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Quail Creek Trail
(West Lakeside Trail)

The Quail Creek Trail (West Lakeside Trail) is an advanced-technical singletrack trail, 2.8 miles in length. An optional fork connects to the road and state park near the north end. It's located along SR 318 near Quail Creek reservoir north of Highway 9 west of Hurricane, sharing a trailhead with Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. 

Looking north as we begin the ride from the Rhythm and Blues trailhead. You can see SR 318, and the top of the Quail Creek dam, on the right. Photos and ride description December 11, 2014 by Bruce. Updated December 2016.

The Lakeside Trail will -- some day -- go all the way around Quail Lake. There are other pieces of this trail south and east of the lake. East Lakeside was completed in 2016 and runs along the east side of the reservoir. The Quail Connector trail (South Lakeside) starts about 1/10th mile south of the Rhythm and Blues trailhead where the Scout Camp road starts. See the Lakeside Trail page for details.

If you're looking for information on the "scout trails" east of the dam, see the Quail Overlook trail page.

In the Moab area, the Moenkopi is dark red. In the St. George region, the Shnabkaib Member of the Moenkopi Formation is white or salmon-pink. The rocky bands at the top of the cliff above you are the Chinle Formation.

The trail hugs badland slopes on the east side of an escarpment called the Harrisburg Bench. As the slopes drop steeply down toward the road, the trail wanders in and out, up and down through the fingers of clay.

Most of the trail is in white clays of the Moenkopi Formation, specifically the Shnabkaib Member. In the early Triassic Period (around 230 million years ago, before the age of the dinosaurs) this was a broad tidal flat on the ocean's edge.

Climbing out of a a dip as the trail follows the undulations of the Moenkopi skirts.

The dark rough material along the trail's edge is cryptobiotic soil. Microorganisms form a dry living crust on the desert, waiting for the next rain. The colonies are fragile and grow very slowly. Do NOT step off the trail. A misplaced handprint on the slope can take many years to heal.

Typical trail alignment -- constantly up and down as it winds in and out of small canyons.

 

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

The trail starts on the north (right) side of the Rhythm and Blues parking lot, located on the west side of SR 318 just south of the Quail Creek water treatment facility. Although the absolute altitude change is only about 40 feet, you'll do 350 vertical feet of climbing during the 2.1 miles south-to-north to the state park. If you do the entire length to (almost) the northern end of the lake it will be 2.8 miles and 500 vertical feet.

View east from the trail, looking over the road to Quail Creek Lake.

As of 2014, ignore the trailhead map showing an upper trail. It was never worthy for bikes, and with a lack of hikers the upper trail has been largely erased by rainstorms.

I don't recommend this trail for early intermediates. In addition to skill and strength, you need the experienced eye and confident flow that comes with lots of riding. Intermediates will find the "frustration to riding-my-bike ratio" to be very high.

Here the trail gets a little help.

The Quail Creek trail is constantly turning, descending, climbing. For a trail that's just over two miles long, it will make you work. Quick little turns are followed by quick little drops rocketing into short climbs, usually with another turn at the top. It takes some bike-handling skill.

Not much room for error on this dip. You need to quickly get the right line, then work the handlebars just right, or you'll splatter yourself onto the rock.

There's another reason this trail is rated advanced technical. Often, after you've plunged down through a ravine, you'll need to roll a turn as you're climbing out. And there's a steep drop at the side of the trail. Bobble the wrong direction, and you may find some not-soft dirt.

Looking across the ravine. We'll be on this little ribbon after dropping through the next dip. Do not tip to the right.

There's plenty of challenging stuff. Here's a rock pile to
ride over. Do it. There's no ride-around alternate.

It's a drop of 6 vertical feet to hit this 18-inch wide target,
then an abrupt six-feet-up-and-a-turn on the other side.

In the first 1/3 mile, there will be a couple of A/B lines. These are the remnant of the old trail. Stay on the main route.

But whatever you do, do NOT take a cheater trail down the mountain to the road! There are NO trail forks on this route. After you pass the dam, you'll notice some trails between the road and the lake. Don't go there. Stay on legal trail!

Did I mention that the trail is constantly going up and down?

At mile 1.9 you'll reach a trail fork. To your right, the trail descends through switchbacks to the road. (You can connect to the state park here, but there's no other parking.) The main entry to the state park is about 100 yards north of the trail's end (the direction you were biking).

As we approach the trail fork, the ride's character changes. Here sandstone boulders from the Chinle Formation litter the hillside, and the challenges change from wash-dips to dips-twists to dodge huge rocks.

Here the trail base changes from white clay to red dirt. The trail changes from dips and twists in steeply eroded white hardpack to boulder-dodging and switchbacks.

Looking back south from the state park area. OK, dear Geology students: We're riding on Shnabkaib. The yellow band is the Purgatory Sandstone at the base of the Upper Red Member, all of which are part of the Moenkopi Formation.  The upper cliffs (above the second red line) are the Shinarump Conglomerate, which begins the Chinle Formation.

From the trail fork, the continuing route goes uphill through some climbing turns to an overlook on a ridge. This is a good spot to take a snack while you admire the views over Quail Lake.

Because I'm riding while the trail is still under construction, I've taken Little Snowflake. The fat tires won't dig ruts in freshly turned dirt. It's December 15, 2016.

After descending through switchbacks from the ridge, you'll continue northbound. The boulders keep getting bigger. You'll appreciate the challenge faced by the trailbuilders as you cross rock bridges and fly along trail supported by rock retaining walls.

The trail now begins another switchback descent to the road. You can take the pavement 1.9 miles back to the trailhead. But real mountain bikers will now do the entire trail in reverse.

View south. You can see how the "hole" between boulders and the steep side-slope is filled with rockwork.

Bottom line:
Very fun riding for experts, but can be managed by experienced intermediates with a few walkovers and oops-restarts. Great views. It's a quick ride that can be done as you arrive in town in the afternoon, or for a morning quickie on your way out.

The fat bike poses for a publicity shot, with the camera looking south toward the dam.

Getting there:
Rhythm and Blues trailhead:  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 0.5 miles north and find the broad gravel parking area on the left side of the road. The trail starts on the north (right) side of the parking area.
State Park connector:  To start at the state park area, go another 1.3 miles up SR 318. Watch for the trail on your left just before you reach the main entry to the state park (roadside parking here is tight and requires an SUV). The trail climbs uphill from the road at N37 11.308 W113 23.682.
North end:  Go two miles north of the Rhythm and Blues trailhead. Watch for the trail on your left. Find a roadside pullout for parking. The trail isn't all that obvious as you drive by -- you'll see it climbing uphill on the west side of the road at N37 11.777 W113 23.534.

Water:  State Park, none at trailhead
Picnic and Camping: Quail Creek State Park (fee area)
Bathrooms:  State Park, none at trailhead

Riding resources for this trail:
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX Quail Creek Trail 
     GPX Rhythm and Blues course file  Map datum WGS 84
Area trails:  Quail Overlook trail page   Rhythm and Blues trail page
Area topo map for printing:  View Rhythm and Blues/Quail Trail area
Lodging, camping, shops:  Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2014 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated for extended trail in 2016