First off, what is a “Petrified Forest”?
No, it is not a forest that has been scared out of its wits – it is a place where you can walk back through time over 200 million years ago, a time where this region was not anything like it is currently. Petrified Forest National Park is located about 25 miles east of Holbrook, AZ and is a fascinating place full of geographically history and it is one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world (other than Egypt, Argentina and even, North Dakota!)
The petrified logs were found here because at one time there was a large river system with tons of trees along its banks, and as the trees died, they were swept along the rivers to form “log jams”, which are some of the different ‘forests’ within the parks (Crystal Forest, Jasper Forest, etc) (National Park Service). Then, the area became covered with an ocean and the logs were underneath a ton of sediment. After that, the ocean disappeared and rivers flowed again that eroded the sediment that started to expose the landscape that we can see today. Well, that’s the short version – a Ranger can tell you a lot more about this process that takes millions of years! Don’t expect to see big tall trees while you are in the park, most of the pieces are cracked and broken into smaller chunks. But just because they are smaller pieces don’t try and lift one—they weigh a ton!
The petrified trees (coniferous, tree ferns and gingkoes) have been dated back to 218 million years ago…
The Park averages about 600,000 visitors a year – which makes it busy, but not as busy as some of the other National Parks in the surrounding states. The busiest time of year is in the summer months, but the winter allows visitors fantastic visibility and cooler temperatures (and less people in the parking lots – always a win!) Although you cannot camp within the park boundaries, the Park does offer some backpacking in the wilderness area for the more adventurous.
Note: There is a company called Xanterra that sells Petrified Wood from outside the park, which is legal and allowed. Their hope is to discourage people from stealing the wood from inside the park. Speak to the Rangers though – they will tell you stories about people returning the wood with letters of terrible things happening to them and their family after they took the pieces of wood and just had to return them!
But a bonus with this park, is the spectacular Painted Desert. Make sure to see it as the sun rises or sets, it is truly something to see! Deposits of clay and sandstone, stacked in layers display colorful radiance in the Arizona sun.
Important things to know about the Park –
• Driving travel time through the park is about 45 minutes
• Private vehicles cost $10 per vehicle (good for 7 days)
• Our fave spots: Painted Desert, Blue Mesa, Rainbow Forest, Giant Logs Loop
• Great list of things to do depending on how much time you have: http://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/things2do.htm
Check out this short video for some more information:
How many of you have checked out this awesome park? It’s also a great stop off if you are doing a Route 66 Road Trip!