If you relish unusual rocks, then Petrified Wood National Park is the place to visit. We adore rocks so much so that we have an enormous collection, so big it is overtaking a portion of our house. Fascinated by the petrification of wood, we decided that it was time to pay a visit to the national park which houses the largest collection of petrified wood in the world. Located in Eastern Arizona not far from the Crater site should be of anyone’s bucket list.
There are two entrances to the park. The southern end houses the petrified wood forest whilst the northern end turns into a painted desert landscape. Arriving at the park on a hot summer day is sometimes a little uncomfortable but the beauty of the park worth all the inconvenience and I was told by a friendly mounted park ranger that summers are the busiest times for them.
The visitor center provides essential information about the history of the park and its formation. You can learn about the petrified wood and the Triassic – era fossils located at the museum. There is also an introductory film which talks about the history of the park. There are skeletons of prehistoric animals, massive petrified and polished wood collection available to explore.
History of the park
Over 200 million years ago, the petrified forest was located near the subtropical region where common volcanic eruptions caused these giants trees to fell down and the ashes containing silica produced by these eruptions dissolved in the water carried into trees’ trunks, absorbed into the porous wood, and replaced the organic matter. Over time those trees became crystallized, becoming giant crystal trees.
Don’t take Petrified wood home
Once you are out from the visitor center, stay on the trails is recommended even though many visitors venture off trails looking for beautiful petrified wood pieces. It’s hard enough to avoid taking those small pieces of rocks as souvenirs but it’s highly recommended not to because, first, it’s illegal to take any national parks’ treasures outside the park and second, you are subject to vehicle search at the exit point. You risk being fined if you possess any pieces from the park. And finally, there seems to be a curse of the Petrified wood where bad luck lurks on anyone who steals them for the rest of his/her life. If you are interested in learning about the curse more then, you can read it here. Our kids liked to venture and scream about each petrified wood they came to encounter. They enjoyed the massive tree trunks, root systems and loving its rainbow-like colors. On a side note, like many other visitors, I was tempted to take a small piece of wood from the park, although my wife kept telling me not too. I did take a tiny piece of wood and put it into my car, only to be plagued with guilt before leaving, gently setting the wood on the side of the road before leaving so I understand how tempting it can be. It was after I left that I found out about the curse. I have never been so happy to have a nagging wife in my life.
The surrounding area looks desolate and sultry but memorizing. Everywhere you glance, there is a petrified wood stump, a tree, a whole tree with its root system, and pieces of wood scattered all over the path or some of the stones are used to pave the trail. Once you are far on the trail, the small vistas seem like they are all made with petrified wood. There are pieces of wood sticking out of the mysterious and dramatic vistas. Sometimes you wonder how much wood is buried underneath. It’s a vast park and the only way to see it all is simply driving by and stopping in different locations to admire them. Even though they look the same after hours of walking, each tree and each piece of stone are different. Some trees show beautiful reddish colors made essentially iron oxide while others show dark grayish colors. The fissures on tree trunks are visible which indicates the harsh weather conditions in the Arizona region. Although they have experienced harsh conditions, the tree trunks show exactly what they are made out of. The tree rims, the vascular system, and the bark were remarkably conserved.
If you touch those petrified wood. They look and feel exactly like rocks. They are shiny, waxy, heavy, and beautiful. If you would like to have a piece for a souvenir, the gift shop sells them at a reasonable cost, and I was told that those pieces are not cursed.
Along the way, the hills which shows beautiful color and plenty of trails if you are the brave type to hit those and admire the beauty of the park. The park doesn’t always have petrified wood everywhere. Some areas, there is nothing but some rolling hills and beautiful vistas. You can drive all the way through the park and admire every piece.
There are so many lookout points that provide panoramic of the park’s striking Painted Desert section including the Tawa, Tiponi, Chinde, Pintado, Nizhoni, Kachina, Whipple, and Lacy points to stop by and admire the vast majestic landscape around the national park. We have kids, so, often we have to stop, admire, and go avoiding the trouble of getting the kids in and out of the car. We saw most of the park with a slow drive and stopping at a few of the noted viewpoints. The park’s landscape is like no other than a beautiful, barren, and unforgettable desert experience.
Keep in mind that the park is only open during specific visiting hours and there are no campgrounds in the park or overnight parking.