November 17, 2018
Written by: Colin
AZ to MI
Petrified Forest National Park, located in northeast Arizona, was established in 1962. A portion of the park is located along old Route 66 (of which, I am a huge fan of, and ties into the rest of the story of our visit to this park). I moved from Michigan to Arizona in 2018 and took the Mother Road from Chicago to northern Arizona, as my route across the country. When I ended up moving BACK to Michigan, Kayla flew out to Phoenix to make a trip out of it with me. This park was our first stop of 6 National Parks on our trek back to the Great Lakes State.
Our Planned Route from AZ to MI
We were especially excited to see these bark-turned-stone creations and learn the history behind it (more on that below). We stopped at the visitor center, to get our sticker and magnet, and then did a short hike; the Giant Logs Trail, located just behind the southern Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center. A short, 0.3 mile loop, this trail has 11 numbered posts explaining how the wood becomes petrified and all the history behind it. This is the perfect little trail to get acclimated to the park and learn the history of the area you are in.
Giant Logs Trail
This area of “forest” was once home to a river, some 216 million years ago. As the river cut through, the trees fell in and became buried beneath the soil, volcanic ash and mud, protecting them from decay. The water, filled with minerals, flowed through the bark and over time, the dead wood became saturated with these minerals. Slowly, the minerals bonded together with the cells of the logs and eventually turned the inside of the bark to stone. Millions of years later, we are able to enjoy these colorful and natural beauties.
For the most part, this is a drive-through park. One main road took us from the south end, to the north end. We stopped at a handful of points-of-interest and hit some of the short trails. Crystal Forest Trail was our next stop and had tons of up-close and personal examples of petrified wood. It was weird though, because so many of these long longs were, what appeared to be, chopped up. Although it looks like human interaction, the cutting of the wood is actually all natural, as explained by the National Parks Service.
“It takes many, many layers of dirt to make a hill. That is a lot of weight on top of the buried petrified logs. All that weight crushed and broke the logs...Petrified wood is mostly silica-quartz minerals. Silica naturally breaks on a clean angle. Drop a piece of chalk and you’ll see the same effect”.
"Chopped-Up" Petrified Logs
FIRE UP CHIPS!
Piles of Petrified Wood
After the Crystal Forest Trail, our next stop took us to the Badlands area of the park. The Blue Mesa area is about ⅓ the way through the park. Blue Mesa is a 3.5 mile loop drive, with a 1 mile hiking trail. This trail is a must-do. You’re able to hike in and around the Badlands and get up-close and personal with all the vibrant colors. It is a nice little tease of Badlands National Park.
On top of the Badlands
Inside the Badlands
After the Badlands, we briefly stopped at Newspaper Rock. Here, you can faintly make-out some petroglyphs that are over 2,000 years old. I’m not sure if we weren’t looking in the incorrect areas, or if these are just too faded, but this was a quick stop for us. Next, we finally made our way to the Route 66 crossing. A bench and a 1932 Studebaker marks where the original route made its’ way through the park. An exciting stop that was a surprise to us at the time.
Original Route 66 Crossing in Petrified Forest National Park
A 1935 Studebaker signifies the Route 66 path.
As we headed out of the park, we made a stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center for lunch. There’s a gift shop, along with a little cafe. As you exit the park, you are subject to search. Please help all of us preserve this amazing archeological phenomenon for all future generations, by taking with you, only pictures and memories, as you travel throughout Petrified Forest National Park!