Home » 2002 Cross Country Road Trip

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 10:00am by Lolo
115 miles and 2.25 hours from our last stop


Petrified Forest National Park was one of those stops that I'm embarrassed to say we visited, because we hardly saw any of it. At this point in our journey, we were on our way home and didn't have the ½ day needed to really do the park justice. However, knowing that the Painted Desert Visitor Center was less than a mile off I40, we just couldn't resist pulling off for a quick look see.

Cranky offspring suffering trip fatigueCranky offspring suffering trip fatigueThe park is actually divided into 2 sections, and we were in the much smaller part, north of I40. This was the section that contained the spectacular colorful badlands of the Painted Desert. South of I40 was the major part of the park, a 25-mile drive through an area containing one of the world's largest concentrations of petrified wood.

I hate to admit it, but all we did was stop at the Visitor Center and then drive to Kachina Point Lookout where we gazed blankly at the breathtaking beauty of the colorful badlands of the Painted Desert. If this had been our first experience with the beauty that the West had to offer, we would have been floored. Unfortunately, it was late in the day and we were at the end of a multi-week trip where we had seen so many beautiful places that we were suffering from sensory overload and trip fatigue. It was hard to get the kids worked up about another incredible sight when they had already seen so many in our 3 weeks of travel. This would have been a totally different experience if it had been at the beginning of our trip. I made one feeble attempt to get the family to hike the Rim Trail to Tawa Point (I hate to go down without a fight), but they refused.

This is definitely a place that I want to come back to when we are more fresh and enthusiastic as there are an awful lot of things to see and do here. I can't believe that my only sighting of petrified wood was in a gift shop.


Petrified Forest National Park, which is located along I40 in eastern Arizona, consists of two main sections. The section south of I40 contains one of the world's largest concentrations of petrified wood. North of I40 are the colorful rocks and buttes that make up the badlands of the Painted Desert.

The best way to see the park is to drive the 27-mile park road from the southern entrance to the north. A good first stop is the Rainbow Forest Museum. Behind the museum is the ½-mile, self-guided Giant Logs Trail, which leads through one of the four major concentrations of petrified logs in the park. The largest petrified log is Old Faithful, which is 9 ½ feet in diameter.

A short spur road leads to Long Logs and the Agate House. At Long Logs there is a ½-mile loop trail that leads through the largest concentration of petrified wood in the park. Some of the logs are as long as 170 feet. The 1-mile-long Agate House Trail leads to an Anasazi pueblo made of petrified wood.

Continuing north on the park road, you'll come to the Crystal Forest where the petrified logs were once filled with quartz and amethyst crystals. Although gem hunters have taken most of the crystals before this area was a National Park, there are still some very colorful logs to see along the 0.8-mile loop trail.

Further north, a 3-mile spur road leads to Blue Mesa, with its blue and purple-striped badlands. A fairly difficult, 1-mile loop trail descends into the mesa. Many consider this to be one of the most scenic trails in the park.

The next stop is the Puerco Indian Ruin, the remains of an Anasazi village occupied in the 1100 - 1300s. There are also petroglyphs carved out of the patina of the rocks surrounding the pueblo.

The park road then crosses I40 and enters the Painted Desert portion of the park. Along the road to the Visitor Center there are 8 overlooks, each affording a different perspective of this colorful landscape. One of the most spectacular is Pintado Point, the highest point along the rim of the Painted Desert. At Kachina Point is the Painted Desert Inn, now closed, and the trailheads for the Painted Desert Wilderness Trail and the Painted Desert Rim Trail. The Wilderness Trail steeply descends in switchbacks down the face of the badlands onto the floor of the Painted Desert. With a backcountry permit, you can camp here and watch the sun set over the badlands. The Rim Trail runs along the rim of the Painted Desert from Kachina to Tawa Point. Along the way there are spectacular views of the colorful badlands of the Painted Desert.

Petrified Forest National Park location map in "high definition"

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