“loads of Late Triassic fossils!”
Best known for globally significant Late Triassic fossils, the park attracts many researchers. Geologists study the multi-hued Chinle Formation. Archeologists research over 13,000 years of history. Biologists explore one of the best remnants of native Arizona grassland. Air quality is an ongoing study in the park. Discover your own passion at Petrified Forest! Petrified Forest was set aside as a national monument in 1906 to preserve and protect the petrified wood for its scientific value. It is recognized today for having so much more, including a broad representation of the Late Triassic paleo-ecosystem, significant human history, clear night skies, fragile grasslands ecosystem, and unspoiled scenic vistas. Scientific studies are on-going at the park. Paleontologists find new fossils, including new species of plants and animals, each year. Biologists study living plants and animals, including vegetation surveys and reptile, amphibian, and mammal projects. Air quality, weather, and seismic monitoring stations constantly generate new data. The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic, about 225 million years ago. The sediments containing the fossil logs are part of the widespread and colorful Chinle Formation, from which the Painted Desert gets its name. Beginning about 60 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau, of which the park is part, was pushed upward by tectonic forces and exposed to increased erosion. All of the park's rock layers above the Chinle, except geologically recent ones found in parts of the park, have been removed by wind and water. In addition to petrified logs, fossils found in the park have included Late Triassic ferns, cycads, ginkgoes, and many other plants as well as fauna including giant reptiles called phytosaurs, large amphibians, and early dinosaurs. Paleontologists have been unearthing and studying the park's fossils since the early 20th century.
The Painted Desert is the first portion of this worthwhile drive-thru park when entering from I-40. It was beautiful to say the least. I'd suggest stopping in the gift shop on the way in to get the lay of the land so to speak. Following the winding road through the park also took us into the Petrified Forest where we enjoyed even more beautiful scenery. Hard to imagine it was once filled with trees but we did come to a large area where we enjoyed seeing what we thought was a pretty good natural accumulation of petrified trees.
We stopped along the road numerous times so it took us about 2 hours to go through both. The southern park (Petrified Forest area) exit put us on a highway that angled right back up to I-40.
Well worth the diversion, we would recommend it.
So the petrified forest and painted desert are one, we were unclear on this in the beginning so when you enter the park your actually entering two parks. This is a great drive through, be prepared with plenty of gas it is about 30 mile but doesn't take long. Very beautiful especially at sunrise or sunset
This was a cool place to go and check out. I bought (not rented) an audio tour CD in the gift shop at the beginning of the trail. It was cool to get some extra information but not great if you have little kids in the car...I had planned an hour or so to drive through here not realizing all the stop on the trail and perhaps not realizing how long the trail was...It took 3 hours and that's without really stopping and hiking or spending a tone of time at most of the stops...
The Petrified Forest was absolutely beautiful, but we were expecting to see petrified wood and there was not much of it. You see it at every gas station, rock store, and landmark, but not in the forest! It upset my family a little, so we asked the store manager if people were going into the forest with pick-ups and stealing the trees. He said that there was actually more petrified wood found on private property than on the reserve. I was relieved to know that the reserve was safe. Have fun!
We drove through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert...absolutely amazing landscapes to take in here! Definitely worth the drive through the park!
I was in a bit of a hurry, so I was only able to explore the visitor's center. I was really glad they had some petrified wood right outside so I was able to see it, even though I didn't have time to go on a full hike. I'll have to come back to get the full experience someday!
Park doesn't open until 8am. We got there at 7 right after hitting the new time zone and couldn't wait the hour for it to open.
I highly recommend listening to the Jurassic Park episode of the Criminal podcast as you drive through the park. It covers the history of petrified wood theft at the park, and how the park has responded. It was a very interesting podcast and it enhanced the experience.
This place has such history from dinosaurs to ancient puebloan people to Route 66. Very interesting and beautiful scenery. Start out early because it got pretty hot. If you have kids do the Junior Ranger program. Ask for it at the visitor centers or rainbow museum. Kept my son engage and he thought it was cool to get a badge and patch for completing.
Beautiful! $20 to get in the park - but worth it. We ate lunch at one of the lookout views - it was beautiful!
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Petrified Forest National Park
- Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 7:00 pm
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