After nearly 1,500 miles of driving, we arrived at Petrified Forest National Park. The Petrified Forest would be our first National Park and major site seeing destination of our 2 week spring break trip. It was the morning of our 3rd day and we were headed to the Grand Canyon that evening. We honestly did not have big expectations for our visit to Petrified Forest and were just planning to quickly pass through the park, since we were traveling through. Our visit would take an interesting turn of events after discovering some major issues with our travel trailer while in the park, that would force us to cut our visit short and return later.
Arriving At Petrified Forest National Park
We started off at the north visitors center to get a map and information about the park and then started to make our way through. It is extremely desolate land and as it turns out some really interesting things to see and definitely worth driving through and stopping off at some of the sites if you are in the area.
Tiponi Point was our first site pull off point of the Petrified Forest. Even though we had been driving through empty land along the highway, Tiponi Point lookout gave us an even better understanding of how desolate this land really is. You could see landscape for miles that was full of nothing but badlands type structure. The pictures probably don’t do it much justice, but the colors of the landscape are pretty spectacular.
There isn’t a ton to see at the Old Route 66 stop, but it is still a cool little stop of nostalgia. There is an old rusted out car parked on the side and you can see the raised path through the desert that once was Old Route 66. You can also see the old power lines running through the desert along the abandoned and overgrown road. I find things like that a bit majestic and help place you back in time. Curious what it might have been like to drive through here on the original Route 66 two lane road in a much older car.
This is also the location where we discovered that the rear shackle weldment for our travel trailer’s rear axle leaf spring was actually ripping from the trailer frame and was barely hanging on. I won’t go into much detail here as the entire ordeal probably deserves its own article, but after unsuccessful attempts at trying to get decent enough phone signal and me inspecting it enough to see that most of the tear had probably been present for quite some time… we decided to slow roll our way out of the park and 20 miles up the shoulder of the two lane with our hazards on to the nearest town where we could get some help and figure things out. To make a long story short, we were stuck in Holbrook, Arizona for at least the night and after dropping the camper at the KOA and knowing we had some help on the way, we headed back to the Petrified Forest to finish our tour. We didn’t want to let the trailer issue get in the way of our site seeing and spring break.
Our first stop after getting back to Petrified Forest was the Giant Logs walk. It was a short walk through scattered Giant Petrified Logs. You don’t really think much of it, but the Petrified Logs are really interesting. They look like normal wood logs, but are in fact turned to rock. I don’t completely understand it, but it has something to do with the log absorbing and becoming saturated with minerals while buried under ground and cut off from oxygen. The absorbed minerals eventually turn to rock, taking the place of the original log.
There are some Pictographs located here that you can see through a set of binoculars set up on a lookout area. There is a nice view from this area, but we’ve seen Pictographs up close in the past and didn’t spend a ton of time here. If you’ve never seen them before, then I suggest stopping by to have a look through the binoculars to check them out. We were also in a bit of hurry to see a couple other things in the park anyways and quickly made our way to the next stop.
Puerco Pueblo was our next stop and this was really cool. I enjoy placing myself in history and the best way I find to do that and to really appreciate and understand it is to visit old structures. It is quite interesting to think about how many years ago people were living out in this barron land, assuming it was barron in those times. There was the foundation remnants of the native homes called pueblos. It was just a short walk, but we were able to walk a path around the outer edge of the old foundations and it really helped picture what it might have been like to live in those times. I am actually really impressed by the amount of structure that is still there.
Blue Mesa & Forest
Blue Mesa and the Blue Forest was the last main stop of our trip to Petrified Forest. We took the hiking loop down into the so called Blue Forest and it was very tranquil. It was a fairly short hike through the clay mound formations and valleys and it is very similar to what is found in the South Dakota Badlands. This might have been my favorite little stop and walk of the park. I think it was just relaxing and I enjoyed watching the kids run up the trail in front of us, getting all excited about stuff they would see along the trail.
We did pull off here quickly for me to run down the path to check out the overlook. The kids were getting a little restless and gunning to hit the playground at the KOA before dark, so I ran down to check things out quick and take a couple pictures. Curiosity gets the best of me and I have a hard time passing by anything without stopping to check it out.
I have never heard much about visiting the Petrified Forest, but I thought it was worth the visit. I wouldn’t travel a great distance for the Petrified Forest alone, but I would definitely plan time to stop and check it out if you are passing through the area. Every place has its own little hidden gems. In fact, if I had time on another trip… I would drive back through again to check out the Giant Logs and Blue Mesa & Forest again.
Keep an eye out for quite a few more trip report posts from this spring break trip. I plan to break them down by places or areas visited to help keep them more searchable in the future and short enough to read in one sitting.
Petrified Forest Reference Links
Petrified Forest National Park – www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm