By Anna Hider

Petrified Forest National Park is pretty spectacular- as it should be. This Arizona park is 225 million years in the making (back in the Late Triassic period, when dinosaurs ruled the earth), and it is definitely way more wondrous than  your average leafy green forest. It’s also conveniently located along Route 66- road trip, anyone? Here are a few must-see spots in this must-see park:

1. Rainbow Forest

Rainbow Forest

If you’re a first-timer or on a tight schedule, make sure to stop by this vistor’s center. It has fun exhibits and an entertaining video to teach you about how the forest became petrified (spoiler: a lot of science happened). It also provides access to some of the easier trails that give you an up-close and personal view of some of the rainbow-hued, gem-like trees.

2. Painted Desert

painted desert

The trees aren’t the only colorful things you can see at Petrified Forest- even the desert is kaleidoscopic! The rocks and hills of this desert, which stretches from inside Petrified Forest to the Grand Canyon, are made of layers of different colored rocks and minerals. Taking a hike or drive through this desert is like being inside a watercolor!

3. Newspaper Rock

newspaper rock

You can see dinosaur and plant fossils at Petrified Forest, but there’s also some intriguing ancient human relics as well. No one is quite sure what about the meaning of these symbols, carved into the rock. See if you can crack the code when you visit!

4. Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa

A noteworthy hike in the park, this trail takes you past hills made of blue bentonite clay and more petrified wood. If you pay attention on your hike, you might be able to see some cool fossils in the hills an mesas!

5. Agate House

agate house

Your ordinary Lincoln-log cabin this ain’t! Petrified wood was so abundant when the Pueblo people inhabited the area that they actually used it for bricks when building houses (today, petrified wood is seen as a non-renewable resource, so don’t get any ideas about stealing it). This one is still standing (thanks to a little restorative help) and you can visit it and get a sense of life 900 years ago.

 

Anna’s favorite Late Triassic dinosaur is the Massospondylus. Find her on Twitter and Google+!