Petrified Forest Natl Pk

Overview

Introduction

Just off Interstate 40 in eastern Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park, which encompasses part of the Painted Desert, merits a visit if you're in the area. The 341-sq-mi/885-sq-km park is filled with colorful rocks and petrified (fossilized) prehistoric trees of varying sizes. Dinosaur remains have also been unearthed there, including a prized specimen from the Mesozoic era, which was uncovered in 1984. You may be tempted to grab a sample of petrified wood but don't: Doing so is illegal and is said to bring bad luck. Pick up a souvenir at one of the authorized shops instead. (That way, the bad luck goes to the person selling the wood.)

The Painted Desert, at the northern end of the national park, contains beautiful, soft-hued rocks in its dry terrain. It's best seen at sunrise or sunset. (Note that almost all of northeastern Arizona in the Navajo Reservation is called the Painted Desert, but the area within the boundaries of the park is the part most frequently visited by travelers.)

To see both the forest and the Painted Desert, you'll need several hours to drive the 28 mi/45 km of well-marked and well-paved roads. The route will give you a good sense of the landscape's deep, rich colors and stark geometry. Don't miss the 3-mi/5-km Blue Mesa Loop, which is especially colorful. Try to catch a showing of the movie Timeless Impressions in the Painted Desert Visitor Center (near the park's north entrance) before viewing the sights. The Rainbow Forest Museum, near the south entrance, provides more information. 150 mi/240 km northeast of Phoenix.

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