Petrified Forest National Park is right along Route 66 and is an easy place to visit in one day. The park has two regions, the upper region offers overlooks of the banded badlands of the Painted Desert. The lower region, my favorite, is were you see the colorful petrified wood. It’s so plentiful and beautiful that we spent a lot of time walking among the logs of rainbow colored quartz.
The trails run through the densest concentration of giant logs of petrified wood. A ranger told us that this location is special because it was the site of an ancient log jam in a swampy area that was quickly covered by silt. This all happened when Arizona was an equatorial region. Then, after the continent drifted north, and the Colorado plateau rose, rainfall eroded the soil to uncover the mass of logs.
Most of the petrified wood comes from tall conifers that grew more than 200 million years ago. Some of the logs are up to 120 feet long.
In the northern region of the park is Newspaper Rock, one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the park. Here more than 650 images adorn the boulders. People who farmed the Puerco River Valley 650 to 2,000 years ago etched these petroglyphs onto the rocks.
The banded hills are beautiful but we’ve actually become accustomed to this beauty on our trip. We were much more interested in the petrified wood and petroglyphs.
Collecting rocks is strictly prohibited in the park but the surrounding region is littered with petrified wood so it is available from every shop if you want some. We visited some of the local souvenir shops but all we left with were some smashed pennies.