Bryce wanted to do some hiking, so we drove up the road to the Petrified Forest National Park – Painted Desert Visitor Center. It was Veteran’s Day weekend, so all of the National Parks were offering free entry, so we didn’t even need our National Park pass.
Our drive started in the Painted Desert area of the park, where there were multiple pull-offs for viewing the amazing landscape.
The colors were absolutely incredible!
It looks like those sand crafts I remember making as a kid – where you layer different colors of sand in a jar.
The last stop in the Painted Desert was a short stretch of unpaved Route 66, marked by the shell of an old car.
The boys thought it was a pretty cool old relic from Route 66!
After our little break, we crossed over I-40 and entered the Petrified Forest area of the park.
From there, we continued to Blue Mesa – the Ranger in the Visitor Center had highly recommended this 1-mile hike, so we filled our water bottles and set out on the trail.
This area of the park really reminded us of the Badlands of South Dakota; only the colors were different, and the formations were not as tall.
The paved trail started out at the top of the mesa, then took us down to the desert floor where we started seeing fragments of petrified logs.
We were amazed at how few people were in the park on a Saturday . . . we saw one couple on our way down, and another small group when we were almost back to the beginning of the trail. Other than that, we were all alone!
We saw more examples of petrified wood,
and admired the beautiful color of the mesas – although I think they should have been called Purple Mesa instead of Blue Mesa.
The return to the top was a little more strenuous, but there was a handy bench for taking a break.
The soft sandstone under this tree had eroded away over time, leaving the log spanning a ravine. The sign explained that the organization that operated the park prior to the National Park Service reinforced the log so that it would not fall, but had it been a National Park at the time, this would not have been done. It would have been left in its natural state and probably would have eventually collapsed.
Our next two stops were areas where giant petrified logs were plentiful, and there were also plenty of reminders that collecting pieces of petrified wood is illegal.
This guy were keeping a close eye on all the visitors!
The Crystal Forest Trail was an easy 3/4 mile paved path through the old giants.
It was amazing to us that these giant trees just cracked and broke apart in these sections.
This path is called the Crystal Forest because there are so many examples of crystalized petrified logs – they are really beautiful and colorful!
Others still looked like wood – it just depended on the amount of chemical reaction that happened in the log while it was buried under mud and silica.
There were even areas that looked like beds of wood chips . . . petrified mulch! I bet you don’t have to replace that too often!
This last giant is called “Old Faithful” and is located at the Museum . . . it looks like it still has the roots attached, and it really is a giant!
The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert were very beautiful and interesting, and we’re glad we took the time to visit!