A Travellerspoint blog

Oct 3 - Petrified Forest National Park (& Painted Desert)

217 million yr old trees, great scenery, hiking.

sunny 30 °C

The Petrified Forest National Park is about 20 miles from Holbrook and we started our tour at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Centre, where we got information on how to visit the park.

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There is a one mile long loop right there at the visitor centre which has some of the biggest petrified trees. These trees were in a forest near the equator when they were alive 217 million years ago. The trees fell into a river which was subsequently buried and reburied, eventually flooded and over time the wood fiber was replaced by quartz and other minerals. Erosion has exposed them, We hiked the Crystal Forest trail:

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We stopped at the Agate Bridge, where 100 years ago the park service tried to save this petrified tree by building a support underneath. Nowadays they would just let this structure collapse as erosion does its job.

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The big event of the day was the hike at the Blue Mesa, where you descend to the bottom and get a glimpse of what erosion does here. The soil is remarkably dense clay, which holds the rocks and petrified wood and only releases it when enough rain falls to erode the hills. The descent to the bottom was steep, and it was hot and windy. We really enjoyed seeing this up close:

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When we had lunch we were visited by these two Edgars (Ravens, we named all of them after Edgar Alan Poe) They were very entertaining.

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Our next stop was at a pueblo village, which was occupied from 1250 to 1380. It is being reconstructed. There are several spots in the park with pictographs and this in one of them.

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We stopped at the location of Route 66, which passed through the park. The road has been obliterated, with the exception of lines of old telephone poles, marching off into the distance along the roads route. At the junction where the road passed there is a 1932 Studebaker to mark the spot.

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The last part of our visit was to the Painted Desert and the historical Painted Desert Inn, which served as a road house along Route 66. The desert looks much better at dawn and dusk when the angle of the sun creates shadows. We'd hiked about 4 miles over the day, in strong winds and fairly warm temperatures and were pretty beat by this time and decided it was time to head back to our campground.

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Our sole wildlife sighting was this little guy:

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If you are planning to go to the Grand Canyon, you are going to be just down the road from this beautiful natural park. It is well worth a visit.

Tomorrow, we are off to another local attraction...the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, about 100 miles north of here.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 18:00 Archived in USA Tagged petrified_forest painted_desert

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Glad you are using that national park pass!

by Karmen Reid

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