The Carved Stones of Coyote Buttes

Written by on August 22, 2015 in UT Outdoor Adventures - 1 Comment

Coyote Buttes
If you love the raw desert beauty of the Southwest, then Coyote Buttes might be the most gorgeous place on earth for you. Carved sandstone cliffs, buttes, waves and other unique formations cover the landscape in this remote region of southeastern Utah. The multi-colored rocks — in all shades of browns, oranges, yellows, whites, pinks, greens, and creams — swirl together in a fantasy desert landscape. One of the most popular attractions is “The Wave,” a small ravine between eroded sandstone domes formed of amazingly beautiful rocks containing thin, swirling strata.

Coyote Buttes make up the southern portion of Coxcomb Ridge, a 40 mile escarpment that parallels Cottonwood Canyon Road. The buttes are reached by taking House Rock Valley Road that links US 89 with ALT-US 89, south of the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona. Coyote Buttes is within both the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

The North Coyote Buttes and the South Coyote Buttes each have different attractions. North Coyote Buttes are the home of The Wave, as well as Top Rock, The Grotto (a neat alcove with great piles of sand) and the Natural Arch (great view of South Coyote Buttes from here), and plenty of other fantastic formations. The main attractions of South Coyote Buttes are the Tee-pees. Comprised of windswept swirls of tangerine colored rock (courtesy of heavy mineralization), the rounded domes and fossilized dunes of sand put on a grand show of weird and wonderful patterns.

One of the most beautiful drives in the world is alongside the Paria River following Cottonwood Canyon Road. Though upaved, this 47 mile stretch of road between US 89 to Cannonville, is passable by two-wheel drive vehicles although it takes several hours.

Because the area has become so popular, the Bureau of Land Management limits the number of people in the region to 20 per day (no more than six people in a group). Half of the permits are bookable four months in advance, while the other half are available by applying in person to the BLM office at Paria River before 9 a.m. on the day prior to the day you wish to hike. If there are more than 10 people waiting, a lottery system is used to select the lucky few. Permits costs $5 per

Getting to many of these gorgeous formations requires a hike of three or more miles one way, and some experience with hiking, particularly since the trails are unmarked. A GPS unit is almost essential when hiking the buttes. In addition, the area is comprised of what folks in the southwest refer to as slickrock, for good reason! Even dry, slickrock is slippery; wet it is like trying to walk on ice! Take at least a gallon of water person in the summer months as temperatures can soar into the 90s and 100s.

A Special Note: In checking the facts on this story, the author ran across one of the most beautiful websites she has ever seen. If you’d like to see truly stunning photos of Coyote Buttes and The Wave, visit Thanks for sharing with us!

Coyote Buttes Special Permit Offices
Arizona Strip Field Office
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, Utah
Phone: 435.688.3200.

Kanab Office
318 N 100 E
Phone: 435.644.4600

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