The Vortex |

Gunlock

Hiking The Vortex - Gunlock Hiking The Vortex
Gunlock

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike
MAPS: VEYO, UT

Sat

67 | 38

Sun

68 | 36

Mon

64 | 37

Tue

57 | 37

Wed

57 | 32

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Any, hot in summers. Would be difficult if there was snow on the ground.
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None, bring all you need.

Sat

67 | 38

Sun

68 | 36

Mon

64 | 37

Tue

57 | 37

Wed

57 | 32

View Full Weather Details
Mini vortex

Mini vortex

The Vortex, a deep sandstone pothole above Gunlock, is an interesting site that has been drawing people to visit for a long time. The deep pothole has names people have carved into the slickrock, some dated over a hundred years ago. Although the main Vortex is interesting, a couple of shallower potholes nearby are, to my eye, equally stunning. Being relatively close to St. George, this is a popular hike. Some love the Vortex, I enjoyed the Vortex, but though the hike in was the highlight of the day. Dramatic white and red slickrock makes up the views which get better and better as you ascend to the Vortex.

Note: The route is easy to follow, with a good use trail and/or cairns, but moderate route-finding skills are still recommended. The standard route has little exposure or difficult obstacles, suitable for most. Those with solid route finding and scrambling skills can make an excellent loop return down an improbably steep looking route.
Great colors on the approach hike.

Great colors on the approach hike.

Getting There

The trailhead is just south of the town of Gunlock. To get there from St. George, follow Old Hwy 91 about 33 miles. At mile post 17.4, just before the road crosses the Santa Clara River and enters the town of Gunlock, turn right on Lower Sand Cove road, and reset your odometer.

Stay on the main Lower Sand Cove road as it winds its way up to the mesa above and heads east. Follow it for 3 miles, to where it crosses a small stream. Just across the small stream, turn right. This last couple of hundred feet of road is very rough, but can be walked if needed. Park at the large parking area.

Diane checking out the vortex up close.

Diane checking out the vortex up close.

Route

Before leaving the trailhead, it is a good spot to get orientated. Looking south there are 2 large white domes, with a separate reddish dome to the west. The two sandstone formations are separated by a wide drainage. The drainage is where the hike goes. There are two white bumps in the far distance south. These are a little bit right of the Vortex.

From the trailhead, walk west on a rougher section of road for a minute to a well-used side trail heading down the boulder strewn slope. Follow the trail as it descends to and crosses the wash. The biggest opportunity for route finding problems is here. Make sure after crossing the wash, you head up the first drainage just a few minutes to the west. This drainage is wide, with white sandstone on the left, and the red dome on the right. Heading up the drainage, on slickrock, cairns begin appearing. Follow cairns and occasional social trails south up to the ridge. The drainage stays wide the entire way, with the trail trending a bit right toward the top.

At the ridge, there is a large area of cairns to the south, an apparent rest stop for many! Instead of going south, go right, up the slickrock. Follow the ridge a few minutes to the Vortex and impressive views all around!

Return the same way.

Advanced Return (for experienced hikers only)
To make a loop hike, head northwest from the Vortex to the two white peaks. A ramp allows for easy, yet exposed, descent to the gap between the two peaks. Continue north from the gap, descending steep slickrock.

Once down the slickrock, continue north on slickrock to a side drainage. Stay on the right side of the drainage, along the white sandstone wall. A ramp allows for easier than expected descend along this wall all the way down to the base. Once at the base turn right. It is a few minutes to the approach trail.


Maps

Route / 2.82 miles / Elevation Range 4,007 - 4,404 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

12S 257209mE 4129457mN

N37° 16' 48" W113° 44' 19"

Drainage

12S 256825mE 4128997mN

N37° 16' 33" W113° 44' 34"

Cairn Town

12S 256285mE 4128331mN

N37° 16' 11" W113° 44' 55"

The Vortex

12S 256381mE 4128502mN

N37° 16' 17" W113° 44' 51"

Ridge

12S 256356mE 4128366mN

N37° 16' 12" W113° 44' 52"

Advanced Route Down

12S 256429mE 4128697mN

N37° 16' 23" W113° 44' 49"

Ramp Down

12S 256494mE 4128886mN

N37° 16' 29" W113° 44' 47"

Comments

Want to make a comment? Login and let yourself be heard.