It’s probably difficult to imagine, but hundreds of millions of years ago, Arizona was a tropical rainforest, rich in greenery and trees. Over time, the geology of the earth shifted and changed, eventually becoming the Arizona we know today. Over the course of that time, stream and river deposits formed the Chinle Formation in what is known as the Painted Desert. Marked by colorful ombres of sedimentary rock formations, it is a sight to behold in the vast desert landscape.
For our only full day in Flagstaff, we headed out to explore Petrified Forest National Park. There are two entrances to the park, the north entrance about 100 miles east of Flagstaff along the I-40. The south entrance is via Holbrook and US- 180. Both entrances have a visitor center and gift shop.
Petrified Forest was another amazing park. The landscape born of volcanic activity, sediment deposits, and geologic uplift looked as if it truly were a painted desert. The Crystal Forest was my favorite stop. Here we found a ‘forest’ of petrified logs of varying colors and sizes, from small fossilized pieces to massive trunks. In addition to interesting geology, Petrified Forest has a history that spans over 13,000 years. Puebloan peoples lived at the site from about 2000-650 years ago. This is evidenced by the many petroglyphs found at Newspaper Rock, an archaeological site along the road cutting through the park. In more recent history, Petrified Forest also contains a portion of Historic Route 66, well-traveled from 1926 through 1956, until Interstate 40 opened and gave a faster route west (think Disney’s “Cars” movie). Petrified Forest is the only national park to preserve a portion of this historic route, marked by an old car in the roadbed.
For more information check out the NPS site. Happy trails!
Enjoying the panoramic vistas
The info in this post is from signage around the park as well as the guides we received on entry. These are great sources of information about the national parks we visit.