This park is a hidden gem. Trees turn into magical rocks here in Petrified Forest! I mean, come on! I’ll get a little science-y and explain more about that in a second. We only spent the day here because it was so cold and extremely windy, but we still felt like we were still able to see so much. If we were to come back though under better circumstances, we could love to explore the backcountry parts of the park more.
So, HOW exactly do living trees all of a sudden turn into actual rocks you ask?! Well, it doesn’t happen all of a sudden, but it’s really cool. The petrification process begins when a tree falls and is buried under sediment or volcanic ash. Water then comes through and deposits minerals throughout the organic material. Slowly, the tree decays and a stone mold forms in its place. What did I tell you, magical right?! Oh science. Often, the trees-turned stone will lay in chunks scattered around, but sometimes they stay in a general log-shaped way.
We started in the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center and toured around there. We stood next to a huge petrified log that Albert Einstein once admired. Somehow it always makes me feel cool to think I stood in the same place as such a great mind. Then, we started heading north up the road through the park and stopped at as many of the significant points along the way as we could.
Look! Someone knew we were coming and wrote M + C for us on the trail! Thanks guys.
My belly is starting to get too big to tie my own shoes. Luckily, I have the best husband and trail buddy to take care of me.
We hiked a couple miles on the Long Logs trail and then to the Agate House to check out this cute little hut made from a collection of petrified wood. Wouldn’t that make the coolest backsplash for the RV kitchen sink? Just don’t try and pocket any from the park – there are HEAVY fines for stealing the petrified wood.
After we checked out the Agate bridge. You can kind of see it behind us stretching across from rock to rock. We were shocked to see that it was being supported by a concrete slab that they installed in the 50’s. It interesting to see the difference in what the NPS did back in the day, and would would be considered an unacceptable practice today.
Vlads had a great time romping around on the rocks and of course rolling in the dirt as much as possible.
This is the view from Agate Bridge overlook with beautifully exposed layers of badland formations in the distance.
We loved driving through the Teepee formations. There were hardly any other visitors in the park. I think we only passed 3 cars on the road the whole time. We felt like we were all alone in this strange land of magical rocks.
Our stop at Newspaper Rock was especially cool. The petroglyphs etched on these rocks are upwards of 2,000 years old! I loved looking at them and thinking about the stories of the ancestral Puebloan people who once dwelled in this land.
There were tons of etchings on both sides of Newspaper Rock – more than 650!
Here are some more up-close views of the drawings. I love the hand print on the far right corner.
According to modern native groups, these glyphs could have been based on family, clan symbols, territorial boundaries, important events and spiritual meanings.
Layers of meaning and layers of clothing. This park has so many layers of meaning etched into it’s boundaries, and also you need layers of clothing to experience it. We were freezing!
Did we mention that the Highway of Dreams stretches right through this park too!
Can you imagine cruising down Route 66 in this old Studebaker back in its prime?!
From 1926 to 1958 this route was the primary way for millions of travelers to experience Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.
From Lacey Point we could see a pretty gnarly storm brewing in the distance. We made it to the Painted Desert region at the north end of the park and were pretty satisfied with everything that we got to see.
We’ve had some pretty cold nights recently. I’m not going to lie – sometimes it can be hysterical miserable when we are getting ready for bed and we get out our winter sleeping bags and boil water for our Nalgenes and sleep with hot water bottles in our sleeping bags in order to survive. Vlads is smart too and always curls up with us in one of our bags. Before this park, we slept at a Cracker Barrel and because our pipes had frozen, we had to eat breakfast and brush our teeth in the restaurant haha. No shame. Road life is funny like that sometimes. Summer RVing is so much simpler than winter traveling we are realizing! But, we are still so grateful to be on the road and experience so many rad parks. We love Petrified Forest!