Petrified Forest National Park

Journal Jun 07, 2021

The Petrified Forest National Park has so many awesome sights to see in a relatively concentrated area. I was astounded at the varying landscape throughout the park and the bountiful rainbow logs strewn across the southern part of the park.

"Nothing endures but change" –Heraclitus

We spent one day exploring here and were able to get from the south end to the north and back. We hiked, explored the visitor center, saw petrified logs, landscapes, Puebloan petroglyphs, and and overgrown section of Historic Route 66.

The south end of the park is where the bulk of the petrified logs are. You can see lots of petrified wood from your vehicle but getting out on one or more of the hikes is well worth it. For a quick hike, check out the Giant Logs trail behind the Rainbow Forest Museum & Visitor’s Center. For a longer hike, and my favorite, visit the Long Logs Loop and be sure hike out to the Agate House, an eight room house made by ancestral Puebloan people sometime in the range of 1050 to 1300[1].

We had just gotten set up in our new campsite at the south entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park and put Owen to bed. Ellie and I get much more enjoyment from an area if we know more about it so we decided to watch some videos about the Petrified Forest before heading to bed. What we learned made our next day’s visit so much more rich and interesting for us.

Here are some interesting things we learned about Arizona and petrified wood:

  • three minerals create the petrified wood colors:
  • Pure quartz is white,
  • manganese oxides form blue, purple, black, and brown,
  • and iron oxides provide hues from yellow through red to brown.[2]
  • The park protects one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. [3]
  • Arizona was a tropical environment about 225 million years ago, and was close to the equator at the time [4]. It was a heavily forested area and the trees, which are a species that no longer exist today, would fall and become buried by river and flood sediments. Nearby volcanos would erupt and cover the buried wood with a high silica content. The ash would dissolve and saturate into the logs, preserving them and creating the petrified wood. [5]

The next morning, we got ready and headed into the park. There are petrified logs laying everywhere along the side of the road and across the desert floor as far as you can see.

We were the first visitor of that park ranger’s day without a park pass. In retrospect we should have bought an annual pass at this point but we didn’t decide to do that till we were further down the road at Zion.

We payed the fee and ventured north into the park. Our first stop was the Rainbow Forest Museum & Visitor’s Center. On our walk into the building, we passed a sign warning that there may killer bees in area. Ellie had already read about the deadliest things to watch out for in the state and killer bees were on the list. We stayed on alert for them for a bit but ended up forgetting about it altogether and went about our day without an encounter.

The Visitor’s Center had lots of interesting artifacts and information about Pangea, the petrified wood, dinosaurs, and more. And, of course, they also had a pretty awesome gift shop. We got our usual iron on patch and headed out back to explore the Giant Logs trail. This is where we got our first up close glimpse of the logs laid out in the desert. They are awesome.

We then drove north, stopping at various spots along the way. We hiked in the badlands section, a neat area where you quickly drop into the basin of the badlands and walk a paved loop. This Martian like landscape was interesting to explore and be surrounded by.

We drove past the Tepees, Blue Mesa, badlands, the Painted Desert, and more.

On the way, I parked and ran for a quick look at Newspaper Rock; the rock full of Puebloan petroglyphs. I got a quick view of it from afar through mounted park binoculars before hopping back in the truck to keep pushing north.

We arrived at the Historic Route 66 section of highway and parked. We saw the overgrown highway and nearby there was an old car that Owen loved exploring.

Onward we went. There are some spectacular views up in this section looking off over the plateau across a colorful lower section of the Painted Desert with mountains in the distance.

Having reached the north entrance, it was time to turn south. We’d arrive just in time to get Owen home for lunch and a nap. On the way, we decided after nap time we’d head back into the park for one more, lengthy hike: Long Logs Trail.

We arrived to our trailer and grabbed some food. I needed to get propane to ensure we’d have heat at night since it was getting cold when the sun set so I took the bikes off the tongue and removed the bike rack to get to our tanks.

I loaded all of them but one into the truck and headed into Holbrook, Arizona. I passed a massive stock yard full of petrified wood for sale on the edge of town and then crossed over the Little Colorado River.

A local gas station filled our tanks by the pound, I loaded them up, paid, and headed back toward home. I arrived and Owen was still down for his nap. I tossed two new propane tanks on-board, put the bike rack back up, and the bikes on their hooks.

It turned out that Ellie had fallen asleep too. Owen was still out but the end of his nap time was nearing. The late night arrival and early morning adventure had tired them out.

They woke and were re-energized to head back into the park for some more exploration.

We hiked to the agate house, the eight room house made from petrified wood, and then hiked the Long Log Loop.

This was my favorite adventure in the park. The Long Log trail was a crazy experience of being in awe every time. That never got old. Log after log, of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one just as awesome as the last.

We enjoyed our one day in the park but it was time to head onward to continue our jam packed weekend. We headed back home to hitch up.

On our way toward Holbrook, Ellie started looking for a place for us to stop for dinner and found something along our route.

We got on Highway 40, which intertwines with Historic Route 66, and drove westward. We could see some impressive, isolated, mountains far in the distance as we rolled closer. These were the mountains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

We passed through a few small towns and arrived in Joseph City, Arizona. We pulled up to a little place called Mr. G’s Pizza. Their pizzas sounded amazing and we ordered one and then went to the travel trailer to relax while we waited.

I ran back in 20 minutes later to grab it and we enjoyed our meal in the trailer.

The pizza was in my top five best of all time - if you’re ever in the area you have to try them out.

We loaded back into the truck and continued our westward drive through another small town before we turned off onto a small highway to our campsite for the night.