Tempi'po'op Trail, Stanta Clara River Preserve, Utah

The Tempi’po’op Trail follows the ridge above the Santa Clara river.

This last Thursday, with a good friend, I set out to see the Anasazi Petroglyphs in the Santa Clara River Reserve.  I remember having gone with my parents to see Native American cliff-dwellings in Arizona and being completely fascinated and so I was excited when I learned that there was such a significant Native American heritage sight so close to St. George. I looked up Anasazi Petroglyphs online and found a website that had directions to two different trailheads and corresponding trails. I was shooting for the Anasazi Valley Trailhead and wrote down the directions, but I guess I’m not very good at following directions because I still couldn’t find it, even with my friend’s help. However, we did find the Tukupetsi Trialhead, which gave us access to Tempi’po’op Trail (fun name). If you take Tempi’po’op trail to the main site of the Anasazi Petroglyphs, it’s a 3.5 mile trek. If you can find your way to the Anasazi Valley Trailhead and take the Tava’atsi trail, it’s only a 1/2 mile hike.

To find the Tukupetsi Trailhead, make your way to Sunset Blvd. and follow it until it turns into Santa Clara Dr. Once you pass the historic Jacob Hamblin home on the right side of the road, you’ll only have a half mile drive before you reach a gravel road on your left, which will lead you to the trailhead. Also, after doing further research after our hike, I found out that if you drive just about 3 miles farther than we did, past the Hamblin home, you should reach another gravel road on the left that leads to the Anasazi Valley Trailhead. I’ll find that trailhead yet! However, the trailhead we did find suited our purpose, it’s just a longer trail to take, especially if you have to hike in and then hike out. For more information on how to get to these two trailheads I mentioned, I would check out the BLM website here.

There’s a pretty good-sized gravel parking lot across the road from Tukupetsi trailhead. At the trailhead itself is a large sign that says Santa Clara River Reserve and has a large map with hiking trails marked. My friend and I examined this map closely. We saw that the Tempi’po’op trail was the one to take but we had to find our way to it via other, smaller trails. The trails we were following were pretty well-marked, but I managed to still get us confused at one point. There were a couple of trail markers at a point where the trail branched off three different ways. One of the markers had an arrow pointing right for Tempi’po’op trail and as two branches of the trail seemed to both be leading rightward, I assumed we should take the furthest right of the two. I should have gone with my friend’s idea and taken the other branch, as it turns out that was the right one. However, we weren’t on the wrong track for very long. I figured out eventually that something was wrong because we were still too close to the highway. My friend and I started back to the point of our confusion, and with the aid of a friend of mine over the phone, and looking at the trail markers more closely, we were again on the right track.

Tempi'po'op Trail, Stanta Clara River Preserve, Utah

“Mountain Goat” petroglyph.

There Are Really Cool Rocks and Rock Formations Along the Ridge of the Tempi’po’op Trail

The Tempi’po’op trail leads you along the ridge to the right of the Santa Clara river and the canyon.  I thought it was quite a pretty area, even before seeing any petroglyphs. It also didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful day with mostly clear skies and that the climb up along the ridge wasn’t too strenuous. My friend and I were taking our time and enjoying conversation. It wasn’t long until an old gentleman came along and over-took us. He was out for his daily hike and was moving along quite quickly. However, he took the time to slow down and speak with us for awhile. He generously offered information on the petroglyphs and where to find them. He informed us that there are various petroglyphs at random spots along the ridge. Some you have to look down over the cliff’s edge to see, which he showed us on our way back down. I was grateful to have an unofficial guide to show us where the petroglyphs were along the trail. I don’t know if I could have found them otherwise, I wouldn’t know where to look.

My friend and I didn’t make it to the end of the trail (we were short on time), where there are supposed to be the biggest and most prevalent petroglyphs, but I was quite impressed by what we did see. It was very cool. Some of the petroglyphs were more obvious in what the Anasazi people were trying to portray, but others, actually probably most of them, you kind of had to guess at their meaning and make your own interpretation. Of course, that’s the way with most true art, there are various interpretations to be found and who knows what the true intent and meaning was but the artist themselves. I’m sure an expert on the Anasazi culture would have been much better and spot-on in their interpretations, but it was quite fun to make uneducated guesses nevertheless. Our new friend/guide had an interesting take on one of the petroglyphs. This one had two feet marks next to what looked like a falling man figure. Our “guide” actually referred to this one as the “falling man” and conjectured it was a man pushed by his lover and falling off the cliff. Quite interesting, and a dim view on womankind I must say, but our guide found it humorous and stated it very tongue-in-cheek.

I really liked a petroglyph that appeared to be a mountain goat and also some petroglyphs our guide referred to as “box-cats.” There was a petroglyph on a flat stone, rather away from the others, that appeared to be some kind of writing, similar in appearance to some Japanese characters I’ve seen, though I doubt there’s any similarity between the two in actual linguistics. I’m no expert on languages, but it was fun to see this foreign writing that still seemed familiar. I think I enjoyed the more simple pictures best, especially the human-like figures, because there were many different types of those. One looked like a warrior carrying a shield to me, or perhaps he was carrying a bow. Another reminded me of a skeleton and was quite detailed.

You Need To See the Petroglyphs for Yourself and Make Your Own Interpretation

There’s really no way to describe the petroglyphs and give them justice. They are really so interesting and fun to see, with or without interpretation, and I would recommend finding your way out to them if you get the chance. It’s amazing to think how many years they’ve endured and it’s worth seeing.

Tempi'po'op Trail, Stanta Clara River Preserve, Utah

One of the “box cats” and other various petroglyphs.




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