Visiting The Incredible South Coyote Buttes: What You Should Know

If you are planning a trip to this spectacular part of the country we have some great tips for visiting the incredible South Coyote Buttes.

Visiting The Incredible South Coyote Buttes

Often hidden in the metaphorical shadow of its more famous neighbor, the North Coyote Buttes with its celebrated Wave, the South Coyote Buttes are just as spectacular and worthy of your time and admiration.

We take a look at all aspects of these amazing geological formations and help you plan your next visit.

Where Are The South Coyote Buttes?

You may have heard of the South Coyote Buttes or Coyote Buttes South as they are sometimes referred to.

Or perhaps you’ve seen pictures of them in magazines or online and wondered where they are.

The South Coyote Buttes are located in a rugged and remote part of northern Arizona. It is located just south of the border with Utah and are 40 miles west of Kanab.

They form a small but very popular part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness which covers more than 280,000 acres.

South Coyote Buttes stand at 1500 feet above sea level and depending on which section you visit are between 4 and 14 miles long.

There are no designated hiking trails, signposts or fences. Thus, you need to take some form of navigation with you to prevent you from getting lost. Also, there is no cell service either, so you shouldn’t rely on your phone for navigation.

What Makes The South Coyote Buttes So Special?

The Coyote Buttes, both North and South are visually striking geological sandstone formations. It is these formations that attract visitors to the Buttes and make them worth a long hike at high elevation.


The Coyote Buttes are an area of exposed sandstone or more precisely cross-bedded Jurassic Navajo sandstone.

The various colors of the sandstone are due to the presence of different iron oxide pigments in the layers of the rock.

One of the most famous formations within the Coyote Buttes is The Wave which is a dramatic, swirling erosional rock formation.

As evidence of dinosaur activity in the area, there is a dinosaur trackway or trample surface. It indicates a variety of dinosaurs were present in the past.

The trackway is a site of more than three quarters of an acre which has densely packed dinosaur footprints.

There are over 1,000 different footprints in the trample area which were made approximately 190 million years ago.

Three of the species have been identified with one, a Sauropodomorph, as yet still not identified.

Are The South Coyote Buttes Different To The North Coyote Buttes?

The Coyote Buttes are all formed from sandstone, but the particular formations do differ slightly. Some formations are more dramatic than others. On the other hand, the colors of the sandstone varies according to the iron ore pigmentation present in the rock.

Both areas are subject to hiking permits, although many people visit the North Coyote Buttes specifically to see The Wave. For this reason, permits for the North Coyote Buttes are more difficult to obtain and there are fewer of them.

There is no single ‘famous’ formation at the South Coyote Buttes. They are just as spectacular and have a very similar landscape.

It is worth noting that the South Coyote Buttes are more remote than their more popular neighbor. Access to the area does require proper planning and a four-wheel drive vehicle.

The Wave

The Wave is perhaps the most famous formation in the area and forms part of the North Coyote Buttes. It is a wonder of nature and time with its layers of wind blown sand or more scientifically, lithified eolian laminae.

During the Jurassic period the wind patterns changed causing different sand dunes to blow across the southwest desert. These then cemented into the groves in the sandstone.

Before, water erosion caused the formation of the two main chutes. Now, it is wind that is the primary erosion agent. This process took millions of years and should be borne in mind if you are ever tempted to climb on this fragile rock formation.

How To Visit South Coyote Buttes

Many people travel to visit The Wave but as there are limited hiking permits for it, you may want to plan to visit the South Coyote Buttes instead.

You will still need a permit to hike to the South Buttes, but these are more easily obtained.

As a note of warning, if you go with the intention of visiting The Wave but don’t get a permit it’s not advisable to just decide on the spur of the moment to visit the South Coyote Buttes instead. This is because you will need to plan ahead for this.

The area is covered in deep sand which really requires a four-wheel drive vehicle, and you’ll need experience driving in those conditions. It is also a very remote area and there is no cell coverage.

A good navigation tool and knowledge of how to use it are very important to prevent you from getting lost. Remember there are no trails, fences or signposts to keep you on the right track.

For your own safety this is not the kind of trip to embark on last minute

Daily Permits

You can enter the Daily Lottery for permits to visit the South Coyote Buttes. This is accessible on a mobile device via the app once you are within the geofence area.

There are multiple steps and deadlines in the Daily Lottery. These include submitting your application, accepting the lottery as well as collecting your permit.

If you miss any of these steps or deadlines you will void your permit.

The daily permits are distributed two days ahead of the permit date but as we’ve mentioned you have to be within the geofence area when you apply.

You also need to apply in a specific time window, between the hours of 6AM and 6PM two days before the permit date

Advanced Permits

You can also apply for a hiking permit in advance through the South Coyote Buttes advance permit calendar.

These open four months before the permit month so if you want to visit in April the application process opens in January.

If you wish to visit less than four months in advance you can check the calendar for available slots or enter into the Daily Lottery two days before you want to go.

For this last option you need to be within the geofence boundary of the area.


There is a $9 nonrefundable application fee for each lottery application. If you are successful in obtaining a permit through the lottery there is an additional $5 recreation fee per person or dog.

The fee is paid online when completing the process after successfully winning a lottery permit.

Quotas For Permits

There are quotas for the number of permits issued to people visiting the South Coyote Buttes. A daily maximum of 20 people are allowed to visit this area.

Ten people are awarded permits through the Daily Lottery. The remaining ten permits are issued through the South Coyote Buttes advance permit calendar.

Every person must have a permit. This includes babies and toddlers who are not walking. Although dogs are not counted against the quota they are still required to be on the permit and incur a fee.

Groups of a maximum of 6 people can apply for a permit. It’s possible to hire a guide for groups, but the guide does not count against the quota, and is limited to one guide per group.

Access Points To South Coyote Buttes

To get to South Coyote Buttes there are three access points, Lone Tree, Paw Hole and Cottonwood Cove.

All three of these entrances are accessible from House Rock Valley Road which is around 40 miles west of the city of Kanab, off Highway 89.

The drive is approximately an hour and a half from Kanab to the first parking point at South Coyote Buttes, Lone Tree Access Point.

It is important to know that House Rock Valley Road is unpaved and quite rocky. It’s preferable to be driving a four-wheel drive vehicle. It is recommended for comfort and to ensure you can navigate the road with adequate clearance.

During wet weather this road can become impassable even in a 4×4, so you should not attempt to drive on it if there has been heavy rain or rain is forecast.

When you reach Lone Tree if you have a two-wheel drive or low clearance vehicle you’ll have to walk the 2 ½ miles to the trailhead.

Even 4×4 may struggle in the deep sand if the driver is inexperienced in driving on this kind of surface.

When Is The Best Time To Visit South Coyote Buttes?

Visiting The Incredible South Coyote Buttes

The best time to visit South Coyote Buttes is either the spring or the fall. In the summer the temperature can exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit which is not conducive to hiking in such a remote spot. In the winter the rain and snow make access very difficult if not impossible.

Whatever time of year you decide to visit South Coyote Buttes you should prepare yourself and your vehicle for most eventualities.

Check the weather before you head out and carry at least a gallon of water per person per day.

Precautions To Take When Visiting South Coyote Buttes

Make sure someone knows where you are going particularly if you are alone or have children with you. Set a time for your planned return and let that person know.

Ensure that you have a compass and map with you or a navigational aid as there is no cell service. You will need to understand how to read a map and use a compass so make sure you do before you set out.

Wear suitable clothing such as lightweight long sleeved top and long pants. You should also wear a sun hat, and sunglasses.

In case you run into problems, make sure you pack enough food and water for an overnight stay.

Camping In The South Coyote Buttes

Camping is not allowed in the permit area of South Coyote Buttes, but there are some campsites around the area. Two of the closest campgrounds are Stateline Campground and White House Campground.

Stateline Campground is about 6 miles north of the BLM 1079 road and true to its name is right on the border between Utah and Arizona. There is no fee to camp here.

There are seven sites which are available on a first come, first served basis. Each one has a fire ring, shade structure, picnic table and pit toilet.

White House Campground is 2 miles down White House Road which itself is off of Highway 89. This is about an hour from BLM 1079 and is more popular. These sites are also on a first come, first served basis, but there is a fee of $12 per night.

What To Take When Hiking The South Coyote Buttes

When coming to the South Coyote Buttes there are a few things you should consider essentials.

The first is plenty of water per person, at least a gallon each when hiking but keep extra in your vehicle.

Then you will need a navigational aid, something like a Garmin InReach Mini or similar as there is no cell service in such a remote location.

You can download a map from various apps before you head out, but you’ll need to make sure you have fully charged your phone.

It’s better not to rely on technology and learn how to use a map and compass, neither of which need cell service nor power to work.

You will also need enough food, a good pair of hiking boots, sun hat, loose clothing and sunglasses.

Remember to pack out what you have packed in, in other words don’t leave anything behind in the form of rubbish or waste.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have enjoyed this guide to visiting the incredible South Coyote Buttes and that you thoroughly enjoy your trip.

Eddie Meyers
author avatar
Eddie Meyers
My name is Eddie, and I am an RV enthusiast! I have enjoyed traveling all my life, and want to give my family the same opportunities to see as much of the world as possible. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered how great RVs can be for vacations with a young family. Here at RV Lifestyle Experts, I want to share my experiences, the tips I’ve picked up along the way. I hope that our guides can encourage you to try the RV lifestyle. I promise you that you won’t regret it!

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