Located in the Navajo and Apache counties of Arizona sits the Petrified Forest National Park. The park is named after a large amount of petrified wood from a prehistoric forest destroyed and preserved by a volcanic eruption (and not from being petrified with fear). The park is crossed by the historic U.S. Route 66 and I-40.
The Park's fallen tree fossils mostly date from the Late Triassic Epoch - a massive 225 million years ago. That means that the T-Rex that lived only 65 million years ago was much closer to our time than these fossils. Other popular activities include hiking, horse riding, and camping in this vibrant and colorful wilderness.
About The National Park
- Deposits Of Petrified Wood: Covers Around 346 Sq Miles
- Extends: Into The Painted Desert
- Elevation: Averages 5,400 feet or 1,600 Meters
- Age Of The Fossils: 225 Million Years Ago From the Late Triassic Epoch
There are a number of wild animals in this park, they include bobcats, pronghorns, coyotes, and over 200 species of birds.
The sediments of the Late Triassic Epoch that contain all of these trees are part of the Chinle Formation. The Late Triassic was when dinosaur life was at its most spectacular and so this is one of the sites that all dinosaur lovers need to visit. This formation is stunningly colorful and is where the Painted Desert gets its name. There are some fossilized animals in this park - notably of the large flying reptiles phytosaurs.
- Fun Fact: Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs!
This is a great chance to see and explore one of the largest and most colorful petrified wood sites in the world.
Over 200 million years ago, this part of what is now Arizona was a lush landscape filled with flourishing trees and other kinds of vegetation. But this was destroyed in a large volcanic explosion and the remains of this forest were preserved and embedded in the volcanic ash and water. To see how a volcanic eruption destroyed and preserved a Roman city, see why you should visit Pompeii here.
- Roads: Historic U.S. Route 66 and The I-40 Run Through The Park - Be Sure To Stop By If Traveling On These Highways!
After many millions of years of being buried, the sediment has been eroding and exposing the forest entombed within it. Today the petrified wood has been turned into quartz.
The park boasts more than just the Petrified Forest. There are 13,000 years of human history to discover at the park. One of the main human traditions includes a nearly 800-year-old 100 room dwelling. There are around 600 archeological sites in this national park - including various petroglyphs. These lands had been inhabited by pueblos, but it was abandoned by around 1400 AD - likely due to climate change.
- Pueblos: There Are Numerous Pueblo Sites And Petroglyphs Here
Hiking And Trails
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and there are a number of designated hiking trails crisscrossing the park. These trails are not so long and range from around half a mile to around three miles.
- Tawa Trail: Length 1.2 Miles (One Way), Runs From The Scenic Tawa Point To The Painted Desert Visitor Center
- Painted Desert Rim Trail: Length 1 Mile (Round Trip), Runs Through The Rim Woodland From Tawa Point To Kachina Point
- Puerco Pueblo Trail: Length 0.3 Miles (Loop), Runs Through The Remains Of The Hundred Room Pueblo And By The Petroglyphs (Visitors are Not Permitted To Climb The Boulders, Walls or Touch The Petroglyphs)
- Blue Mesa Trail: Length 1 Mile (Loop), Runs Down The Mesa And One Can See The Badland Hills of Bluish Bentonite Class And Petrified Wood
For more information and to see more trails, see the National Park Service's website here.
The gateway to the park is the town of Holbrook in Arizona. It is around 20 miles to the west of the park and offers a full range of accommodation options. Other viable bases for accommodation are Flagstaff, Winslow, Show Low, and Pinetop-Lakeside.
There is no accommodation within the park or camping. Boondocking, primitive camping, and pulling off to spend the night in a parking area are not permitted. There is only backpacking and hiking into the designated Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area and spending the night there.
Visiting The Petrified Forest National Park
- Days Open: Every Day All Year Long (Closed On Christmas Day)
- Admission Fee: $25 Per Vehicle for A 7 Day Pass
- Opening Hours: The Museum, Visitor Center, and Park Have Different Hours That Vary With the Season - See the National Park Service's Webpage Here.
This is a perfect stop if traveling through northern Arizona to learn about the world's deep-distant past!