In the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, there are two permit areas called Coyote Buttes North and Coyote Buttes South.  Use is limited to twenty people per day each.  Ten permits are distributed in a lottery online months ahead of time, and ten permits are reserved for a next day lottery at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab.

Coyote Buttes North contains The Wave, an extremely popular scenic spot, with accordingly hard to get permits.  We went to the lottery three days in a row, mid-week in the winter, and there were tons of people there each day.  We lost all three times.  That poor ranger has to give the same exact spiel every day, warning tourists that it’s wilderness, there’s no trail, it’s desert, you need lots of water, people die, etc etc etc.

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An hour after the Coyote Buttes North lottery, they do the Coyote Buttes South lottery.  There was a mass exodus after the first one so we decided to stick around for the second.  There were just enough people left that we all got permits.

With a 4WD vehicle, as long as it’s not wet, you can get to the trailhead from the north on House Rock Valley Road from Route 89.  With anything less, that section of road is impassible, and you have to drive all the way around via Route 89A and come up House Rock Valley Road from the south.  2WD vehicles can park at the Lone Tree trailhead there and walk, but 4WD vehicles can continue 2.5 miles to the Paw Hole trailhead right at the border of Coyote Buttes South.  Another woman who had won permits told us in the visitor center parking lot that they were renting a 4WD vehicle and would be happy to meet us at the first trailhead and give us a ride the rest of the way.  It didn’t occur to me that they’d be going the shorter distance until we arrived at Lone Tree and didn’t see them there.  But after ten minutes or so, they did show up.  Even going a much shorter distance and having 4WD, the condition of that section of road was so terrible, even dry, that it took them longer to get there.  We’d had a few dry ruts coming from the south, but nothing to slow us down much.

It was a beautiful, hot, almost cloudless day, and Coyote Buttes South was gorgeous.  There was no trail, just lots of rock formations to climb around on, with cool new formations over each rise.  We spent hours wandering around before walking back down the road to our vehicle.

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Now just imagine that Coyote Buttes North is even better than this!

See more photos here.