a special permit is required by the Bureau of Land Management. (See THE WAVE for more details.)
Wire Pass demands that you follow the weather patterns for a few days before your hike, and should not be hiked if there is a chance of rain anywhere in this portion of southern Nevada. The slot canyons flood easily and flash flooding kills hikers every year.
Each trail is spectacularly rewarding, but you can only hike one in a day. Or stay in Kanab (or camp) and hike both!
In Kanab, head east on Hwy 89. You will drive 40 miles through the desert. Watch the mile-markers on the road! The dirt road we are looking for is located between mile markers 25 and 26. The highway will enter a shallow canyon and make a prominent curve to the left. JUST BEFORE THIS CURVE, between mile markers 25 and 26, there is a dirt road leading off the right side of the highway, STRAIGHT down off the road grade and into the canyon.
Turn RIGHT onto the dirt road, which is unmarked, and stop at the bottom of the hill.
Get out, and look at the road. Put your hand on it. Is it dry? BONE dry?
If so, you're safe to drive further. If it feels or looks damp, proceed with caution. If there are any visible puddles...TURN AROUND and go back to Kanab and enjoy a nice dinner, and drive a few miles further to Bryce Canyon.
THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE when wet, even in a 4-wheel-drive! The mud is SO slippery on the hills that not even a 4WD can navigate! But if the road is dry, even a passenger car can drive it with no problem.
Proceed on this road for 7.9 miles to a large gravel parking area to the right of the road, with pit toilets. Park here, and proceed to Step Three!
Always remember that booking on the internet via Travelocity or Expedia is invariably cheaper than calling or walking up to the counter.
What kind of car should you rent? It depends on your pocketbook. This daytrip can be made (if the weather in Utah is dry...more on this later) in anything from a Volkswagon to a Hummer. You don't NEED 4WD for this trip, because if you DID need a 4WD then the conditions are too dangerous to hike anyways.
Get on the road by 6am! I know that's early, but you'll want all the daylight you can have. Have a nice map of the southeastern US, and start by driving north on I-15 for 120 miles. This stretch should take much less than 2 hours.
16 miles across the Utah border, take the exit for UT-9 towards the town of Hurricane.
Follow the signs through town for UT-59. Once on UT-59, drive for 22 miles to the Arizona border, at which the road you are on becomes AZ-389.
Continue for 32 miles, following signs for Kanab, Utah.
You should reach Kanab about 3 hours after departing from Vegas. You've completed Step One. Step Two is shorter...a short drive to a dirt road which will take us to the trailhead.
Let's face it. Vegas is a drag! Too much neon, too many disgusting people...and it AIN'T as cheap as it USED to be!
For those of you trapped in the nightmare that Vegas is to a true outdoorsman, ignore the daytrips offered to the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu, or Red Rocks. If you're willing to rent a car, get up early, and come back home late, a few extra miles will take you to the Paria Canyon Wilderness in southern Utah, home of two of the most bizarre and unusual landscapes on the planet.
Don't believe me? Click one of the pictures below. I DARE YOU!!!
New York, New York
July 11, 2000
From journal Red Rock Canyon