Oh yes, the Petrified Forest National Park has been on my must-visit list for years, and my recent scenic drive tour has only conjured up plans for a re-visit to backpack the backcountry overnight and hike some of the incredible trails.
The park was initially dedicated in 1906 and became a National Park in 1962. The 28-mile scenic drive gives each visitor the visual excitement of colorful desert landscapes and rock formations. The Petrified desert visitor’s center was my starting point where there is a gas station along with a snack bar to begin your scenic travel journey towards the Rainbow Forest Musem and visitors center.
For decades paleontologist and archeologist have and continue to researched and study the Petrified Forest. Their work has produced data revealing how the National Park was initially an ancient rainforest.
When I looked out across the vast, colorful desert, I try to imagine a rain forest before me during the Triassic Period when tectonic forces slowly split the supercontinent in two. This caused a portion of the landmass to break away from what is present-day Costa Rica, near the equator to become part of North American’s modern-day Arizona
Over time the rainforest transitioned to become the remnants of a prehistoric forest, now petrified wood, plants, animal fossils and artifacts leave a trail for explorers to discover.
The discoveries reveal a past world during the late Triassic Period on the dawn of the dinosaurs when smaller animals and mammals struggled with various crocodile-like reptiles for survival.
In some places throughout the park remnants of the prehistoric forest lie visible across the landscape in colorful small shards to large trucks.
The now petrified trees fell to the ground soaking up the volcanic water filled with sediment and various minerals to create the rainbow of colors seen in many places throughout the park.
The Rainbow Forest Museum has various colorful paleontology exhibits with trail access points to view many more. In the park’s center are the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock and the ruined village of Puerco Pueblo. The Painted Desert Inn, was originally built in the 1930’s as a hotel in the shape of an adobe style building, but it is currently is a museum with Hopi murals.
The hiking paths are numerous and filled with vistas capturing the eye in every direction and many are short walks into a canyon near the scenic pull-offs. So, you should make an appointment to visit and see with your own eyes the pre-historic wonders of natures natural beauty. 🙂