||Rhythm and Blues
with Rock and Roll
Blues is a short mountain biking loop near Quail Creek in southwest Utah. It lies on the
skirts of a mesa just south of Quail Creek Reservoir. The Rock and Roll
trail lies within the Rhythm and Blues loop (see below). Riding both loops
gives you a worthy six-mile ride. The trailhead is
shared with the newer Quail Creek Trail.
southern end of the loop, looking north along the skirts of Moenkopi clay
and mudstone. Photos and ride description by Bruce
on October 12, 2011. Updated January 7, 2015.
|Rhythm and Blues
The Rhythm and Blues loop bike trail is only 2.6 miles in length, and is a one-way trail
designed to be ridden clockwise. It can be a fairly
quick ride for a skilled technical rider, or a longish and frustrating
ride for an early-intermediate. Starting at 2900 feet elevation, there's
only 100 feet of absolute elevation change, but lots of short up-and-downs
add to about 300 vertical feet of climbing.
Parking area. The trail exits the
parking zone at the far left side. The caprock at the top of the mesa is
Shinarump conglomerate, the same rock found at Gooseberry
Mesa. Here it tends to be more "chunky" with embedded rock
because it lay closer to the mountain source of pebbles.
||The trail will invite you to do a couple of laps. The
outbound lower (eastern) side of the loop is intermediate
technical. The quick turns and bucking-horse down-ups require good balance
and bike-handling skill. The upper half (the return route) is advanced technical.
It will be sufficient challenge for skilled riders.
There are a few of these
thread-the-needle passages between chunks of conglomerate.
|The ride starts from a spacious gravel parking area 1/2 mile
from US-9 on the road to Quail Creek Reservoir. From the parking area, go
to the left and start uphill on smooth singletrack. The trail to your
right -- the Quail Creek Trail running north parallel to the road -- goes 2.1 miles north along
the skirts of the mesa.
The trail contours around the small
washes on the skirts of the mesa. Here we're looking east shortly after
leaving the parking lot. A water treatment facility is on the opposite
side of the road.
||At the first trail fork about 50 yards uphill, keep to the
left for a clockwise ride. (The right fork is the return from the loop.)
You'll head south on an undulating ribbon of hard-packed white clay. The
entire trail lies in the Shnabkaib Member of the Moenkopi Formation. The Moenkopi was formed on a broad mud-plain in
the early Triassic era when the ocean was to the west along the
Utah-Nevada border. The bands of color depend on the minerals present when
the mud was laid down.
More typical trail surface on the
lower (east) half of the loop.
| The yellow rock layer above you is the
Purgatory Sandstone. The red slopes above it are the Upper Red Member, the
top of the Moenkopi Formation. At the end of the Triassic (about 200 million years ago),
the land under the ocean in western Utah rose up. West of the Hurricane
fault, the land became mountainous highlands. Rivers brought gravel and sand from the
west to form the Shinarump Conglomerate of the cliff-top Chinle Formation.
These are the rocks you see scattered around.
The trail joins and leaves the old
irrigation structure many times.
||The trail will periodically drop into the old Leeds Creek
canal as it heads south. The irrigation structure is still visible as a
depression surrounded by rough cement peeking above the desert soil.
The trail will veer to the southwest as it approaches US-9. It will begin to
climb uphill through a few turns to reach the red dirt higher on the
skirts of the mesa. At mile 1.1, keep left at the unmarked fork for Rhythm
and Blues (right takes you on Rock and Roll).
Handlebar view showing now the trail
rocks over the pleats in the clay skirts of the mesa.
|Now the trail turns northbound, following lines where softer
clay has eroded off a harder layer to form a bench. Because you're now at
the base of the steeper slopes of Moenkopi, rocks that have broken off the
Chinle caprock tend to catch here. So there are more chunks of
conglomerate to contend with.
Heading back north, the trail follows
a break in the skirts caused by a harder, more erosion resistant limestone
layer within the Moenkopi. The sea reclaimed the mudflats for a while as
this layer was laid down.
||As you head northbound on the clockwise loop, the trail gets
steadily more technical. Intermediates will find a lot of spots to walk.
(If you're forced off your bike, stay on the trail. Don't hike trailside!)
Many of the turns are quite tight. And the shoulder is soft clay that
will grab your wheel. Good practice at bike control!
Some of the drops are sharp with a
sudden upturn at the bottom. Beginners will not do well on these dips.
|Skilled riders will find it's possible to clean everything.
But you may want to reserve the all-out go-for-it run for your second lap.
There were two spots where a fast-but-wrong entry point to a rock roll-over would
put you into a wheel-trap before you could
Typical rollover with a surprise
waiting on the other side, then a dip and climb, then a steep plunge.
||A couple of times, you'll descend a bit and think you're
done, only to reverse course and climb up another ridge. Fun stuff.
The trail rejoins the outgoing trail just above the parking lot. Take
another lap, and this time, ride it all without putting a foot down.
The trail has dropped into a wash for
100 feet. Then it's time to turn back uphill again.
|When riding Rhythm and Blues, stay on the trail at all
times. The little blackish stalagmites on the dirt are cryptobiotic soil
-- a living crust of symbiotic organisms. Even laying your bike down
off-trail will cause damage that takes many years to heal.
Don't ride this trail when it's wet. After a storm, or in early spring
when the clay still holds a lot of water, the trail will not hold up under
On some of the ridges, piloting the
bike over and around the rock obstacles while maintaining uphill momentum
can be tricky.
The Rock and Roll trail lies within the Rhythm and Blues
loop. But it's not a shortcut. Rock and Roll itself is 2.2 miles long,
winding all over the rolling badlands. Like R&B, Rock and Roll is a
one-way trail, extending from the southwest corner of Rhythm and Blues up
to the northeast corner of the loop.
Looking northeast from the southern
end of Rock and Roll. The yellow band on the mid-slope is the Harrisburg
or Purgatory Sandstone. It lies within the base of the Upper Red Member of
the Moenkopi Formation. Photos January
|From parking, a loop using southbound Rhythm and Blues and
returning northeast via Rock and Roll is 3.4 miles. Find the trail fork at
mile 1.1 of R&B (as of Jan 2015, there are no signs or markers). Turn right (northbound toward the reservoir)
on Rock and Roll as
R&B continues west.
Typical terrain. Dropping into washes
and climbing out.
Rock and Roll is a delight of meandering undulating trail.
Again and again you'll drop down into a wash then climb back up to a ridge
overlooking SR 318. The trail manages to be 0.6 miles longer than this
same section of R&B northbound.
Like upper Rhythm & Blues, Rock
and Roll is an expert-level trail.
|The trail joins R&B just as the loop begins its final
descent toward the parking lot. On R&B, you probably didn't notice the
subtle trail coming in. Keep straight and right, descending to the first
trail fork. (Do NOT go southbound on either R&B or Rock and Roll. Both
trails are one-way.)
Sample meander. Nice riding.
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. 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 south (left) side of the parking area.
For more technical riding at Quail Creek, see the pages
for the Quail Overlook trail system and
the Quail Creek Trail.