Tempi'po'op (Rock Writing) Trail
(Santa Clara River Preserve Trail System, north side)
North of the
Santa Clara River, separated from the popular southern trails of the Santa Clara River
are some lesser-known trails. The
highlight is a trail that runs the length of the preserve from east to
west, called Tempi'po'op, Piute for "Rock
Writing". 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 8 miles), or you can easily run up 12
to 18 miles exploring the side trails. I'll break this trail description into two parts, because the western
side of the Preserve has a very different character than the eastern.
The trail offers multiple views into
the Santa Clara River gorge. Photo January 11, 2008. Trail system
explored by Bruce and Jackie.
Many locals still call the Tempi'po'op Trail the Anasazi Trail.
From the western (Anasazi Valley) trailhead, it's an easy climb to the cliff edge where you
can explore Native American rock carvings. This is a beginner-level ride,
but advanced riders will enjoy it just for the
The eastern side of Tempi'po'op is more hard-core. The less-known Tukupetsi
trailhead on the east side of the Preserve takes you directly to the fun
stuff. There's a mile of very fun semi-technical riding.
The pitch is more steep, and there's a bit of "bumpiness" as the trail follows the break of the cliffs above the Santa Clara River
Looking east as Bruce pedals Een'oog, an
alternate line along the cliffs on the Tempi'po'op ride.
Western ride: Anasazi to Petroglyphs
The western (Anasazi Valley) trailhead is at 3000 feet elevation. The
trail to the rock writing area is 1.3 miles, rising 300 vertical feet.
This is a reasonable pitch for most beginning riders. This first
section of the Tempi'po'op trail is improved with packed road-base, so it's
an easy ride for beginners and kids.
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.
The trail hits a spur to the prehistoric farmstead at mile
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.
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
Alex, age 18, rides up the "Rock
Writing" trail in 2009.
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.
Most riders will now head back downhill, making the ride a 2.6-mile
out-and-back. Adventuresome bikers can continue eastbound (and a bit
uphill) to reach the technical rock of the eastern Tempo'po'op trail.
Cruising the singletrack along the
edge of the cliffs, with an occasional pause to scout for rock writing.
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
Below the edge of the cliff, passing
Panels vary widely in size and
Our biker/hiker is Alex Argyle in April 2009.
Ride from Anasazi (west)
trailhead to the Rock Writing
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Eastern rides from Tukupetsi TH
Tempi'po'op with Graveyard-area trails and the gorge road
The Tukupetsi Trailhead (sometimes incorrectly called the Graveyard Wash trailhead) is at
2800 feet elevation, just on the outskirts of Santa Clara. There's a
complex of easy trails here (once you make the short climb onto the mesa)
for beginning riders. For the hardcore, the Tempi'po'op trail climbs to
3350 elevation along the Santa Clara River gorge.
2018 Bruce climbs the Rock Writing trail westbound, with Santa Clara and
Green Valley in the backtground.
Tukupetsi to Tempi'po'op
As you recall, Tempi'po'op (Rock Writing) is
the east-to-west route from the Tukupetsi to the Anasazi trailheads. It's an over-the-hump and back-down
direction. If I were
guiding another rider on this trail I'd start at the Tukupetsi (eastern) trailhead, because that puts the techy climbing early in the
ride. Climb up and
over to the petroglyphs, hit the easy eastern trail (and maybe visit the
bathroom) then turn around and do the up-and-over back to the eastern
up the trail in 2008. Lots of rock slabs to pop across.
Out and back, Rock Writing is a solid 8 mile ride. The rockfest singletrack
in the middle of the Tempi'po'op Trail will be enjoyed by solid
intermediate to advanced riders. Less-experienced riders will find the
pitch a bit steep, and will need to step over quite a
few techy spots. The one-mile rocky section is also the steepest part of
the ride, rising 500
vertical feet in less than one mile.
Looking west over the Santa Clara River in this drone
shot, as our rider approaches the rejoining of Een'oog and Tempi'po'op.
At the step-over gate of the Tukupetsi trailhead, take the
left fork. (The right is Fishhook, taking you to the less exciting
singletrack of Graveyard.) Keep westbound for 0.3 miles. At a five-way
trail intersection, Rock Writing continues straight.
A more interesting ride is to turn 90 degrees left, southbound, on
Een'oog (Old Ones). This singletrack turns parallel to Rock Writing, but
right along the cliff. It will rejoin Rock Writing in 0.3 miles. (At mile
0.1 of Een'oog, note the trail coming in from the left. The U'waiv trail
comes up from the Enepitsi trail along the river. On the way back, you'll
keep left and uphill to avoid descending to the river.)
Climbing westbound on the broad Rock Writing trail.
Just after Tempi'po'op and Een'oog rejoin -- mile 0.6 if
you stayed on Rock Writing, 0.7 if you took the meander on Old Ones --the
trail begins to climb the escarpment. At first it's a broad trail along
the cliff edge, then meandering singletrack.
A falcon investigates the action. The red hills near
Snow Canyon form a dramatic backdrop to the ride -- even when the
trailside brush is uninspiring.
At mile 1.3 the slope eases and the trail again follows the
edge of the cliffline. At mile 1.7 there's an old fence, and the trail
again becomes broad old doubletrack as it descends towards the petroglyphs.
At mile 2.4, keep straight as the Tava'atsi forks to the right
downhill. Now keep northwest to reach the petroglyph area 0.1 miles later.
The glyphs are found along the rim, and on boulders below the rim, for the
next 1/10th mile.
Navigating a bit of rock garden.
The trail will now turn away from the cliffs and descend
through a couple of turns. The connector to the farmstead is at a trail
fork at mile 3.2.
At mile 4.0 from the eastern trailhead, you'll reach the Anasazi Valley
trailhead. There's a toilet here.
Taking in the view from the top.
Trails north of Tempi'po'op
The trails north of Rock Writing are easy to ride, but relatively
uninspiring. There's a combination of singletrack and doubletrack,
including Fishbone, Upper Graveyard, Lower Graveyard, and Cholla. The Upper Graveyard and Fishhook
singletracks, and the
eastern end of the main east-to-west route, are easier technical. I don't
have a specific ride to recommend here. Just explore.
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.
Trails to the east of the
incline are mostly smooth.
Upper Graveyard is a short bit of singletrack. It has its own primitive
trailhead on the south wide of Graveyard Wash. Lower Graveyard is old jeep
road. 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
This is the Upper Graveyard trail.
Smooth as butter, easy riding.
Singletrack connecting Rock Writing to Lower Graveyard.
Tava'atsi doubletrack The Tava'atsi doubletrack descends north from the petroglyph area
(away from the cliffs). It 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. Not a high-voltage option; more of
a future access point.
Looking east at the trail from the ride's highest
Enepitsi (river doubletrack) trail
The Enepitsi trail is scenic and popular with hikers! And
the old gorge road is very easy to ride. At mile 0.4 from the eastern Rock Writing
trailhead on Een'oog, the U'waiv trail descends to Enepitsi. The
trail then goes west along the Santa Clara river in the gorge. Kids may
need to walk a few spots during the first 1/2 mile from the trailhead --
just to get to the broad flat Enepitsi trail -- but after that it's smooth
The trail briefly touches some private property, and may or may not
be fenced off at around mile 2. You might be able to pedal all the
way around to the Anasazi trailhead. If you need more exploring, there's a
fork around mile 1.5 that crosses to the south side of the river
to additional doubletrack.
View within the gorge on the Enepitsi trail.
Climbing the eastern side of
If the above video does not appear on your
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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
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!
Getting there: Tukupetsi 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 on your right (just after dipping through Graveyard Wash) 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 and
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). There's a
bathroom at this trailhead. The trail
starts at the break in the fence at the northeast corner.