Destination: Petrified Forest National Park (and the Painted Desert)

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Standing in front of the desert’s Blue Mesa.

I visited the Petrified Forest National Park and Arizona’s Painted Desert the day after visiting the Grand Canyon. I’m a busy lady with a penchant for parks.

Confession: I liked the Painted Desert better than the Grand Canyon. The latter is stunning, but here’s why I feel this way:

  • It’s less touristy; visitors are fairly infrequent compared to more popular parks.
  • The topography changes constantly, versus staring at one big canyon all day (also gorgeous, but change is good).
  • The landscape feels alien; we’ve all seen canyons and know what they look like, but these rocks were something else.

Several of the park’s formations are other-worldly:

Petrified Forest National Park Petrified Forest National Park Petrified Forest National Park Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest National Park is near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, and the rocks found in the park date back up to 225 million years. The oldest part of the park is the Blue Mesa, pictured below and named for its blue tint.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest National Park’s Blue Mesa, dating back 225 million years.

As for the Painted Desert, it’s an area of “badlands” that stretches from the Grand Canyon across much of the Navajo reservation and into the north end of the Petrified Forest – as viewed here, toward to end of my 28-mile drive through the park:

Petrified Forest National Park

Badlands of the Painted Desert

Badlands of the Painted Desert Tip: Don’t go in the middle of the afternoon. The colors of the rocks show better in the early morning (I’m told). If you must travel through during the afternoon, be aware that there is little to no shade available during your drive across the park and during any hikes from its various points of interest.

Learn more about the Petrified Forest National Park here.

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