Wave Cave Trail in Gold Canyon, AZ

Wave Cave Trail is a challenging three-mile hike at the foot of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona. The Superstition Wilderness is largely untouched by human hands, so remember to practice Leave No Trace principles at all times on the trail.




3.0 miles


869 feet


1 hour 47 minutes

Route Type

Out and back


Yes, they’re allowed on a leash

Trail Begins

Carney Springs Trailhead on Peralta Road.

Gear to Bring

  • Sun protection (glasses, hat, sunscreen)
  • Water (at least one liter per hour on the trail)
  • Hiking boots

Best Seasons

September – April.


At the trailhead, by permit.


Not allowed


Arizona State Land Department permit required – $15 individual or $20 per family, good for one year from purchase.

Wave Cave Trail Location

You’ll find the Wave Cave Trail in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix, Arizona. This unforgiving desert landscape offers little shade, so wear sunscreen and take frequent, small sips of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.

You can see your destination from the trailhead when you depart, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Wave Cave Trail starts mild but becomes a challenging, rocky scramble in the last mile before the cave.

At the end of Wave Cave Trail, you’ll find the cave for which the trail gets its name. The wave-shaped rock formation inside the cave is a popular photo opportunity among tourists. Soak up the shade and cool air inside the cave before scrambling and sliding back down the rocky terrain the way you came.

Wave Cave Trail Length

Wave Cave Trail is a modest three miles out-and-back, and the terrain is relatively easy for the first mile. The trail itself is narrow and poorly marked, and it’s easy to wander off on a side trail without realizing it. Some “wrong way” trails look more like a trail than the official route.

All the side trails eventually dead-end, so if you wander off, you’ll have to backtrack to get to the main trail. But backtracking adds time and distance to the overall route, so download your Wave Cave Trail map before you set out to help yourself stay on track.

Wave Cave Trail Hours

Always open

Wave Cave Trail meanders through a national wilderness area with minimal regulation. Visitors are generally free to come and go at any time of day or night and even camp in most areas.

However, the midday heat in Arizona puts you at severe risk of heat stroke and dehydration, so we recommend starting early. Around 7 a.m. is good, but pre-dawn is better. If you haven’t started by 9 a.m., you’re in for a sweltering day.

Wave Cave Trail Reviews

Reviewers say Wave Cave Trail is pleasantly short, brutally hot, and easy until the last quarter-mile scramble to the cave. Keep an eye out for a fork in the trail with a fence in the middle. It may look like the trail goes to one side of the fence or the other, but you actually need to go through a small gap in the fence to stay on track.

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Featured image via AZ Off Roading