16 May
2016
Posted in: travel
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Take a Trip: Petrified Forest National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

Petrified Forest National park view of Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park is located near Holbrook, Arizona and rivals Wyoming for ridiculous wind. The wind wasn’t mentioned in any of my spring break planning materials. Trust me when I say there should be some sort of asterisk footnote in travel guides warning people that wind in northern Arizona during spring is no joke. We live where wind is an ever-present annoyance. If we thought the wind was bad at Petrified Forest National Park, assume it was horrible.

View at Petrified Forest National Park of Crystal Forest

Beyond the wind and my fear of our car-top carrier taking flight from our vehicle, Petrified Forest is a unique entity in the national park system offering a rare landscape to explore. The park was crowded at the Painted Desert Visitor Center raising concerns that we were in for an afternoon of full parking lots and trails crowded with people. I’m not sure where all the people went once they passed through the pay booth — possibly most visitors simply take a driving tour through the park, but we ran into very few people along the trails we hiked.

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs at Petrified Forest National Park

Several overlooks are lumped together near the Painted Desert Visitor Center giving views of the Painted Desert badlands with its colorful rock hills. We made a quick stop at an overlook before visiting Newspaper Rock, a site with hundreds of petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. Bring binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. The short trails takes you to an overlook for Newspaper Rock, which can’t be as appreciated as much with the naked eye.

Boy sitting at Agate Bridge in Petrified Forest National Park

Panoramic view of Jasper Forest at Petrified Forest National Park

The drive through Petrified Forest National Park takes you through the Blue Mesa badlands known for its blue-hued rock formations. Agate Bridge features a 110-foot long petrified bridge that is impressive to view. It’s a short trail from the parking lot down to view the log. Jasper Forest, a short drive from the bridge, gives a panoramic view of a landscape littered with petrified wood logs. The wood appears to reach the horizon.

Up-close view of a log in Petrified Forest National Park

Our favorite stop in Petrified Forest was the Crystal Forest, a less than one-mile loop trail wandering through many colorful logs. We were surprised at the amount of petrified wood in the park. I assumed there would be quite a bit, but there is an overabundance of petrified wood in the park! We’ve visited other places with petrified “forests,” including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but none compares to the amount or type of wood we saw in Arizona. The wood in the Crystal Forest is vibrant and some pieces have the bark pattern ringing the outside of logs. The science behind wood becoming fossilized is intriguing to me. Standing in the windy badlands of Arizona with the remains of a fallen forest from thousands of years ago is mind-blowing. There are no longer trees in the landscape of that national park outside of the fossils at your feet. Believing trees could have ever easily grown in the area seems ridiculous.

Hikers on the Long Log Trail in Petrified Forest National Park

Giant Log Trail - Perified Forest National Park

Near the Rainbow Forest Museum is the trail for Agate House, a reconstructed pueblo, and the Long Logs and Giant Log trails. The trails are aptly named. Large logs of petrified wood are grouped together as if an ancient flood moved the logs to the area and deposited them haphazardly. A few logs are over 180 feet long. We enjoyed walking the trail and attempting to find the largest log. Each turn in the path led to yet another log that could take the title for longest in the the park.

Hikers in Petrified Forest National Park near sunset

Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most unique of the 30 parks we’ve visited and definitely not your everyday forest.

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