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Temple Quarry Trail

The official Temple Quarry Trail runs from the old St. George airport to the western side of Black Hill. At the spot where the pioneers quarried volcanic basalt for the foundation and basement of the temple, it turns around. Except for some steps in the first 1/10th mile (with a ride-around higher on the hill that's badly eroded in 2017) the trail is flat and easy to ride.

View along the trail, heading southwest. The black boulders that give Black Hill its name are volcanic basalt. Review and first photos June 21, 2002 by Bruce, last update December 5, 2017.

The trail is 1.2 miles each way, done as a nice, easy 2.5 mile out-and-back ride. There's almost no elevation change. The trail was intended to be very easy to stroll or ride. And indeed in 2002 the trail was a smooth ribbon of dirt sidewalk.

The trail starts on the southeast side of Black Hill next to the old airport. There's paved parking at the trailhead. The official trail ends at the quarry on the west side of the hill, but there's some expert-level singletrack that extends north through the boulders if you're so inclined.

Cruising the trail, just getting started. The old airport is the flat area in the background.

The Quarry trail can be a nice "mixed group" family outing, where non-riders hike alongside beginning riders wobbling along on their bikes. If you research a bit of the quarry's history, it can be a fun learning activity for kids.

The trail is still very easy in 2017, but there's been some erosion from rainstorms that needs TLC. So there will be an occasional cluster of exposed rocks that will stop small children riding small-wheeled bikes.

Riding past a trail sign. Just past the boulders behind me, the upper and lower trails join.

Just outside the parking lot the trail splits into a lower route, which descends a bit then climbs up some plank-supported stairsteps, and an upper route without steps. In 2017 the upper path is hard to see and is badly eroded. But if you know where it is, you can avoid hiking your bike up the stairs.

Drone view of the hill as Bruce hits the western side of the hill. Lots of rocks.

Once the upper path (which also receives a spur from a neighborhood street to the north) joins the lower (stairstep) path, the trail contours the side of Black Hill, absolutely flat. The trail-cut is over 8 feet wide in most areas. So even though the side of the hill looks steep and sharply rocky, your kids have plenty of room to cruise side-by-side.

Looking southeast near the quarry entrance. In the distance newer subdivisions fill the area along the Virgin River.

From the trail there are constant views --first to the east, then south, and finally to the north. You'll enjoy views over Green Valley, then finally the cliffs of Snow Canyon to the north. The huge boulders, the cliffs above, and the valleys below keep this ride interesting despite its flatness.

The cap of Black Hill is basalt, deposited when lava from a nearby volcano flowed over a flat plain. Then over time the region surrounding the hill eroded away, leaving what is now Black Hill covered with basalt. Pieces of this rock crack away, littering the hillside.

Bruce rides into the quarry with the sandstone cliffs near Snow Canyon in the background.

At mile 1.2, you'll arrive at the Quarry. The spot is marked with a metal plaque on a rock. A spur turns left to a picnic area, and the trail descends for about 100 yards to the end of the quarry. In some years it's possible to ride a loop through the quarry.

The pioneers harvested blocks of this stone to form the foundation for the St. George temple. You can still see the drill-marks where the pioneers split rock.

Marker on a basalt boulder at the entry to the quarry.

First, a rock of the appropriate size would be located. Then a two-man team would make a row of holes using a sledge hammer and a "star drill." One man would hold the star drill and rotate it a bit between hammer hits, and the other worker would swing the hammer. Then wooden dowels would be inserted into the lines of holes and soaked with water. When the wood expanded, it would crack away the unwanted parts of the rock. 

Drill-marks show where this large chunk of basalt was split from the slab that was hauled down the mountain.

The cracking would be repeated for each side of the future foundation stone. With luck, what remained was a long rectangular block of stone. Each slab was 10 feet long, 42 inches wide, and 13 inches high, weighing 5500 pounds. The trail is the original wagon-track built to haul out the rock. 

Diane (right), shown here in this 2000 photo with (L to R) children Alex, Kristen, and Jessica hiked to the quarry, where her great-great-grandfather worked the rock.

 Temple Quarry trail in 2017

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

Techy Add-on!  At the north end of the quarry area, you'll see steps going down to a narrow singletrack trail. Go have some fun. This trail is tricky, bordering on vicious. The typical advanced rider will make it about 100 feet at a time before taking a dab or pushing through an obstacle. Many turns require hopping up onto rocks, doing a nose-wheelie, or both.

About 0.8 mile past the quarry, the "buffed" trail peters out. To continue, follow the faint trail down to the flood-catch ditch, head north, and see if you can climb the loose rock up into the notch in the mesa. If you can make it, the trail continues up to the tippy top, at 2 miles past the Quarry.

Trail view of a "buffed" section of the continuing trail beyond the quarry.

Getting there:  From the St. George Blvd Exit, drive straight west on St. George Blvd. When you hit Bluff Street, go across to climb Airport Road up Black Hill. At the first intersection, turn right, then quickly left, then right into a paved parking area. The trailhead is at the northern end of the parking area through the little arch, GPS N 37 06.180' W 113 35.770'.

Riding resources:
One-page riding guide
GPS track file:  download
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc, updated 2017