It is hard to imagine that 200 million years ago Arizona was a tropical landscape where dinosaurs were roaming. The remnants of that prehistoric forests can be seen now as a petrified wood. I have never seen such thing and was really impressed. The Painted Dessert was my first colored mountain, as well. Both attractions are stunning and part of the Petrified forest national park in Arizona. The most popular way to see the park is to drive the 28 mile/45 kilometers main road. The southern end has the highest concentration of petrified wood, while on the north you can enjoy Painted dessert views.
I had only a half day to enjoy the place and you can find below the ultimate plan how to cover all interesting points. I entered the park from the South and drove through the whole park. My first stop was at the Rainbow Forest Museum and visitor center where you can find short trek called Giant Logs. It was a nice experience for the beginning of the trip. I decided to skip the Agate House trail which is very close by. It is only 2 miles/3.2 kilometers round trip and probably was a better choice of the two. Anyway, I kept going and reached the Crystal forest. About 200 million years ago the Crystal forest was just a forest. With the movement of the continents, the region uplifted, and the woods were buried by layers of sediment. It took millions of years before the trees molecular changes resulted in colorful crystalline quartz. The various colors of the trees came from different minerals within the quarts, like iron and manganese oxides. If the Petrified forest had not moved and uplifted, I would be walking in a rain forest. Still, I liked it the way it is now. Less than a mile roundtrip loop trail will take you around many petrified logs.
Jasper forest was pretty much the same plus the panoramic view of the Painted dessert in the background. Agate bridge is a big petrified wood connecting riversides. To preserve it, there were some constructions made and I didn’t like it with it. It looks man build now. However, it is 1 minute away from the parking lot, so it is okay to visit if you have enough time.
The next stop and my favorite place was Blue Mesa. This is the place where you can have a close look at the painted desert and even walk in it. 3.5 mi (5.6 km) loop road you can drive on is available and only 1-mile trail gives you the chance to explore the colorful geology.
I had never visited this kind of mountains before, so for me, it was like trekking in Wonderland. If I can judge by the faces of the other people around they were as excited as I was. The trek starts from the parking and there are facilities where you can stop and take a rest, eat some fruit and enjoy the surroundings.
The prehistoric people seems that also liked the scenery and they left a lot of messages in stone. Many of the petroglyphs are not clear but several are undoubtfully solar calendars. You can see those on the Newspaper rock. Binnacles from the overlook will give you the chance to see the petroglyphs, some as old as 2000 years. If you want to see where the Puebloan people lived, you can do that doing very short loop trail at Puerco Pueblo.
The famous Route 66 once cut through the park and there is a stop available to make pictures with 1932 Studebaker. After that point, there are only stops to enjoy the Painted Dessert spectacular views. Unfortunately, the area is too big none picture can capture the magnificence of the place. Fortunately, I convinced you to visit it (:. If you have a full day, you can sleep in the Wilderness Area and enjoy the stars, as well. You need to obtain a permit, but it is free, and I cannot think of a better place to spend the night in the area.
If you liked this place, you can see more amazing parks below:
All pictures are mine, except the ones where I am visible, those are someone else’s.
Thank you for reading and upvoting. Stay tuned for more natural wonders in US. Cheers, Eva (: