From I-40, take exit 311 and go north to the Visitor's Center to pay fee and collect maps and information. The Visitor's Center also
provides a 20 minute movie about the history and geology of the area. The north end of the park provides excellent views of the Painted Desert, which runs from just east of the Grand Canyon southeast to St. Johns, Arizona. Forces of nature, including erosion and deposits of minerals, have created the forms and colors that make up the Painted Desert. It has taken over 200 million years to create what you see before you 1.
The 28 mile park road loops around to the south
and continues on through the park into the petrified forest area and eventually ends at Hwy 180.
The Rainbow Forest Museum is located on the south end of the park and contains exhibits and information on geology, history and paleontology.
Don't miss the several archeological sites containing remains of old homesteads. People have inhabited the Petrified Forest area for over 13,000 years 1. Petroglyphs can still be seen on rocks. Go to our page on the Petrified Forest to see our photos of petrified wood and petroglyphs.
The park offers several picnic areas and hiking trails. To encourage visitors to more thoroughly enjoy the area, new back country trails are available.
For maps and information on hiking and exploring the area, go to: www.nps.gov/pefo.
Looking at the Painted Desert, it is easy to imagine it as it once was - an inland basin. Wind and running water carved the
features of what is now known as the Painted Desert. Environmental conditions at the time the sediments were originally
deposited, plus various minerals in the rocks, created the vivid colors of the Painted Desert. Water from thunderstorms and melting snow
continue to erode and carve the landscape. Three inches of soil can be washed away in 10 years 1. People have inhabited the area for thousands of years; learn about their history and cultures by visiting the visitor's center.
To read the fascinating history of how this area was formed, and the people who have made this area their home, go to:
Tiponi Point (slide 4 top of page) is a good place to stop for photos and take in the vastness of the Painted Desert.
PHOTO AT RIGHT
The vivid blue sky, brilliant white cloud formations, multi-colored desert, green foliage and brightly blooming flowers create a colorful display.
As in all Arizona travel, take plenty of water and sunscreen. There is not a lot of shade on these trails; so take a wide
brimmed hat and a good pair of sun glasses. Respect the area. Don't collect anything and don't leave anything behind.
1. "Petrified Forest." National Park Service: US Department of the Interior