SALT LAKE CITY — Demand continues to rise for the 20 daily permits to hike a geological gem on the Arizona-Utah border called The Wave, which features mesmerizing swirls of searing reds, oranges and yellow in bowl-shaped rock formations.

More than 160,000 people applied last year for the 7,300 yearly permits to take the 3-mile (5-kilometer) hike, which crosses the state border in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area, The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week.

The number of applicants increased by 20 percent last year and is up from 87,000 in 2013.

The Bureau of Land Management issues the permits — half through a monthly online lottery and half through daily drawings at its office in Kanab. In the online lottery held last week for May hikes, about 2,800 people entered for the 10 permits on May 5 alone.

The bureau started requiring permits in the late 1980s in order to comply with the Wilderness Act, which limits visitation to protected areas.

Recently, the number of applicants seeking permits has skyrocketed, boosted by the breathtaking images of the formations printed internationally in travel publications.

Steve Sykes, a physician from Dothan, Alabama, said he started applying online for a permit in 2012. Years later, he has still not been able to obtain one.

Sykes applied online in January for a permit on May 1-3, going up against more than 1,800 people. Applicants can request up to three days each month.

Sykes was again unsuccessful.

“At age 62, I figure I can try another 10 years,” Sykes said. “Hopefully (I’ll) get in during my lifetime.”

Fewer people show up for the daily permit drawings at the Kanab visitor center, but the event still gathers crowds. The center’s parking lot sometimes overflows and applicants spill into hallways and outside.

Artist Cory Cravatta has applied in the online lotteries for six months, and he has entered the walk-in drawings 24 times. The Genoa, Illinois, resident said 17 people showed up on a day in July for the drawing, but it swelled to more than 100 last month.

Cravatta said he wanted to do a series of landscape paintings from photographs he planned to shoot of The Wave.

With 36 people attempting for the 10 permits Tuesday, Cravatta’s name was called.

“Other people actually clapped when my number got drawn,” Cravatta said.

The next day Cravatta hiked and photographed the formations.

“It was hard to get, but I’m glad it was hard,” he said.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

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