1906: National Monument
About the SiteThis is another Park that delivers what it promises. The Petrified Forest has one of the world's largest concentrations of petrified wood. It also boasts the multihued badlands of the Painted Desert, along with archaeological sites and displays of 225-million-year-old fossils. In short, there are plenty of reasons for a visitor to spend time here, exploring the past, present and future.
The Petrified Forest now sits on a high, dry tableland, but that wasn't always the case. Long ago this was a vast floodplain crossed by many streams. Indeed, some scientists think that this was once part of a watershed system greater than the Mississippi. Tall pine-like trees carpeted the area. Huge crocodile-like reptiles, small dinosaurs and giant amphbians called this place home and lived among the ferns, cycads, and other plants that are only fossils today.
What You're Going to SeeThe Park can be separated into two main areas. The southern part of the park is where you'll find the greatest concentration of fossilized trees. Don't overlook the Rainbow Forest Museum, located near the southern entrance. Inside you'll find a brilliantly colored example of petrified rock, cut and smoothed to perfection. One road links both ends of the park, so take your time driving south to north, and stop at the various pullouts to enjoy the beauty.
Personal ObservationsI first visited the Petrified Forest at the beginning of a July downpour; I was advised by concerned rangers not to leave my car. So, the picture of the Painted Desert is the one good photo I got of that section of the Park. I took it just north of the main Visitors Center. Then in March of 2005, during a long weekend at a cabin in Pinetop, I was able to sneak away for half a day and see the Petrified Forest. Aha! Now I now what the fuss is about. But why is it that, every time I visit a Park famous for its colors, I'm blessed with cloudy weather? Hey, at least I made it. This trip I only got to see the southern part, but it is impressive. Petrified logs are scattered about, boasting amazing minerals and colors.
Getting ThereFrom Flagstaff, travel east on I-40 to exit 311. Turn right on that road, and it will lead you directly to Park Headquarters in less than a mile.
Nearby AttractionsTo the north, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is about 40 miles away, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument is about 80 miles away. To the west, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument are about 85 miles away, and Walnut Canyon National Monument is about 95 miles away. Meteor Crater (privately owned) is about 60 miles to the west. El Morro National Monument is about 95 miles east, in New Mexico.