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Looking For Something To Do: Tempi’ Po’ Op Petroglyph Trail

It’s October.

You’re in Southern Utah for the Tour de St. George.

But that’s over now (good job breaking a PR and raising money to help the homeless in our area—kudos to you!).

You’ve brought your family with you. And you’re looking for something to do.

When you were here 20 years ago you heard about some cool petroglyphs out towards the west side of town, past Santa Clara, but it was some mystical place that you had to know about, or know someone who knows about someone who knows about it (what?!).

petros 1

Thankfully that’s not the case anymore.

The Anasazi Petroglyph Trail — also known as Land Hill Trail, also know in Paiute as Tempi’po’op Trail — is a well-marked, easy trail, where you can take your little’s and your granny, and see some really cool drawings carved by the early people in this area. (You can also mountain bike this trail, following the edge of the ridge up and down the other side, hitting some mildly technical work on the other side of the hill).


The trail winds up some easy switchbacks, looking out towards Snow Canyon and the Red Mountain in Ivins. It is beautiful country! Whichever way you look is a fantastic view, varying in beauty throughout the year and time of day.

As you get to the end of one of the switchbacks, there’s a trail that leads off to the right to take you to what is considered a homestead site, a fenced off area with some cool information about the early peoples, generally considered ancestors of the modern-day Paiutes and ancestral Puebloans by archeologists.

homestead 1

Standing at the homestead, looking in all directions, you can really see how the early peoples of the area would have loved the place. I can almost imagine looking into Ivins (and Kayenta does a great job of blending in, anyways) without any homes, cars, roads, and the peace that lack of technology would bring.

Heading back along the edge of the ridge, you can either take the old ATV road up, a rocky, not stroller-or-wheelchair-friendly path, or go back to the switchbacks for a little bit further of a walk, but much easier.

I found myself curious as to how the early people would’ve carried water all the way up from the river, which would have taken a significant amount of time each day. Where did they actually live while in the area? The homestead you saw earlier is considered more of grain storage area, so where did they hang out and sleep? Down by the river would make getting water convenient, but obviously mosquitoes and other bugs might have been a problem. I don’t know, but it’s certainly interesting to consider as you stroll past the lava rocks, creosote, and sage along the trail.


When you reach the top of the switchbacks, there’s another large square sign that talks about the petroglyphs, some ideas people have on specific meanings of the drawings, and to BE RESPECTFUL of them and the area (seems to go without saying, but obviously not).

Just past the sign is a rocky edge where you can go down to small trail that leads to many of the petroglyphs. Apparently, there are more than 50 petroglyph sites along the rocky edge and down along the river! I think I’ve only seen about 20, so I’m stoked to go back and check them out.

The glyphs are­—stunning! You can see big horn sheep they must’ve seen in the canyon. You can wonder at what some of the other symbols might mean. You remember what you read, and wonder if that one glyph really was a calendar . . . and if so, what where they marking? The seasons? Time? How many pelts they had? Or where they just goofing off and killing time until the next water run?


As you stroll along the small trail below the edge, what really looks like a cow trail, you find yourself almost transported back to that earlier time again. You’ve come early in the morning, because even though it’s October, the sun can still be brutal once it fully comes up. You hear birds calling from the river below, and enjoy the fresh greenery water brings to the desert. You stumble across petroglyph after petroglyph, and wonder what story they are trying to tell, if any.

petros 2

As you think you’ve probably passed them all (but there are at least 50 sites, so you couldn’t have, right?!), you see a small, protected area, where someone has built a wall under a cliff edge, overlooking the valley. You also see the black plastic lining a hole that the archeologists used at the homestead site. You sit on a rock for a minute, wondering at this life those early people lived. It seems good, though possibly hard, here, in this place.cave

And yet they had enough to build storage containers, lined with rock, to save foods for later! And people have even found an abalone-shell necklace, probably traded with Native Americans from the coast—I like to think maybe with the Chumash tribe that lived near Santa Barbara.

So what was it like, then? The peace, the simplicity of living by the seasons, more tuned in to the sunlight and moonlight, and slow changing of time. I don’t know. It seems like they had a beautiful life, a peaceful life, and as I write this at home, on my computer, with a deadline, I wonder if they may have had things better in some ways, ways that we really only imagine when we are soaking in nature in a place like this, or camping, or backpacking, reconnecting with that deeper, primal self.

But then the kids run up to you, grabbing your hands, and wanting to show you another petroglyph they found, ending your philosophical reverie. You shake your head, thankful that places like this exist, are protected, and are easy to access, and even include pit toilets at the trailhead!

You head along the trail to look, and then climb up out of the edge, back to the main trail, and back to “regular” life, left with the mystery of peoples who also found this place to be magical thousands of years ago.

petro with river


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