After driving from Page we parked our RV just outside Flagstaff at the Meteor Crater RV Park, excited to explore the Petrified Forest National Parks unique features the next morning. The petrified forest is the centerpiece of this national park where Millions of years ago this area was covered by a lush forest that was home to dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Over time, natural forces caused the trees to fall and be buried under sediment. Slowly but surely, minerals from the sediment replaced the wood, creating the stunning petrified wood we see today.
Our first stop the next morning was the south entrance off of Hwy 180, where we were greeted by the park’s vast expanse. As soon as we entered the Petrified Forest NP, we were immediately transported to a prehistoric wonderland that left us in awe. This sprawling desert landscape, located in northeastern Arizona, is home to some of the most fascinating geological wonders on earth. The park covers over 200 square miles, so we had a lot of ground to cover. We were immediately struck by the park’s colorful landscapes, which ranged from dusty reds to deep purples. We marveled at the ancient rock formations, towering mesas, and sweeping desert vistas that surrounded us on all sides.
We stopped at the Rainbow Forest Museum to learn more about the area’s fascinating history. The museum is a must-see for anyone visiting the park, as it offers a wealth of information about the geological, paleontological, and cultural features of the park. We were particularly fascinated by the museum’s exhibits on the ancient peoples who once called this area home, including the Ancestral Puebloans and the Hopi.
After soaking up all the knowledge we could from the museum, we set out on foot to explore the park’s stunning trails. Our first stop was the Agate House, an ancient dwelling built by the Ancestral Puebloans over 700 years ago. The Agate House is one of the few standing structures in the park, and it’s a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people who once called this area home. The house was built using petrified wood and agate, and it’s a marvel to behold up close. From Agate House we continued on the Long Logs trail where we encountered some of the most impressive petrified wood in the park. The Long Logs trail winds through a forest of petrified wood, some of which are over 200 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. It’s a surreal experience to walk among these ancient trees, imagining what the forest must have looked like millions of years ago. Click on thumbnail to view image
Petrified Forest NP
After leaving Rainbow was the Crystal Forest, located within the Petrified Forest National Park. We marveled at the stunning petrified wood that sparkled in the bright desert sun. The history of the trees, which were alive more than 200 million years ago, was palpable in the air. Our next stop was the Blue Mesa, which offered a completely different experience. We trekked through the vibrant hills, taking in the natural beauty that surrounded us. The trail was dotted with remnants of the old forest, adding a sense of history to the experience. The colors of the hills, ranging from deep blues to rich purples, left us in awe.
Continuing on to the north section of the park, we made several stops at stunning desert vistas. Each view was more spectacular than the last, with endless horizons of red and orange rock formations. We couldn’t help but feel small in the grandeur of the landscape that surrounded us.
Our final stop before heading home was the Painted Desert Inn, which was once a popular roadside inn for travelers along Route 66. The building’s unique design, a creation of architect Mary Jane Colter, incorporated local materials like petrified wood and sandstone, making it a beloved destination for visitors. Today, the inn is a museum and rest area for visitors to the park, offering an educational and cultural experience.
For dinner, we stopped at the historic La Posada hotel in Winslow, Arizona. The hotel was built in 1929 for the Santa Fe Railway as a stopover for passengers traveling between Los Angeles and Chicago. It was designed by Mary Colter, who also designed the Painted Desert Inn. The hotel’s luxurious accommodations and fine dining made it a popular destination in its heyday. Though it fell into decline after the popularity of automobiles, it was lovingly restored by Allan Affeldt in the 1990s. Today, the hotel is a beautiful and unique blend of history, art, and luxury accommodations. We couldn’t have imagined a more perfect ending to our southwestern adventure.