Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona: Amazing Desert Images! - SkyAboveUs - Outdoors
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Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona: Amazing Desert Images!

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty and natural wonders. Amazing canyons (Grand!), mountains, and desert scenery await visitors.

Petrified Wood from Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Petrified Wood from Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

National Park in Arizona

Having visited the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on two different occasions, I am the proud owner of some fantastic desert pictures, and of course, the petrified wood is the star attraction.

The location of this national park is in the northcentral part of Arizona. The nearest highway is Interstate 40. It is approximately a two-hour drive east of Flagstaff, Arizona or one-hour drive west of Gallup, New Mexico.

My first visit was with my mother and niece, and we enjoyed the views immensely but did not do much hiking. The colors and hues of the petrified wood are so varied and shine in the sunlight like precious jewels. The stark desert is a contrast to those multicolored gems of wood turned to stone.

With my German girlfriend accompanying me the second time of visiting the Arizona desert, and in particular the Petrified Forest, more hiking was in order. The majority of my pictures included in this post will be from that second visit.

Triassic Period Fossils

Discovered in 1981 were fossils dating back to the Triassic Period some 225 million years ago. Research continues. Evidence of small dinosaurs, as well as crocodile-like reptiles and big amphibians that would have eaten fish, are being discovered in this area in addition to the plant life that would have existed at the time.

At the Rainbow Forest Museum casts of the bones of a small dinosaur nicknamed Gertie are displayed for all to see. Located 2 miles north of the south entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park, 19 miles south of Holbrook off of highway 18, you will find the Rainbow Forest Museum.

Also contained within the museum is all kinds of visitor information, including a 20-minute orientation film that runs on the half-hour. Many fossil exhibits are on display, and you can acquire free back-country permits for hiking and backpacking there. Public restrooms are available as well as some limited amounts of food.

There are no campgrounds or lodging inside of this national park. Backpacking and wilderness camping only is allowed. Overnight accommodations are available in nearby towns outside of the park.

Protecting This Land

Around the year 1900, calls for preserving this unusual and beautiful landscape began. Tourists were removing bits and pieces of the beautifully colored petrified wood as souvenirs, and it became apparent that if this continued, the scenery would be forever changed.

In 1906 selected areas of what was to become this park first started as the Petrified Forest National Monument to preserve this land. Often this is the first step towards becoming a national park.

Two thousand five hundred more acres (1,000 hectares) were added to the monument in 1932.

Becoming a National Park

National Park status happened in 1962, and in 1970 an additional 50,000 acres (20,250 hectares) was set aside as wilderness area. The total area of this Petrified Forest National Park is now 93,533 acres or 37,881 hectares.

It is illegal to remove any pieces of petrified wood within the park boundaries. Plenty of it can be found outside the Petrified Forest National Park, and commercial interests have already collected and polished much of it up and offer it for sale.

One can purchase inexpensive small brightly colored pebbles or more expensive larger pieces made into bookends or many other assorted objects in gift shops that are allowed to sell the petrified wood.

When I was there with my girlfriend, I purchased a ring, some bookends and a beautiful slab of a full diameter cross cut piece of a petrified log that I have on display in our home. Whether one decides to purchase any souvenirs, just seeing the creative objects made from the petrified wood is a treat.

Petrified wood bookends that I purchased outside of the park.

Petrified wood bookends that I purchased outside of the park.

Some Geology of This Area

This part of the country which is now about 5,400 feet in elevation and high and dry has a fascinating geologic history. It started as a floodplain where tall pine-like trees flourished in the south. This timeframe was also when the dinosaurs and other animals now being discovered as fossils roamed this area. The trees eventually fell and were moved by the streams into the floodplain where they became covered with volcanic ash, mud, and silt.

What happened next was that silica deposits gradually infiltrated the wooden tissues of the logs, and over time the silica was replaced with quartz. This transformation preserved the logs, and they became the petrified wood we see today. Of course, this did not happen overnight, but over millions of years. Some of the species of these petrified remains of trees are now extinct.

Much later with time, the land became uplifted. The uplifted area exposed the fossilized plants and animals to the wind and water, and due to the stresses on those long petrified logs, most of them split and became broken. Some of the long logs lie in pieces next to one another, giving one an idea of how tall they were at one time when they stood upright.

What is viewed today in the Petrified Forest National Park is only a fraction of what is truly there. At a depth of some 300 feet, fossilized remains are still there. The forces of erosion over time will continue to bring more of these petrified remains towards the surface.

Petroglyphs

Human residence within the park is known for more than 2,000 years. The dating of rubble, potsherds, and petroglyphs seem to have ended after the year 1400. Before that, there is definite proof of occupation between the years 1100 to 1200 and between 1300 to 1400.

Titled Newspaper Rock, this is only one of many paintings left on the petrified wood by Native Americans who would have lived in this area. Many such petroglyphs exist throughout the park confines.

Newspaper rock, some of the petroglyphs  in Petrified Forest National Park

Newspaper rock, some of the petroglyphs in Petrified Forest National Park

Agate House

From the Rainbow Forest Museum, one can follow a trail that takes one through the Giant Logs and to the site of the Agate House.

The Agate House dates back to the Pueblo III period and Indians during that time would have collected chunks of petrified wood building lodging for themselves. It was partially restored in the 1930s so that one can visualize what a pueblo house would have looked like built out of the colorful petrified wood.

Many other minerals, some of which include iron, manganese, and carbon comprise these polychromatic pieces of stone. It is a fantastic site seeing them piled together as I am sure you will agree when you view the pictures.

The Badlands

I snapped a photo of a sign which aptly described this Badlands area of the national park. It tells the following story:

"This moonscape of hills and gullies is called badlands.

The Blue Mesa badlands are made up of rock known as the Chinle Formation, which extends from Texas, across northern Arizona, and into Utah. The rock is mostly fine-grained clay and siltstone but also contains sandstone and conglomerate. Bentonite, a major ingredient, swells and becomes sticky when wet and cracks and shrinks when it dries.

The constant shrinking and swelling of the surface gives the Chinle its elephant-skin texture.

Petrified logs appear to be perched on pedestals of the softer clays. Once the clay erodes under the logs, they will topple down the hillside."

Walking through this hot and dry area, one should think of wearing sunscreen, appropriate clothing with comfortable shoes, hats, sunglasses, and make sure that one is carrying enough water to stay hydrated. These recommendations are suitable for all of this Petrified Forest National Park.

Vintage Postcard

On the back of this oversized vintage postcard purchased by my grandparents on their travels many years ago, it reads:

"PETRIFIED FOREST of ARIZONA

Rich and strange in color and shapes these petrified trees carry one's imagination back to prehistoric days when dinosaurs roamed northern Arizona.

PETLY Color Card - PUBLISHED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PETLEY STUDIOS, PHOENIX, ARIZONA

KODACHROME BY JERRY McLAIN"

Postcard my grandparents had purchased back when it was not "vintage."

Postcard my grandparents had purchased back when it was not "vintage."

Fees

As of the year 2019, these are the current entrance fees to enter the Petrified Forest National Park for private, non-commercial vehicles:

  • $10 for a 7-day pass
  • $20 for an annual pass

For people who plan to visit more than one national park or who meet specific standards, these are probably the best things of which to take advantage.

  • The Golden Access Passport offers free lifetime access to all national parks if one is permanently disabled or blind.
  • The Golden Eagle Passport costs $50 for one year for access to all of our national parks.
  • The Golden Age Passport for people 62 and older costs $10 and offers lifetime access to all national parks. Who said that there are not some perks to getting older! Ha!

These passports can be acquired at any of our national parks. These fees are a vehicle fee and not a per person fee. So for people traveling as friends or family, getting to enjoy our national parks is truly a bargain.

Part of The Painted Desert

The Petrified Forest National Park is a portion of the Painted Desert. This part of the country is uniquely beautiful.

There are 28 miles of a scenic drive throughout the Petrified Forest National Park. Also provided are many pull-outs where one can overlook different areas within the park from one's vehicle. Sweeping vistas of the various sites are on view from these parking areas. Because of this, even handicapped people can enjoy seeing the Petrified Forest.

Be sure to stop at the visitor centers, one at each end of the park, for much more information including current weather forecasts, maps, and for those heartier souls permits to camp and hike in the wilderness areas.

Petrified wood exists in other areas around the country and world, but being able to enjoy such an extensive collection of it in one concentrated area makes the Petrified Forest National Park in the Painted Desert of Arizona unique and well worth a trip.

Petrified Forest National Park

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are always welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 25, 2019:

Hi Aurelio,

Yes, do put the Petrified Forest National Park on your "must-visit list" of places to see. It is amazing!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on October 23, 2019:

What an unusual attraction, which we don't have here in California. Putting this on my must-visit list when I visit Arizona.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2012:

Hello chspublish,

Reveling in the beauty of nature is easy to do in places like the Petrified Forest National Park. Thanks for your comment. Hope you get to see it for yourself someday.

chspublish from Ireland on May 20, 2012:

What a great hub to bring the glories of the natural wonders to our attention. If I ever have the opportunity i will visit it and revel in the amazing sight! Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2012:

Hello BizGenGirl,

Yes...that Agate House is a sight to behold while in the Petrified Forest National Park. The entire area offers much in the way of hiking and sightseeing. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2012:

Hi Lucky Cats,

So glad to know that you enjoyed this Petrified Forest hub. Nice seeing a comment from you and thanks for those up votes.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2012:

Hi Vinaya,

There are quite a bit of desert lands in parts of the southwestern USA. Glad to have been able to show you some of it in Arizona. The petrified trees make this even more interesting! Thanks for your comment.

PermissionGiver from Lake Stevens on May 19, 2012:

Wow, that house made out of the stoned trees is awesome!

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on May 19, 2012:

Peggy, I am so amazed at, not only your writing ability and excellence but, your beautiful subject matter...Just lovely, interesting, "miraculous' in the amazing magic of this earth...and you capture it...so much of it..for us. Thank you!!!! All ups but Funny.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on May 19, 2012:

I know mountains, hills, canyons, jungles, but not desert. I have never been in a desert.

Your pictures are wonderful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 04, 2011:

Hello Linda M.,

Thanks so much for your comment. I agree that the Painted Desert is also beautiful and it, of course, is near the Petrified Forest National Park. So anyone visiting that area should be able to see both.

Linda M. on October 04, 2011:

I love the painted desert. I want to go back there some da your photos are beautiful

y.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 08, 2010:

Greetings Stephanie Henkel,

Glad that you appreciated this hub about the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona especially since you have seen it in person. Thanks for the comment.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on October 08, 2010:

This is a terrific hub! We have visited here, but your pictures and well reseached background gave me a new perspective. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Greetings Herald Daily,

I was too busy lining up the picture of that snake to notice its mouth...but I believe you are correct in that it appears as though its mouth is open. Yikes! Glad it took off in another direction after I snapped the photo. Thanks for commenting on the Petrified Forest National Park hub. Glad you liked it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hi dohn121,

So happy you liked this Petrified Forest National Park hub and also agree that splitting it apart from the Painted Desert made some sense. Thanks for commenting on both hubs.

Herald Daily from A Beach Online on September 06, 2009:

Beautiful pictures, Peggy! The age of those rocks makes them fascinating, although they are wonder regardless.

Re the snake, it's hard to tell for sure...does it have its mouth open?

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on September 06, 2009:

What amazing photos, Peggy. I especially like how you placed them the way you did. Just awesome. I see now why you divided up this amazing site into two hubs. Great job.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hi Frieda,

Happy, in that case, to have introduced you to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona through these pictures. Hope you get to see it in person someday. Thanks for commenting.

Frieda Babbley from Saint Louis, MO on September 05, 2009:

Gorgeous. I've never seen anything like it. How stunning.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 25, 2009:

Greetings E.A. Wright,

Always nice to see a new face leaving a comment. So you have been to the Petrified Forest National Park in the Spring. Good planning as it certainly does get hot in the summertime in any type of desert. Always a chance of seeing more wildflowers in bloom in the Spring of the year also. So another good reason to visit at that time of year.

Thanks for the comment.

E. A. Wright from New York City on August 25, 2009:

It's quite a place. I've enjoyed springtime visits more than (scorching) summer ones, though.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 24, 2009:

Hi Melody,

The agate house certainly glistened with amazing color. The setting in the desert of the Petrified Forest was certainly a noticeable feature from some distance as we approached it on the trail.

Thanks for your comment.

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on August 23, 2009:

Amazing place. Love the agate house.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2009:

Hi Ethel,

That is what I particularly love about our National Parks. Each offers something unique and the lands are set aside for everyone to enjoy. If you and your hubby come this way and explore the Petrified Forest and Desert surrounding it, tell him he can still bring his fishing pole as there are other places in Arizona that he could use it. LOL

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on August 23, 2009:

Hubby in particular would love this. Looks an unusal but yet still scenic place

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2009:

Hello sarovai,

Yes, it took millions of years to turn that forest into a petrified forest and now, a national park celebrating that fact. Thanks for commenting.

sarovai on August 23, 2009:

Arizona desert forest, If I could have visited also, I couldnot have collected somany information. Petrified wood, tells us the history. thank u.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2009:

Hi Kiran,

There is so much to see in Arizona and this area is just one of the interesting ones. Will be showing you more in future hubs. Happy that you enjoyed this one of the Petrified Forest. Thanks for your comment.

kiran8 from Mangalore, India on August 22, 2009:

What lovely pics ! thanks a lot Peggy for all the info and an interesting hub :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 22, 2009:

Hi Shirley,

I am skiddish around snakes also but I knew from its markings that this was not a poisonous one. It was really a long and large one and did have beautiful coloring. Fortunately after taking the photo, it started going off in another direction. Had it come my way, I would have been running in the opposite direction. LOL

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on August 22, 2009:

Love the pics, Peggy! Love Arizona, too!! I haven't been to these sites but I shall have investigate them when I'm there next.

I could do without that snake, though - ugh!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 22, 2009:

Hi Pete,

Yes, getting stuck out in the Arizona desert...or any desert for that matter would not be fun without the proper preparations. Glad that you liked the pictures of the Petrified Forest National Park. It really is beautiful in its own way.

Pete Maida on August 22, 2009:

That area is beautiful but I would hate to be stuck out there. You have some great pictures here.