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Rhythm and Blues
with Rock and Roll

Rhythm and 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 west lakeside trail.

At the 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 loop

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 long 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.

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.

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.

There are a few of these thread-the-needle passages between chunks of conglomerate.

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.

Southbound, the trail joins and leaves the old irrigation structure a couple of 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 fork for Rhythm and Blues (turning right takes you on Rock and Roll, see below).

On the lower side, the trail rocks over the pleats in the clay skirts of the mesa. The riding is easier-intermediate on this downhill side.

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 stop.

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.

On some of the ridges, piloting the bike over and around the rock obstacles while maintaining uphill momentum can be tricky.

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.

The trail has dropped into a wash for 100 feet. Then it's time to turn back uphill again.

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 bike tires.

North view near the southern end of the loop. If you can get the nearby highway out of your mine, it's actually very scenic.

 A clockwise trip around the Rhythm & Blues loop...

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

Rock and Roll

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 7, 2015.

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.

Getting there:
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.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Rhythm and Blues loop
     Rock and Roll loop    Rock and Roll only
     GPX Quail Creek Trail  
       Map datum WGS 84
Map for printing:  View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2011 Mad Scientist Software Inc