The Vortex

By Bob Grove

This was my first time hiking to The Bowl, aka, The Vortex. The trail is not obvious and can be difficult to find if it’s your first time. There are many “mini trails” that all seem to funnel to the destination with infrequent cairns that lead to the back access to the Vortex site. We ended up taking a different route back that took us farther east of where we started but it was easy to find the trailhead where we started.

The Vortex is slightly more than 2 miles out and back on a variety of trail surfaces from rocky terrain at the beginning, soft sand in the middle, and sandstone (slickrock) at the end. The landscape is very similar to Yant Flat for those who are familiar with that area. Large cross-bedded sandstone dunes are the predominant formation with washes cutting through sandstone and lava rock.

The Vortex is located at the top of a high sandstone ridge west of the trail. On the day we visited, the Vortex was empty of water, however, a smaller nearby water pocket was full. I would estimate the Vortex is 25 feet deep, very steep, and shaped like a funnel. We climbed down to the bottom and found that it is easier to follow the natural line of the stratified rock rather that scooting straight down. Our exit strategy was to get a head of steam using momentum to push us up the same route we used coming down.

The views from the top offer sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape, gorges, and valleys with the town of Gunlock in view. We took some time to explore the surrounding area and wanted to stay longer but were quickly running out of daylight.

The hike is moderate and suitable for most. There are exposed cliffs in the area but nothing in the immediate area surrounding the Vortex, you can stay away from these areas. I would take my grandchildren on this hike, and based on the number of tracks we spotted, many hikers take their pets.

Getting there From St. George take Old Highway 91 through Santa Clara past Gunlock State Park to Lower Sand Cove Road. There will be a sign marking the turn. From the turn it is 2.9 miles on a dirt road to the parking area and trailhead. MAP

What to bring Daypacks for water, snacks, sunscreen, and camera is sufficient. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. You will be exposed to the sun throughout this hike. Hat, ample water, and sunscreen are highly recommended.

Best time to go Fall through Spring

Trailhead: Trail head is located near the lower sand cove reservoir.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance & elevation gain: 2.3 miles out and back, 524 ft elevation gain.

Trail type: Out and back with varied terrain including lava rock, soft sand, sandstone.

Time required: 1.5 – 2 hrs

Dogs: Allowed on leash

Fees: None

Seasonality: Year-round; Fall, Winter, and Spring are best time to visit.

Bathroom: No restrooms

Water: No water filling stations