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, Arizona1. The Crystal Forest, withing the Petrified Forest, contains beautiful pieces of petrified wood.
Fallen logs were buried in silt and volcanic ash and cut off from oxygen; decay was delayed. Silica from ground water seeped into the logs and slowly
replaced the wood with silica deposits. Over time the silica crystalized into quartz, forever preserving the logs as petrified wood. The vivid colors of the crystal patterns found in petrified wood
are caused by minerals in the silica saturated water 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.
Rainbow Museum is a "must stop". A 20 minute slide show covers history and geology of the area. View exhibits of fossils including those
of dinosaurs. The Rainbow Forest Curios and Fountain offers delicious fountain drinks, ice cream and gifts. A piece of advice: don't order two scoops for your cone unless you are very hungry!
While driving throughout the Petrified Forest park, 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 (see photos below).
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.
Puerco Pueblo, located on the park road on the south side of I 40, housed approximately 1,200 people 600-800 years ago1. Take the self guided tour via the short paved trail to view the pueblo remains and petroglyphs. Do not touch the petroglyphs; oils from hands can damage them.
Below: Petroglyphs at Puerco Pueblo. 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:
Looking at the present day terrain it is difficult to imagine that this was once a flood plain, providing a wet environment for conifer trees and animals.
PHOTOS IN SLIDES ABOVE
Petrified wood in Crystal Forest. These very colorful petrified pieces once held amethyst and quartz crystals, but the crystals were taken before the area became protected as a national park.
PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT
Puerco Ruin. A paved trail winds through the Puerco Ruin and provides views of the surrounding terrain. Petroglyphs can be seen on stones near the pueblo. For more information on the Puerco Ruin, go to: www.nps.gov/pefo.
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