When I was a kid, my parents took me to The Petrified Forest in Arizona. Standing in the desert, I would pick up these rocks and admire them wondering how on earth they became these beautiful and unique pieces of art. Actually, I probably thought of them as just awesome rocks! But now as an adult, I still stand in the desert with the wind in my hair, admiring them.
The Petrified Forest isn’t really a forest as some may think. It is a vast desert full of fossils dating back to the Triassic Period about 225 million years ago. The fossils are sacred and should not be taken away from their site – because if everyone did there would be none left to enjoy. Many of these fossils are of large rocks and tree logs now composed of mineral deposits which give each one their unique colors. Long ago, the trees were covered by water from the rivers and volcanic ash sediment. This mixture created silica formed quartz crystals giving the logs these colors.
The visitors center in the north-end of the park is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s almost like a museum showing real fossilized Triassic animals that have been found in the park on display. You can learn a lot just by going on a self-guided tour through this building. The park itself has a long scenic road that takes you from one entrance to another making it the perfect drive to take it all in. We didn’t have a lot of time for hiking or other activities, so we took this road through the Painted Desert and Crystal Forest. We were also able to see part of the historic Route 66 route which cuts across the park and the routes’ most popular photographed car. Near this area, just outside of the park resides an older gas station still in use today with tons of Route 66 memorabilia for sale.
As mentioned above, along the scenic road there are many pull off spots to stop and take photos as well as take short walks/hikes through the desert. The drive is certainly scenic from the painted desert to the plains, it’s hard to NOT stop in AWE!
At the North entrance there are two large gift shops. Both offer you a tiny petrified rock as a welcome gift or a gift with purchase. We both were able to get a tiny one to take home with us as a keepsake. The gift shop area also has some cute areas to take photographs at.
Every time I write a blog post, whether it’s throw-back Thursday or not, I get such a sense of wanderlust and longing to go back and relive it all again. Just like the other National Parks we’ve seen, I can’t wait to go back eventually and experience it over again and even more. Petrified Forest is certainly a beautiful park that everyone has to experience at least once. ☮