Hiking | Lifestyle | Travel

The Vortex/Cowboy Pools

IMG 4554

Also known as the bowl, this hike is near Lower Sand Cove and Gunlock. You will see beautiful wildflowers and unique sandstone mountains.

Getting there:

From Ivins/Mesquite (my preferred route) Travel from highway 91 until you hit the Gunlock turn off. Drive straight. There is a turnoff located just south of the bridge over the Santa Clara River at the south end of the town of Gunlock. It breaks off from the east side of the Gunlock Road and makes a steep climb up a hill. Once on top, the road heads generally eastward past Lower Sand Cove Reservoir to the south. After passing the reservoir, the road turns south and then sharply east as it crosses a canal. Immediately after crossing the canal there is a sign for the Lower Sand Cove Trailhead. Turn right (south) here and proceed to the trailhead.

You can also get there from the Dammeron Valley/St George area. From St George, head north on HWY 18 towards Dammeron Valley. Turn left on Bluff St. Reset your odometer and drive 3.7 miles to the signed Lower Sand Cove parking area on your left. This is a dirt road, but mild.

Parking lot Coordinates: N37.2799 W113.73835

Distance: 2.5 miles steady climbing. Lots of sand involved the first mile or so until you hit the sandstone mountains.

Word of Warning

The Vortex is a little difficult to find. I didn’t actually find them the first time I hiked it. Luckily my husband has the best sense of direction and memory of anyone I know, so he led me there. I recommend reading a number of blogs or articles about this hike because all of us use different descriptions and some might be easier to understand one than the other. There is also no trail once you start climbing the sandstone mountains.

I also strongly recommend using google maps if your carrier has service, as it’s easier to get a realistic bird’s eye view of where you are going. The image below is Google Earth. Once you cross the wash, you’ll be able to see the exact route you need to go,

Map of The Vortex Trail with parking highlighted

You’ll run into the cowboy pools on this hike as you are scrambling up the sandstone. Keep in mind that the pools may not always have water in them. You’ll see in these photos that some are full and some are dried up.

There are so many amazing rock formations along the entire trail. You’ll never get bored!

There are actually 2 different vortex formations that you’ll come across. Both are really awesome. You can climb down into them, but it’s a steep climb!

Once you see the Vortex, don’t stop there! Explore everywhere. There’s so much to see and awesome views!!

Okay, I know that Cairnes are a VERY controversial subject. Some people consider them graffiti that destroys the landscape. Honestly, I have an unfavorable opinion on them. While I’ve never, ever stacked them myself, I think a view like this is pretty cool. In my opinion, we have far WORSE problems when people are leaving trash everywhere and carving into rocks. If you’ve ever been to Angel’s Landing, the Cairnes are horrific. Literally thousands of them for miles. So I do see a point there.


On the flip-side, my parents legitimately hunt for Bigfoot…no, I’m not joking….and they claim that stacked rocks are a sign that Bigfoot has been there. So, if you’re about that life, there’s that. That could actually be a great blog post, now that I think about it.

This is such an amazing place to explore! If you haven’t been yet, add it to your list!