My Morning at Petrified Forest National Park

It’s worth half a day. Heading out to the UT, I figured I ought to get this park checked off my list. It’s sort of on the way if you want it to be (probably added a couple hours to my drive up to Zion NP). The park includes more than just a petrified forest (which, contrary to the image conjured by the name, isn’t filled with wall-to-wall upright trees that block out the sun), but also includes some petroglyphs (!) and some deserty area.

First you get the desert. No, wait, first you get the sign. This happens just after you get off I-40.

The sign is reassuring that you got off on the correct middle-of-nowhere exit.

The sign reassures that you got off on the correct middle-of-nowhere exit.

Okay, then you technically get the visitors center and the main gate, then you get the desert. Which looks a lot like a desert, colorful version.

petrified forest painted desert

This is a panorama.

You can go hike around to your heart’s content starting at some lodge they got there. You hike down from the lodge and its hard to ever get it fully out of your vision, so getting lost is something you would kind of have to work toward. Also, the desert actually includes a lot of petrified wood fragments. Anyway, spent about 90 minutes hiking around, trying to find a destination that was suggested on a map at the lodge place. I doubt I found it.

Here are a couple of photos for my trouble.

Hooray for desert!

Hooray for desert!

And yet more thereof.

And yet more thereof.

Oh wait, here’s a third that seems to convey the feeling.

Still desert.

Still desert.

From the desert, The One Drive… Look, so the park is basically one road. It goes about 20 miles. There’s nothing really to do at the park but drive on this one road. Sure, you can park and walk and look at stuff, but, basically, you’re always pretty tied to the road. So, from the desert, The One Drive curls around and crosses the 40. Then you get into a couple of nice petroglyphy areas. Here’s evidence:


There’s also the foundations of a Puebloan village there, but it was kind of hot to be getting excited about ancient foundations.

Once you’ve done petroglyphs, you’ve earned your way to petrified wood. There’s a lot of it. Often times you’ll see an entire log on its side, strangely cut up into sections (supposedly due to the way silica naturally fractures). Some of it’s very pretty and it’s not hard to understand why/how people steal it out of the park. A lot of it really is pocket-sized and it just seems like there’s *so* *much* of it. Anyway, photos:

Stump, log sections.

Stump, log sections.

According to Wikipedia, not done with a chainsaw.

According to Wikipedia, not done with a chainsaw.

How do I rate the park? No one’s ever asked that. Whatever. It’s a nice way to spend half a day if you’re in the area. Probably not a location to try and base a multi-day vacation on. Or to, like, travel across the globe specifically to see.

Using my AIA™ National Park Rating Scale, Petrified Forest rates an 8 (out of 15).

Amazingness: 3/5. The petrified wood is pretty cool and uniquely pretty. The desert kind of pales to some of the redder, rockier variations (e.g., Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands).

Infiniteness: 3/5. There’s a lot of desert there if you’ve never poked your way around one before.

Adventure: 2/5. Not much reason to get more than a half mile away from the one road, although there’s enough desert there that, if you insist, the park can accommodate.





    • bkdunn

      Seems like there was more grass at TRNP. Maybe my memory has romanticized the experience.