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.
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
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
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.
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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
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
Looking across the ravine. We'll be on
this little ribbon after dropping through the next dip. Do not tip to the
There's plenty of challenging stuff. Here's a rock
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,
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
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
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
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.
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