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
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
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
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
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,
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'.