Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
492.00 ft (149.96 m)
Trail type
2.20 mi (3.54 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Lower Sand Cove Trailhead sits on the border of the Red Mountain Wilderness and takes you across a sandy wash and into the vast and protected terrain. This is not a cut trail but consists of some light route finding, which is common in the desert and what makes desert hiking so much fun. Follow the cairns south to the lookout before making your way up to the unusual geological feature known as the Vortex. The sandstone in this depression looks like it has been spun down into the ground in the shape of a spiral. The views to the north of the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness are really pretty and often have snow on them, even in the spring or autumn. The hike has many beautiful sights along the way, showing off the layered Entrada, Kayenta and Navajo sandstone. Juniper Trees and the occasional pinion pine dot the landscape and add some green to the reds, whites, yellows and oranges of the terrain. This hike gets super hot in the summer and is totally exposed, so be very careful about how much water you have and bring a hat and some long sleeves if you'll be day hiking from June through August. Dogs can join, but be very wary of the heat with them.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Intersting geology. Great views. Family friendly. Dogs allowed.


Hard to access after rain. Gets very hot during the day in summer. Exposed.

Trailhead Elevation

4,095.00 ft (1,248.16 m)

Highest point

4,393.00 ft (1,338.99 m)


Family friendly
Geologically significant
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




I tried to access the trailhead from the east end of Lower Sand Cove but it was too rough (washboards) for my little motorhome, so we turned around.
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