Petrified Forest National Park
January 1, 2006


Petrified Forest National Park is an interesting place to visit, a lonely stretch of badlands and plains in the Arizona high country southeast of Holbrook. The park is essentially two parts: the southern part with the ancient stone trees lying about the crusty badlands, and the Painted Desert, a panorama of colorful countryside in the north segment of the park.

My first visit here was back in 1994 with some old college friends passing through. This visit was with Beth, and we made this our “New Years Getaway”. We drove up the day before and got a hotel room in Winslow at the Super-8. The two women running the place were Navajo, highly amused we had deliberately come here instead of somewhere more interesting. They both had dreams of some day going to Lake Havasu City. We mentioned that it was just a four-hour drive west along Interstate-40, and to just go for it. We hope they did. Us, we were one of very few people in the hotel. Our New Year’s celebration was fairly quiet.

On New Year’s Day we headed east toward the national park, entering it on its south end and stopping in at some souvenir places that specialize in polished stones and geodes. It’s bad mojo to pick up and take actual petrified wood from within the park, so this little place allows one to buy such items without upsetting the deities. Beth loves rocks and could easily spend the day in such a store. We picked up some geode bookends.

Once we had our legally-bought rocks, we drove north into the park and stopped at a few overlooks and one place where you can walk an asphalt-path through a dense collection of the petrified logs laying everywhere. These logs are interesting to view, and larger than expected. The whole area is very remote, the kind of place that best is described as “high lonesome”. Also, not many people actually come here. We had a fun time and some easy short nature walks.

Driving north we stopped at the overlook for the Painted Desert. The land below drops steeply into a valley, with an extensive network of badlands eroded into wild maze-like shapes, colors ranging from gray to red to green to tan to ochre to umber. A lonely mesa called Pilot Mountain is off in the distance, the highest point in the national park. But getting there looks like quite a long hike amid badlands. We stuck around about an hour before moving on. We also toured the visitor’s center, and overall spent about five hours within the park before driving back to Winslow.

Photos (Click to enlarge)

Petrefied logs

Me on the nature walk

More logs

Interesting fracturing


Pilot Peak

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(c) 2006, 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only.