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Little Purgatory Loop
Includes Historic Babylon Trail

This is a 6-mile loop with 1000 vertical feet of climbing, located just east of Leeds (about 10 miles north of St. George). The loop is best done counterclockwise, with a climb on the Historic Babylon Trail and a technical descent on Little Purgatory.

Looking northeast at outcrops of Navajo sandstone from the Historic Babylon trail. Review and photos from a ride January 28, 2011. Thanks to Shelby Meinkey, who explored this loop and found it worthy.

This ride requires advanced skills. The climb is fairly strenuous, with one mile at 500 vertical per mile with a couple of tech spots. The descent has a mile of tricky rock that requires advanced tech skills.

From the Historic Babylon trailhead, we'll be riding through the slot in the reef, crossing the creek several time (left in the photo). 

The ride starts from the bottom of Grapevine Wash. Immediately, you'll join the creek as it cuts through the rock of East Reef.

Within the first 1/3 mile, you'll do several creek crossings. Riding in January, we found about 8 inches of flowing water and some very sticky mud on the creek banks. But it was possible to ride right through. The creek might be dry later in the year.

The trail crosses and re-crosses the creek several times before it reaches the loop.

As you enter the narrow sandstone slot about 200 feet from the trailhead, there are petroglyphs on the sandstone. Look to your left, about 10 feet up.


The trail climbs through rocky scrub, contouring around the hill to the northeast. The toughest part of the climb is about mile two, as the pitch gets steeper and the riding gets a little more technical.

Mike attacks a steep tech section on the climb up Historic Babylon.

The slope flattens as you arrive at the top. There are views to the west of Leeds and Silver Reef, with the Pine Valley Mountains looming above.

Derek leads the group across the top of the mountain with Mark close behind. The Pine Valley Mountains form the background.

As you descend via the Little Purgatory trail, the mountainside is steep as the trail switchbacks down toward the Virgin River. There are sections of very technical riding. The challenge is finding the right line, quickly, as you maintain enough speed to bang over the rock. This will get easier as more bikers find this trail and the lines get ridden-in.

View south at the meanders of the Virgin River as it approaches Quail Creek Reservoir.

I'd recommend this loop for strong and experienced technical riders. The loop is pretty quick, so it makes a good late afternoon "on the way into town" ride. I'd rate it both more technical and more strenuous than Zen, which some of the riding resembles. But I'd rank it just below Zen in overall fun factor. 

Wheel-traps and fun hazards are nearly continuous for a mile of downhill. Mark makes a sudden stop.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   Step over at gate and ride toward sandstone slot
        N37 12.116 W113 20.930
        Petroglyphs high on your L on the sandstone
        Several creek crossings
0.4   Keep straight (R) on Historic Babylon  N37 12.330 W113 20.958
0.5   Keep L as alternate TH path joins
1.8   Tough climb up canyon
2.3   Fence, left uphill
3.5   Summit, descend on Little Babylon
4.1   Tech stuff
5.4   At fork, L to trailhead
5.8   Back at TH

From Little Babylon, view east at hoodoos in front of the Virgin River gorge.

Getting there:
Note: the Leeds/Silver Reef I-15 exit is split in two, with each part 1.7 miles away on opposite ends of the town of Leeds. Southbound OFF and northbound ON are located north of Leeds. Northbound OFF and southbound ON are south of Leeds.
Northbound from St. George, take the Leeds/Silver Reef exit. Drive north 1.7 miles through Leeds and continue north on the frontage road as you pass the freeway on-ramp. Southbound on I-15, take the Leeds/Silver Reef exit and turn left under the freeway, then left on the frontage road. From the northern I-15 access, drive north on the frontage road (east of the freeway) for 0.7 miles. Now turn right on a gravel road signed for Little Babylon and Sand Cove. Pass the Sand Cove parking area (on your left) at mile 3. Pass the alternate trailhead on your right at mile 3.5. After descending down a wash, park at the Little Babylon trailhead, 4 miles from the freeway access road.

The dirt road to Little Purgatory has soft sandy sections. A car with four-wheel drive capability and reasonable clearance is recommended. As with other dirt roads in the area, please don't go when it's muddy!

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide:   View
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Garmin      GPX     Map datum WGS 84
Topo map for printing (500K):  View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

Bathroom:  Sand Cove trailhead
Water:  bring your own
Camping:  Sand Cove
Bike services:  St. George

Copyright 2011