Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah + Arizona – The permanent wave in stone

We start early morning, since colours will fade during the day. The trail to the North Coyote Buttes isn’t a marked, maintained path. Rangers even warned us to follow some cairns that were partially put by hikers who got lost. The directions we received contain a map, text instructions, photos of landmarks, GPS data, and azimuths. That works pretty well. We just have to take care of ice and snow on the sandstone hills. The ten-kilometres-hike is a bit arduous. We either walk in soft sand, climb uphill or downhill. The hiking time is given with three to four hours; that is about right. But all in all we spend more than six hours here to admire the landscape and take hundreds of pictures.

North Coyote Buttes are bizarrely formed sandstone domes, covered with thin parallel stripes in white, pink, red yellow, purple, and maroon. At that time when dinosaurs painted the area red those were sand dunes. They were covered by another layer of sediment later. As Colorado Plateau started to lift the younger layer eroded and the now petrified dunes were uncovered again. Erosion attacked the dunes and minerals are responsible for the brilliant colours.

Highlight of the hike is an artistic masterpiece that nature has created on this spot. A valley formed between some domes in wild but soft shapes, sometimes wider, sometimes narrower. The stripes in stone whirl and writhe from one hilltop through the depression several metres up to the other top. This unique formation received the name The Wave.

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