This hike near St. George will take you to a large pocket in the sandstone. It’s a super cool destination hike! It has also been called the Camelback trail because of the two “humps” you can see nearly the entire hike. You will experience different terrains like lava rock, sand, and sandstone.
The entire hike is about 2.6 miles out and back and a total ascent of 465 ft. We used a Garmin watch to take these measurements. It took us about 40 minutes to make it to the vortex with taking a short break. The entire hike could take 1-2 hours depending on your fitness level and the paths you take.
For bonus fun, bring a little snack to eat at the vortex or even inside it!
Basic Instructions for how to find the hole
At the trail head you’ll pass the trail sign and begin a steep decent down lava rock until you reach a sandstone wash. From there, cross the wash into the greenery on the other side and follow the trail going West. Stick close to the mountain on your left, eventually the trail leads into a large canyon with several unique features.
Continue past the red sand stone and into the trees facing south. A little bit of climbing and a tight 180 turn will take you towards what is locally known as “The Camels Back” (pictured below) and into the vortex. If you reach the cairn garden, you’ve gone just a little too far, turn back around and look for the camels back!
More Detailed instructions so that you know what to expect and exactly where to go
Pass the Lower Sand Cove Trailhead sign, go down the lava rock hill and into a sandy patch. Follow the cairns (a small stack of rocks) to an incline of some rocks and then a sandy trail. You will come across some white sandstone that looks bubbly. Follow the leftmost path to avoid deep sand. You will still encounter some sandy paths, but it will not be as deep or lengthy.
The path will turn to red sandstone, sand and then some pebbles. After a short sandy patch, you’ll be back on the red rock and you’ll see some vernal pools (seasonal pools of water). Stay on the right side of those pools as you go up. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see a forming arch (see below) use your imagination and you’ll see a moose standing underneath it! This is about .6 miles into the trail.
From there, look South, you’ll see a green area with some trees, this is your next waypoint. When you get there you’ll see several small paths. It can be easy get confused, but try not to worry too much. Each of the paths lead to the same place, so enjoy choosing the coolest looking ones! Hike until you see the cairn garden and then take a u-turn to the rock in this picture:
When we did it, we accidentally went a bit too far to the right, and nearly missed the Vortex. If you aren’t seeing the Vortex after .1 miles after turning around, consider moving more left. The vortex sits nearly centered in this patch of rocks, and you’ll know it when you see it. Here’s the map of the path we took for visual help!
Fun Facts About this Hike
Vernal pools, or seasonal pools, are a unique type of habitat. They are typically small, shallow, ephemeral water bodies, and unlike a pond or a lake, they have no permanent inlet or outlet. They are filled intermittently by rain, then dry up for a period of time. They support several species of animals that require these temporary wetland habitats for survival. Shrimp live in this, and their life cycle is pretty cool!
Fairy shrimp leave hardy eggs for then the pools dry up so that they can survive the dry period. They can even endure digestion and excretion from an animal that eats it! This can be beneficial if they are able to access water to hatch. Once the water fills the pool, the crustaceans hatch and begin eating bacteria, detritus, and microzooplankton.
Their life cycles can last 2 weeks to 4 months, almost completely dependent on the conditions of the pool they hatched in. Clam shrimp usually last 2 weeks, and are less common than fairy shrimp. As Ian Malcom famously said, “Life finds a way.” When you view these pools, will you see life?
Plants to identify
Ever wanted to become a botanist? Here are some fun plants that you’ll be able to identify on this hike, and a bit about them.
These beautiful desert trees can live up to 700 years! They are like the iceberg of the desert because in order to find water, they have to have a massive underground root system that can amount to two-thirds its mass!
Sanoran Shrub Oak
These grow in thickets and resemble small trees. The leaves can change to multiple colors, including shades of red, lime-green, and blue. Fun Fact, many butterflies are attracted to these Shrub Oaks as they are ideal host plants. Additionally, they produce small acorns that can be eaten after being boiled.
The name of this plant means “Little Apple”, named after the small hard berries it produces. The Manzanita has a variety of practical uses, including medicine and even a fruity cider. This plant is most easily identified by its smooth red bark and contrasting green leaves. It also has a mildly disinfectant quality and the leaves have been used as toothbrushes!
This fibrous plant, while very famous for its sweet nectar, is also often used to make ropes, brushes, sandals, nets, sleeping mats, and other similar items. When they flower, they send a long stalk straight up (up to 20 feet!), with yellow flowers that bloom on the end of it. This helps protect the most vulnerable parts of the way of hungary land animals.
This plant is part of the asparagus family! They have a special butler called the Yucca Moth that is responsible for pollinating the plants for propagation. This plant can also be used to make rope in a pinch! They can survive up to 1,000 years in the wild!