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The Wave hiking permits
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More visitors could hike The Wave in Arizona, Utah

The vibrant swirling strata and iconic curving canyons of The Wave, a landmark rock formation deep in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness National Monument of Arizona and Utah, are only open to hikers with permits. Photo: Getty Images

By MORGAN SMITH Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new proposal could mean a wave of bigger crowds at one of the most exclusive hiking spots in the southwestern United States.

The federal Bureau of Land Management proposed changes Wednesday that would increase daily visitor limits from 20 people to 96 people per day at The Wave, a popular rock formation near the Utah-Arizona border.

Permits to hike The Wave have drastically increased over the past five years as the trail gained notoriety for its colorful, contoured landscape.

Agency official Mike Herder says the move is aimed at giving more people an opportunity to do the hike.

Visitors compete for permits in a monthly online lottery and daily walk-in drawings near the site.

Federal data shows more 7,300 people hiked the trail last year out of 150,000 who requested permits.