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Quail Overlook Trail System
"The Scout Trails"

In December 2014, trail crews finished revising old hiking trails on the east escarpment of the Virgin River Anticline southeast of Quail Creek Reservoir. The result is a system of cliffside loops with fabulous views and great technical riding. It was an immediate hit among hard-core mountain bikers. This system is commonly called the Scout Trails.

The Lakeside Trail functions as part of this system for now, but is discussed on a separate page. For other riding in the Quail Creek area, see the Quail Creek Trail and Rhythm and Blues pages.

View northwest from the top of the second tooth of the reef. Trail mapping and review on January 7 and 8, 2015 by Bruce.

Riding here requires at least upper-intermediate skills. The full tour that includes the northernmost section (see below) is recommended for experts only. You'll be constantly rolling over and banging through rocks. Bike handling skill, upper body strength, and powerful legs make the ride more fun.

These trails hold up well during rainy weather. So the Quail Overlook system can be your go-to ride when other trails are muddy.

Parking area. To go clockwise on the first loop, take the trail to the left. Note the "Overlook Trail" sign. Don't be mislead -- the doubletrack near the reservoir is the Overlook Trail. The trail in this photo is the ridge section of the Cub Scout loop. Until names are sorted out, expect to be confused when talking with other riders.

As of January 2015, the trail forks are unmarked. The riding is organized into four "loops," with each loop climbing one crest or "tooth" of the escarpment. I'll describe them both by their names, and by location 1 through 4 -- in the order you'd hit them starting at parking. The trails are named on a Boy Scout theme, as the original hiking trails (which were modified to create the bike routes) were built as a scout project.

Looking east over the Virgin River. The slope is an "anticline" -- an upward bulge of rock layers. The center of this bulge eroded away, forming the valley of Quail Creek between the Harrisburg Bench (western side of the bulge) and the reef on which these trails are found (the eastern side of the bulge).

There are a lot of different ways you can combine the trails, so navigation can be a little hard to figure out. Even if you think you know where you're going, the trail forks in the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout trails (loops 2 and 3) can be confusing. After five times through one trail fork over two days' riding, I still went the wrong way. This is one ride where you'll be glad you printed a map to take with you. You're welcome.

For simplicity, you can simply keep to the left and visit each tooth from south to north for a fully-clockwise trip. But some spots ride better in a specific direction.

The edge of the Shinarump Conglomerate forms the cliff edge at the top of the reef. We're looking northwest over the lake toward the Red Cliffs and Pine Valley Mountains.

 

The hardest loop by far is the 4th -- furthest north -- called the Adventure Scout. It's brutal either direction. Counterclockwise gives a long tough techy climb then a quick plunge down to Loop 3 (Varsity Scout). I liked clockwise because it put that long stretch of bumpy trail on a sustained downhill. But it means you'll have to push the bike up a couple of ledges to get there. (See the topo map to get an idea of the pitch.) Or do it both ways and decide for yourself.

After completing the first "tooth", we're climbing the second. We're looking south at the trail we descended to get off the first hill. The switchbacks are in red clay of the Upper Red Member of the Moenkopi Formation. These clays were deposited in a flood plain during the Triassic Period around 200 million years ago.

The second-hardest loop is the first, the Cub Scout loop. (And for a quick 3-mile ride, you can do Cub Scout alone.) For clarity, my map separates this loop into a Ridge Section, a Wash Section, and a Lower Anticline Section. You can ride it either direction -- but counterclockwise means you'll have a short push-a-bike in the Wash. Note 2017: One set of switchbacks above where the lower Cub Scout trail drops into the wash, a new singletrack forks left uphill just as you approach the edge of the wash. It joins the washbottom trail half-way uphill, bypassing the forced hike-a-bike when riding counterclockwise. See the updated topo map.

Loop 2 (Boy Scout) rides best clockwise, and Loop 3 (Varsity Scout) rides best counterclockwise starting uphill from the far end. Look at the map to see how you can loopy-loop these two from the Anticline Access trail.

Banging over the chunks of conglomerate as we traverse the anticline heading northeast.

(Note: The northern 0.3 miles of the Lower Anticline trail -- beyond the Wash -- is super-rough, steepish, and overgrown. It can be ridden downhill north-to-south but it's hard to keep enough speed to bang over the rocks while still being able to see where the trail goes. My advice is to skip this section until it's re-worked. But if you want to hit it, look for two little baby-blue stakes just above the turn on the Harrisburg Gap doubletrack, on the south downhill side of the DT.)

Piloting the cliff edge on the second tooth of the reef.

So after riding every trail a couple of times in both directions, I've made the "double figure 8" ride plan below for upper-intermediate riders. (It skips the tough fourth loop, but you can easily add it when you reach the northeast end.) This ride goes clockwise on the first loop, runs to the third loop and does it counterclockwise, then rides the second loop clockwise.

Keeping up your speed helps the bike navigate the rocks. A 29er is nice here.

The "Standard Tour" Double Figure 8 of  5.1 miles

Start your ride on the left trail heading uphill. This is the Cub Scout Loop, Ridge Section. (The trail to the right takes you counterclockwise on Cub Scout, which is fine as long as you're ready to hike-a-bike a little ways up the Wash Trail segment.)

This first section is your test: Did you ride it clean? If so, you're golden for the whole ride. Dab a couple of times? You'll still have fun, go ahead. Walk most of the first climb? Go find yourself another place to ride. This not a ride for beginners, and early-intermediates will struggle -- and possibly get hurt.

Another view over the lake. This is from the fourth "loop" -- the most technical.

After the crest of the first tooth, a little meander takes you down to the edge of the Shinarump Conglomerate, where a series of switchbacks drops you down to the valley between the first and second teeth of the reef. You're riding on the Upper Red Member of the Moenkopi Formation.

Cross over the dip. Fork to the right after one turn (the left fork is the Lakeside trail). Climb back onto conglomerate. Ride 0.3 miles, then keep to the right at two trail forks, which are the entry and exit of the Boy Scout Loop. At the third fork, go left uphill on switchbacks. (Note: at this 3rd fork, keeping level and right takes you to the doubletrack and a visit to the overlook of the Harrisburg Gap dam.) You're climbing the far side of Loop 3, the Varsity Scout. Climb to a little dip between teeth 3 and 4 of the reef.

Rocky trail descending (or climbing) on the northern end of tooth number 4.

When the trail seems to join doubletrack, go uphill 20 feet and turn left to stay on Varsity Scout for the shorter figure-eight ride. (A right turn here takes you steeply up to the top of the 4th tooth on Adventure Scout. Brutal climb, but a fun techy downhill to the overlook. See the second ride description below if you're interested.)

You're now heading back southwest. Visit the top of tooth 3, then keep straight and left at a trail fork, descending back to the Access trail. Fork right. At the fork about 100 yards later, turn right on Boy Scout to climb back uphill. Descending from the top of tooth 2, keep right at the trail fork (repeating a short trail segment). Now turn right on the Anticline Access trail, and keep left at the fork you used earlier to climb Boy Scout. Proceed back south to the deep dip near the dam.

View over the Harrisburg Gap dam at the far north end. 

This time, don't cross over the wash. Instead, turn 90 degrees left and drop 0.1 mile down the wash -- it gets steep -- then fork right as a trail crosses. This is the Lower Anticline section of the Cub Scout loop.

NOTE 2017: 200 feet down the wash on your right, singletrack leaves the washbottom. It will take you to a switchback on the edge of the wash. Turn right to continue. This route cuts off 1/10th mile, but it avoids the worst rocky plunge of the washbottom.

We're now ready to finish the clockwise Cub Scout loop. Follow the Lower Anticline trail 1-1/3 miles back to the parking lot.

Southbound on the Lower Anticline trail. More teeth of the Virgin River Anticline continue on to the south.

The "official" Quail Creek Overlook Trail.
The old Quail Creek Overlook trail is a doubletrack trail that follows the edge of the lake. It reaches the Overlook (a view at the top of cliffs above the water) in 1.0 mile, then continues to the second (Harrisburg Gap) dam at mile 1.5.  For cyclists, it's been essentially replaced by the singletrack East Lakeside Trail, which goes to the same place. Consider this doubletrack a bail-out route to get back to your car after breakdowns, injuries, or sudden rainstorms.

The trail starts about 0.1 mile downhill from the ridgeline parking, 200 feet uphill from the East Lakeside Trail parking, on the north side of the road. Look for a bunch of huge out-of-place boulders (an ATV barrier). 

Northbound toward the south dam.

After the first dam, gravel has been added because the route is used by inspection vehicles. (At this first dam, you can leave the DT and veer to the right toward the notch between the hills. You'll find the singletrack here. The Lakeside trail will also cross as the DT climbs north away from the dam area.) The hill features rounded river-rocks, which can make it a traction challenge depending on conditions.

At the top of the hill at mile 0.9, a doubletrack forks uphill to the hollow between tooth 3 and tooth 4, then goes downhill to the Harrisburg Gap dam overlook. I've titled this dirt road the Harrisburg Gap DT on my map. Then at mile 1.0, fork left and ride 50 feet to the Overlook.

The gravel road turns eastward toward the second dam. This area is old streambed deposits with rounded rocks in a matrix of red clay. Can you identify the Shnabkaib clay layers across the lake, with the Upper Red Member of the Moenkopi above it?

Double Figure-8 Tour, 5.1 miles, advanced:
(Loop 1 CW, Loop 3 CCW, Loop 2 CW)
0.0   L uphill from parking, Cub Scout Loop
        N37 10.095 W113 23.626
        Climbing ridge tooth #1
1.1   Drop into switchbacks
1.6   Cross wash to Anticline Access trail
        N37 10.393 W113 23.333
1.65 R fork (L = Lakeview trail)
1.9   Keep R on Anticline Access
        (L = Boy Scout start)
        N37 10.504 W113 23.195
1.95 Keep R, stay on Anticline Access
        (L = Boy Scout and Varsity return)
        N37 10.511 W113 23.202
2.1   L uphill on Varsity Scout
        (Straight takes you to Gap view
        or to CCW Loop 4 Adventure Scout)
        N37 10.589 W113 23.159
        Begin CCW Loop 3
2.2   L on DT to hilltop, L on ST
        Staying on Varsity Scout
        (R = push-a-bike Loop 4)
        N37 10.621 W113 23.176

2.6   L downhill
        (Joining Boy Scout down)
        N37 10.490 W113 23.260
2.7   R on Anticline Access
        N37 10.511 W113 23.202
2.75 R uphill on Boy Scout
        N37 10.504 W113 23.195
        Begin CW Loop 2
3.3   R downhill, joining Varsity return
        (repeating 1/10 mile section)
        N37 10.489 W113 23.260
3.4   R on Anticline Access
        N37 10.511 W113 23.202
        Homeward bound
3.45 Keep L N37 10.504 W113 23.195
        (R = back up Boy Scout)
3.65 L downhill (R = Lakeview)
3.7   L down Wash Section, Cub Scout
        N37 10.393 W113 23.333
        Option: keep R on ST to bypass worst part of wash
3.8   R on Lower Anticline section of Cub Scout
        N37 10.330 W113 23.286
5.1   Back at parking
Expert Full Tour, 6.2 miles:
0.0   L uphill from parking, Cub Scout Loop
        N37 10.095 W113 23.626
        Climb to top of first tooth
1.1   Drop into switchbacks
1.6   Cross wash to Anticline Access trail
        N37 10.393 W113 23.333
1.65 R fork (L = Lakeview trail)
1.9   Keep R on Anticline Access
        N37 10.504 W113 23.195
1.95 Keep R on Anticline Access
        N37 10.511 W113 23.202
2.1   L uphill on Varsity Scout
        N37 10.589 W113 23.159
2.2   L on DT to hilltop, R on ST
        Now on Adventure Scout
        (Going northeast, stiff climb)
        N37 10.621 W113 23.176
2.4   Top of 4th tooth, begin descent
3.1   Gap viewpoint over dam
        N37 10.707 W113 22.982
        South on Harrisburg Gap DT
3.3   Veer R onto ST N37 10.604 W113 23.107
3.4   Cross DT N37 10.594 W113 23.152
        R uphill on Varsity Scout (repeat segment)
        N37 10.589 W113 23.159
3.5   Again at top of hill at DT
        This time, L on ST Varsity Scout
        N37 10.621 W113 23.176
3.9   R uphill to Boy Scout (tooth 2)
        N37 10.489 W113 23.260

4.5   R on Anticline Access
        N37 10.503 W113 23.193
4.75 L downhill (R = Lakeview)
4.8   L down Wash section of Cub Scout loop
        N37 10.393 W113 23.333
4.9   R on Lower Anticline section, Cub Scout
        N37 10.330 W113 23.286
6.2   Back at parking
Getting there:
On I-15 about 10 miles north of St. George, take the Hurricane (US-9) exit eastbound. Drive 2.6 miles. After descending part-way down the hill, turn left toward Quail Creek at the light (onto State Road 318). Drive another 0.4 miles north. When you see the chain-link fence of the water treatment facility, turn right onto the road heading east along the fence. (You're following the signs for the Scout Camp.) As you reach the fence corner, turn left (north) to continue along the fence. And at the next fence corner near the dam, turn right (east). Now stay straight as you dip through the old scar from the 1989 dam failure. Climb up to the top of the little hill. Turn left into the small parking area.

The switchbacks at the north end of Cub Scout can be damaged if ridden muddy. For current conditions, contact Over the Edge Sports, 76 E. 100 S. in Hurricane, 435-635-5455. If you "like" them on Facebook, you can follow their conditions reports for the area trails in your news feed.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page on-trail riding guide (Expert Tour)
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):  Map datum WGS 84
     Recommended double figure-8, 5.1 miles
     4.9-mile figure-8 track    Full tour (6.2-mile expert) track
     Multi-track file of individual Quail Overlook area trails
     GPX Rhythm and Blues    GPX Quail Creek Trail 
Map for printing:  View area topo map
Quail Creek Trail page    Rhythm and Blues trail page
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

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