You'll suddenly step back 200 million years when you explore the Petrified Forest. Home to some of the earliest dinosaurs, this park is truly one of a kind. Here you'll find one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world, as well as dramatically colored geologic formations.
Visitor Center Location:
How to Get There:
There are two entrances for Petrified Forest National Park and your direction of travel will determine the one you enter at, for the most convenience.
Interstate 40 travelers should take Exit 311, drive the 28 miles through the park and connect with Highway 180 at the south end. Travel 19 miles on Highway 180 North to return to Interstate 40 via Holbrook.
Eastbound Interstate 40 travelers should take Exit 285 into Holbrook then travel 19 miles on Highway 180 South to the park's south entrance. Drive the 28 miles north through the park to return to Interstate 40.
Things to See:
The first viewpoint that you'll come across if entering from the North. According to the NPS website, "Tiponi Point" comes from the Hopi word, "tiponi", representing corn mother, or mother of the people carried during migrations. Here you can view the red part of the painted desert.
1 1/2 miles from the northern entrance is Tawa point where there are two trailheads. The Painted Desert Rim Trail and Tawa Trail. It's named after the Hopi Sun Spirit, Tawa.
Tawa Trail: 1.2 miles one-way.
Painted Desert Rim: 0.5 one-way
You have the option to drive the length of the 1.2 mile trail, so we opted for that! You of course could've had the option of hiking it but we were on a time crunch so we decided to drive so that we could maximize our time.
According to the information signs, this is black basalt, which formed the rim of the plateau of which we were standing on when this photo was taken. It's called the "Bidahochi Formation" and was deposited by local volcanoes between 16 and 5 million years ago. Believe it or not, this is the new deposit, which serves as a protectant for the older layer beneath--the "Chinle Formation".
Iowa congressman, John Fletcher Lacey strongly advocated the protection of public lands and the resources within them. According to the signs in the park, Lacey was most prominently known for the Lacey Act of 1900, which protected both plants and wildlife. How cool is that?!
Did you know that Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park with a portion of the iconic Route 66 within its boundaries? We definitely needed to stop and take a photo by this sign!
Here you'll see more than 650 images carved into the boulders. The Puebloan people drew them nearly 650 and 2,000 years ago.
Distance: 1 mile loop
The Blue Mesa overlook and trail is probably the most famous viewpoint in the park. We kept seeing a lot of advertising for it and when we finally arrived, it definitely looked like the most colorful and interesting formations out of everything we saw in the park. We only went to the viewpoint because it was one of out last stops in the park and to be completely honest... we were ready to leave lol.
I hate to say it but this is one of my least favorite national parks. We're big mountain people and this wasn't really our cup of tea... however I'm glad we stopped. This, in my opinion, is a place you only need to stop at once and you'll easily see it all in one day. It's very RV-Friendly too, which is awesome for those traveling in that way. It's a great place for kids, people who are a little bit older, and those who aren't too keen on hiking. If you're driving near the area, just stop and check it off your list, because why not!
As always, let me know if you have any questions and thanks for reading!!