(Santa Clara River Preserve)
The north side of the Santa Clara River Preserve features a trail system under development. It's brand new, and changing quickly. The highlight is a trail that runs the length of the preserve from east to west, called Tempi'po'op, which I believe is Piute for "Rock Writing".
|Many locals call this the Anasazi Trail. It flirts with the cliff edge as you look for Native American rock carvings, then turns into singletrack for a mile of very fun semi-technical riding. This central trail connects to other trail options. So your ride can be a quick hit-the-highlights (from one end to the other and back is 6.6 miles), or you can easily run up 12 to 18 miles exploring the side trails.|
|Elevation at the western (Anasazi Valley) trailhead is 3000 feet.
The Graveyard trailhead is 2800. The ride tops out at 3350. Riding the
main route, it's a simple over-the-hump and back down each way. If I were
guiding another rider on this trail I'd start at the Graveyard trailhead, climb up and
over to the petroglyphs, then turn around and head down. That is, unless
they've completed a loop route using the river trail through the gorge --
which would be an awesome ride.
Handlebar view up the trail. Lots of rock slabs to pop across.
|Family ride: In winter 2009, a new zigzag 1.3-mile route was built to
replace the old uphill from the Anasazi Valley trailhead. This first
section of the Tempi'po'op trail is improved with packed roadbase, so it's
an easy ride for beginners and kids. The trail hits the prehistoric
farmstead, then continues up to the beginning of the rock art area. This
is a great ride for kids and beginners. Ride up to the farmstead loop and
take an education break. What you're seeing are walls of grain storage
bins built into the ground.
Alex, age 18, rides up the "Rock Writing" trail.
|From the farmstead, continue up the trail. At the top of the
improved trail (at least, as of 4/09), walk south from the end of the
trail and find the rough hiking trail that descends slightly below the
cliff edge. There are dozens of petroglyph panels here. Most of them are
within the first 100 yards. Additional rock art is scattered along the
cliff edge. Only the very persistent will find all of them.
Cruising the singletrack along the edge of the cliffs, with an occasional pause to scout for rock writing.
|To the north are red cliffs and eroded skirted mesas, with
the Pine Valley Mountains visible as we ride higher. Views to the south
include colorful eroded badlands, mesas, and the Santa Clara River gorge.
This ride is big on visuals.
View to the north, looking at the town of Ivins, from the western end of the trail.
|This trail system is still being developed. But it's already very much
worth doing. Clearly, more singletrack will be added to this system. On my
put a couple of very short connector routes that were flagged but not yet
cut. When you visit,
see if new routes are ready to ride and email me if they have names and
destinations. (GPX track files happily accepted.)
The Upper Graveyard and Fishhook singletracks, and the eastern end of the main east-to-west route, are easier technical. The mile of rockfest singletrack on the main Tempi'po'op Trail will be enjoyed by solid intermediate to advanced riders. Less-experienced riders will step over a few spots.
The main trail runs east-to-west the length of the Preserve. It alternates singletrack and doubletrack. About a mile from the west end, petroglyphs are found here and there on the weather-darkened rocks of the cliff edge. At 1.5 miles, there's a mile of fun technical singletrack, banging over rocks and picking your way among them. Then the eastern end offers connection to a network of cruising trails.
Looking east, we're about to descend some singletrack, and will be following the trail you see mid-left before again hitting the edge of the cliffs.
Fishhook is a short smooth singletrack that branches off the middle of Upper Graveyard and meanders downhill to a step-over just across the road from a parking corral.
Some of the bigger rock in the slickrock area... nothing too hairy.
|Upper Graveyard is a smooth singletrack. It forks northward off the main DT. (As as the trail system matures, it will be the continuation of singletrack curving up from the rim and crossing the main DT here - as of January 2008, this connecting ST is flagged and rideable but not truly developed.) At this time, the east end of the trail is vague as it descends to the fence, but it will offer an access for bike-ins.|
A few of the rock art panels found on the foot trail that runs among the rocks at the cliff edge.
On top of the cliff, the edge is to your left.
Below the edge of the cliff, passing pictograph panels.
Panels vary widely in size and subject.
Our biker/hiker is Alex Argyle in April 2009.
|Lower Graveyard is old jeep road. One short section has a
granular sandy base that's a bit soft, but nothing that slowed me down.
After a mile, it ends by joining the middle of the DT (jeep road)
Cholla Trail. Cholla branches off the main DT and heads northwest to end
at the border of the Preserve. There's a step-over gate and a continuing
dirt road, but also a "private property no trespassing" sign
facing you. So I'm not sure if this will become a real trailhead in the
We're heading away from the cliff edge into switchbacks to gain some easy altitude.
The river trail is doubletrack that runs alongside the Santa Clara River in the gorge. You can get to it from the far east end of the main doubletrack. Once it crosses the river, I can't tell you exactly where it goes or if it connects through to the Anasazi Trailhead. I followed trail that forks right, which goes to two large boulders plastered with petroglyphs, then continues (becoming overgrown and hard to follow) along the north side of the river before ending on private property.
View within the gorge.
|The doubletrack that descends north from the petroglyph area
(away from the cliffs) has some slickrock but not much scenery. It
meanders down to a fence at the Preserve border. There's a step-over gate
there, but (Jan 2008) no vehicle access, as a subdivision is being
bulldozed into existence just downhill. Not a high-voltage option; more of
a future access point.
This is the Upper Graveyard trail. Smooth as butter, easy riding.
|Riding notes, from Anasazi Trailhead:
0.0 Trail starts at break in fence by RV parking
N37 09.749 W113 42.364
0.8 Anasazi farmstead
N37 09.434 W113 42.333
Continue up improved trail
1.3 Arrive at rock art area
N37 09.255 W113 42.258
Explore on foot
L uphill when finished
1.35 R on ST along cliff edge
1.5 Rejoins DT
N37 09.119 W113 42.148
1.6 Keep straight
N37 09.062 W113 42.105
2.1 Highest point of ride
2.3 ST starts on R along cliffs
N37 08.558 W113 41.725
|3.2 ST becomes DT, descend
N37 08.228 W113 41.159
3.4 Fork L = main DT
N37 08.278 W113 40.896
(R=DT that joins ST along cliff)
3.5 Fork straight = main DT
N37 08.286 W113 40.791
(Cholla forks L)
3.7 Fork straight = main DT
N37 08.249 W113 40.631
(Hard L = Lower Graveyard DT)
(L = Upper Graveyard ST)
(R = new ST)
3.9 End of Preserve
N37 08.122 W113 40.512
( R next to gate for River DT)
Go play on other trails!
Graveyard Trailhead: In St. George, head north on Bluff Street and turn left on Sunset Blvd. Drive 3 miles west on Sunset through Santa Clara. As you leave Santa Clara and begin climbing the hill, look for a road on the left. It will turn to gravel. Pass the first step-over trail access (no parking here) and drive a little further. Parking is contained inside a wooden rail fence on your left (N37 08.125 W113 40.317). Directly across the road is a step-over to the Fishhook Trail. (Note: As of January 2009, the Graveyard parking area is fenced and signed. The surrounding area is undergoing rapid development with new streets springing up constantly. Some trails have been renamed. Let me know of any changes you find, and I'll update the information.)
|Anasazi Valley Trailhead: Drive all the way through Santa Clara and continue on 191 past Ivins. Just after a gentle descent, watch for the Anasazi Valley Trailhead sign. Turn left into the dirt road where the stone thingy is holding an iron gate. Drive 0.4 miles and turn into the parking area surrounded by a wooden fence (N37 09.748 W113 42.379). The trail starts at the break in the fence.|
|Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
Garmin GPX Map datum WGS 84
High-res topo for printing (500 KB): View
Lodging, camping, shops: Links to St. George area resources