WUDN

March-2024

Exploring the Great Outdoors: 5 Must-Visit Features of Every National Park in the United States

WUDN Outdoor Adventure (National Park Series)

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Part 22 of Our National Park Series

Petrified Forest National Park: A Timeless Journey Through Ancient Landscapes

National Park Series > Southwestern US > Petrified Forest National Park

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Nestled in northeastern Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park is a captivating destination where time stands still, and ancient wonders abound. Renowned for its spectacular petrified wood, vibrant badlands, and rich archaeological sites, the park offers visitors a unique opportunity to journey through millions of years of natural and cultural history. Here are the top five activities to embark on during your visit:

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Petrified Forest National Park - Photo by Caleb Jack on Unsplash

Top 5 Outdoor Adventures in: Petrified Forest National Park

1. Scenic Driving:

Explore the park's diverse landscapes and geological wonders by taking a scenic drive along the 28-mile-long Petrified Forest Loop Road. Along the way, you'll encounter stunning vistas of colorful badlands, towering mesas, and the iconic petrified wood. Be sure to stop at designated viewpoints such as Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, and Newspaper Rock to marvel at the park's breathtaking scenery and unique geological formations.

2. Hiking:

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the park's network of trails to immerse yourself in its natural beauty and rich history. From short interpretive walks to challenging backcountry hikes, there are options for hikers of all skill levels. Don't miss the Blue Mesa Trail, which winds through a landscape of eroded hoodoos and petrified wood, or the Painted Desert Rim Trail, which offers panoramic views of the park's colorful badlands.

3. Petrified Wood Viewing:

Discover the park's most iconic attraction—the petrified wood—by exploring designated areas such as the Crystal Forest, Giant Logs, and Long Logs trails. Marvel at the rainbow of colors and intricate patterns preserved in the ancient logs, which date back millions of years to the Late Triassic period. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of these natural sculptures against the backdrop of the desert landscape.

4. Visitor Centers and Museums:

Delve into the park's natural and cultural history by visiting one of its two visitor centers—Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum. Learn about the park's geological wonders, ancient fossils, and Native American heritage through interactive exhibits, interpretive displays, and ranger-led programs. Be sure to stop by the park's bookstore to pick up souvenirs and educational materials to enhance your visit.

5. Photography:

Capture the beauty and grandeur of Petrified Forest National Park through the lens of your camera as you explore its otherworldly landscapes and ancient ruins. From sunrise over the painted desert to sunset among the petrified logs, the park offers endless opportunities for photographers to capture stunning images. Be sure to visit during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset to capture the park's natural beauty in the best light. From scenic drives to hiking adventures, Petrified Forest National Park offers a wealth of opportunities for exploration and discovery in one of the Southwest's most fascinating landscapes.

Whether you're marveling at ancient fossils, exploring colorful badlands, or simply soaking in the serenity of the desert, the park invites you to embark on a timeless journey through the wonders of the past.

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Photo by Caleb Jack on Unsplash
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Photo by Caleb Jack on Unsplash

In Petrified Forest National Park, some of the top attractions that draw visitors from around the world include:

1. The Painted Desert:
Explore the breathtaking beauty of the Painted Desert, a vast expanse of colorful badlands stretching across northern Arizona. Named for its vibrant hues of red, orange, pink, purple, and blue, the Painted Desert offers stunning vistas of eroded mesas, buttes, and cliffs, sculpted by millions of years of geological forces. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views from overlooks along the park's main road, or hike into the desert wilderness to experience its otherworldly beauty up close.

2. The Petrified Forest:
Marvel at the world-renowned petrified wood of Petrified Forest National Park, where ancient trees have been transformed into colorful stone over millions of years. The park is home to one of the largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood in the world, with logs dating back over 200 million years. Visitors can explore the Crystal Forest, Blue Mesa, and Jasper Forest areas to see petrified logs of all shapes, sizes, and colors, as well as other fossilized remains such as ancient plants and animals.

3. The Painted Desert Inn:
Step back in time at the historic Painted Desert Inn, a beloved landmark of Petrified Forest National Park. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the inn served as a rustic lodge for travelers along historic Route 66. Today, the inn has been restored to its former glory and operates as a museum and visitor center, showcasing exhibits on the area's natural and cultural history. Visitors can explore the inn's historic rooms, enjoy sweeping views of the Painted Desert from its terrace, and learn about the role of the CCC in the park's development.

4. The Blue Mesa Trail:
Discover the surreal landscapes of the Blue Mesa Trail, a scenic hiking loop that winds through a maze of colorful badlands and petrified wood. The 1-mile trail descends into a small canyon, where visitors are surrounded by towering cliffs of blue, purple, and gray bentonite clay. Along the way, hikers can admire petrified logs embedded in the rock formations and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape. The Blue Mesa Trail is one of the park's most popular hikes and offers a unique opportunity to explore the geology and beauty of Petrified Forest National Park up close.

These are just a few of the many incredible attractions awaiting visitors at Petrified Forest National Park. Whether exploring its colorful badlands, marveling at its petrified wood, or delving into its rich cultural history, the park offers endless opportunities for adventure, discovery, and appreciation of the natural world.

Some Real Wooden Style for Your Trip

We are working on more branded merch to accompany your trip. In the meantime, here is a pair of real wooden shades for some excellent style while you hike the deep-country of Petrified Forest National Park.

6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)

6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)

$ 25.00
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How to Get To Petrified Forest National Park

Getting to Petrified Forest National Park, located in northeastern Arizona, involves several transportation options depending on your starting point:

1. By Car: Driving is the most common and convenient way to reach Petrified Forest National Park. The park is easily accessible via Interstate 40, which runs east-west through northern Arizona. From the west, take Exit 311 for the park's west entrance, located near Holbrook, Arizona. From the east, take Exit 285 for the park's east entrance, located near Chambers, Arizona. Once inside the park, follow the main road to access visitor centers, scenic viewpoints, and hiking trails.

2. By Air: The nearest major airport to Petrified Forest National Park is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) in Flagstaff, Arizona, located approximately 120 miles southwest of the park. From the airport, you can rent a car and drive to the park via Interstate 40, which takes about 2-3 hours depending on traffic and weather conditions. Alternatively, you can fly into larger airports such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) or Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) and then drive to the park, which takes about 3-4 hours.

3. By Public Transportation: While there is no direct public transportation to Petrified Forest National Park, you can take a Greyhound bus or another intercity bus service to nearby cities such as Holbrook or Winslow. From there, you can arrange for a shuttle service or taxi to transport you to the park. Be sure to check the bus schedule and availability of transportation options before planning your trip.

4. Guided Tours: If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can join a guided tour to Petrified Forest National Park from nearby cities or towns. Many tour companies offer day trips and multi-day excursions to the park, providing transportation, guided activities, and accommodations for visitors. Guided tours typically include visits to popular attractions such as the Painted Desert, Petrified Logs, and the park's visitor centers.

Regardless of how you choose to travel to Petrified Forest National Park, be sure to plan ahead and check road conditions, weather forecasts, and park regulations before you go. Depending on the time of year, certain park facilities and roads may be closed, so it's important to be prepared for any potential challenges during your visit.

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History and Creation of Petrified Forest National Park

Explore the park's diverse landscapes and geological wonders by taking a scenic drive along the 28-mile-long Petrified Forest Loop Road. Along the way, you'll encounter stunning vistas of colorful badlands, towering mesas, and the iconic petrified wood. Be sure to stop at designated viewpoints such as Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, and Newspaper Rock to marvel at the park's breathtaking scenery and unique geological formations.

The story of Petrified Forest National Park begins over 200 million years ago during the Late Triassic Period, when the region was covered by lush forests teeming with diverse plant and animal life. Over time, massive floods and volcanic eruptions buried the ancient forests in layers of sediment, sealing them off from decay and preserving the organic material within.

As the millennia passed, the buried trees underwent a remarkable transformation known as petrification, in which minerals such as silica gradually replaced the organic material, transforming the wood into stone. The result is a spectacular display of colorful petrified wood, with vivid hues of red, orange, purple, and blue preserved in the fossilized logs.

The area that is now Petrified Forest National Park has a long history of human occupation, dating back thousands of years. Native American tribes such as the ancestral Puebloans, Hopi, and Navajo have lived in the region for centuries, leaving behind a rich cultural legacy in the form of petroglyphs, pottery shards, and other artifacts scattered throughout the park.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, interest in the petrified wood of northeastern Arizona grew, leading to widespread looting and vandalism of the area's natural treasures. Recognizing the need to protect this unique landscape, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Petrified Forest National Monument in 1906, setting aside over 93,000 acres of land for preservation.

In 1962, Petrified Forest National Monument was redesignated as Petrified Forest National Park, expanding its boundaries to encompass a total area of over 230,000 acres. Today, the park is managed by the National Park Service and is celebrated as a living museum of ancient landscapes, offering visitors the chance to explore its unique geology, rich biodiversity, and cultural heritage.

Visitors to Petrified Forest National Park can embark on a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, scenic driving, photography, and wildlife watching. Highlights of the park include the Painted Desert, a vast expanse of colorful badlands; the Crystal Forest, home to an abundance of petrified wood; and the historic Rainbow Forest Museum, which showcases exhibits on the park's natural and cultural history.

Overall, Petrified Forest National Park stands as a testament to the power of geological forces and the resilience of life in the face of profound environmental change. Its fossilized trees and desert landscapes offer a window into the distant past, inviting visitors to marvel at the wonders of nature and contemplate the passage of time in this timeless landscape.

/Fin. Petrified Forest National Park

In conclusion, Petrified Forest National Park stands as a testament to the wonders of geological time and the resilience of nature. From the vibrant hues of the Painted Desert to the mesmerizing beauty of the petrified wood, this unique landscape offers a glimpse into the ancient past and the forces that have shaped our planet over millions of years. As visitors explore the park's diverse ecosystems, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking vistas, they are invited to connect with the natural world and reflect on the beauty and fragility of our planet. Whether hiking through colorful badlands, admiring fossilized trees, or learning about the park's history, Petrified Forest National Park offers an unforgettable experience that inspires awe, wonder, and appreciation for the beauty of the Earth.

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Petrified Forest National Park

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About the Author

Jaimeleigh Christian

Jaimeleigh Christian

Jaime is passionate about the outdoors and traveling throughout these gorgeous United States. Especially National Parks in the Pacific Northwest. 

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