A Day at the Petrified Forest National Park

Our trip to the Petrified Forest National Park in the northeastern corner of Arizona started off like any other day off while living in the Grand Canyon. It was in the middle of June and it was a cool 120*F. I remember that fine detail only because I thought that it could not get any hotter the day before (and I was wrong). We hopped in Adam’s 1998 black on black leather interior Oldsmobile Intrigue, with an air conditioner that was busted, for the nearly 300 mile trip to the Petrified Forest National Park.

We arrived at the Petrified Forest National Park around 1:30 in the afternoon, close to the hottest part of the day, and spent much of the day trying to avoid the heat (funny, considering it might have been hotter in our car than outside of it). After entering the National Park and paying the $10 entrance fee, we arrived to the sight of this…:

…endless landscape of colorful badlands.

The Petrified Forest National Park, while named for its large quantity of petrified wood, is also home of the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert consists of colorful badlands, clay soil and sedimentary rocks that wear away by wind and water. While not as popular as its predecessor, the Grand Canyon National Park, it is practically a hop, skip, and a jump from one another. Becoming a national park in 1962, the Petrified Forest National Park is often overlooked when traveling to Arizona, but there are many unique sites here to visit.

There are two parts to the Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert section of the national park and the Petrified Forest part of the park. 

The Painted  Desert section of the park has a Route 66 Exhibit (the ONLY national park that has the Route 66 in it) and the Painted Desert Inn, made nearly 100 years ago out of petrified wood:

The southern part of the national park, the Petrified Forest, has newspaper rock, with over 650 petroglyphs from the Puebloan people roughly 650-2,000 years ago, Tepee’s, the Blue Mesa, Crystal and Jasper Forest:

What I found to be most interesting was that the Petrified Forest part of the national park seemed to have more colorful and impressive badlands. This is the Tepee’s, which is said to be the oldest Chinle formation in this national park:

The Blue Mesa consists of green, blue, purple, and gray mudstones and is one of the oldest Chinle formation:

The Crystal Forest and Jasper Forest are where a large majority of the Petrified Forest National Park’s petrified wood is located. Do not steal or take any of the pieces, however, because the fines start at $300 (and you can buy pieces outside of the park in the stands!):


Honestly, the most impressive part of the Petrified Forest National Park was the actual Petrified Forest, south, section of the national park. This is where you’ll find the oldest (and most colorful, impressive) badlands are located. While the north part of the park did have interesting sites like the Route 66 and the Painted Desert Inn, if you’re looking to only see the painted desert, it is your best bet to head straight to the south section of the national park.

Have you had the opportunity to visit any Southwestern National Parks? What is on the top of the list for places that you must see out there?

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