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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 Preserve, 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. Updated 2018.

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 destination.

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 gorge.

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 0.8. 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.

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. 

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 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.

 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 here.


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.

In 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 ride each 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 trailhead. 

Handlebar view 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.

Graveyard trails
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 future.

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 point.

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 flat cranking.

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 Rock Writing

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

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!
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 Tempi'po'op.

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.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   GPX area multi-trail file     Map datum WGS 84
High-res topo for printing (500 KB): View
Lodging, camping, shops:  Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2008 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2018