Petrified Forest National Park in NE Arizona was set aside back in 1906 to protect one of the largest petrified wood deposits in the world. We spent a day driving around to all the pullouts and hiking to see all the awesome sites. I’ve detailed some highlights below.
Giant Logs Trail
We started at the Rainbow Forest Museum and the Giant Logs Trail. About 216 million years ago, trees dies and fell into a river. They were buried beneath layers of mud, sand, and volcanic ash that protected them from decay. Mineral heavy ground water saturated the wood and the silica and quartz crystals bonded with the cells of the tree and replaced the wood material. Now all these trees are made of stone, not wood. The trace minerals are what gives the petrified logs their brilliant colors. The trail is kind of a quick introduction to petrified wood.
Agate House and Agate Bridge
The Agate House hike was about 2 miles and showcased a pueblo reconstructed of petrified wood. The foundation for the 8 room pueblo was found buried, and the reconstruction used the petrified wood on the surface to rebuild the walls.
The Agate Bridge is a 110 foot petrified log spanning a gully. Water is eroding it and the National Park Service took steps to preserve it by building a concrete support underneath. That would never happen these days.
Blue Mesa Hike
Blue Mesa hike is only one mile and it’s worth it! We descended into the badland hills of purpleish bentonite clay on a mostly paved trail. Petrified wood is scattered about all over the hills and made for a cool contrast.
We did a 3 mile hike around Jasper Forest. It’s what the park calls an “off the beaten path” hike in that there is no real trail, just some general directions like “head north”, or “veer south at the big rock”. It was fun to poke around and get back in the forest of petrified wood to explore. We turned around at the big Eagles Nest Rock hoodoo. The Eagles Nest Rock was a 35′ high erosive pinnacle of sandstone named from the nest found at the top. It collapsed in January 1941 following heavy rains. The base is still there but it isn’t as impressive as it was back then.
Painted Desert Inn
Painted Desert in is built of petrified wood and native stone back in 1920. It used to be a tourist attraction complete with a lunchroom, a taproom, and small rooms. Unfortunately, the inn was build on a seam of bentonite clay and the foundation of the inn started to crash and shift. In 1936 the Petrified Forest National Monument bought the inn for $59,400 and the Civilian Conservation Corps restored it. It’s a beautiful building with hand painted skylight panels and giant ponderosa pine and aspen beams.