Sunday, November 17, 2019

Petrified Forest National Park, Day 1

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA
Holbrook, AZ
November 2, 2019

For Joe's 73rd birthday (Nov. 2) celebration, he took me to  Petrified Forest NP.  
The birthday boy!  

It has been on the "I need to get there" list for awhile and this year , we made it happen. 

Maybe it is just me, but sometimes at all the humongous national parks I get so overwhelmed and anxious to do and see everything that it's hard to prioritize.  Not the case with Petrified Forest...sometimes small is a good thing !  We had two days and that was plenty.  

On our first visit to the park, we focused our time at the south entrance.  The Rainbow Forest Museum/Visitor Center was the first stop.  It's a great introduction for a visit to the park.  Even though it is a small museum, there is tons of information and history to browse through.  The murals show life as it was during the late Triassic Period and exhibits contain excavated bones and fossils found in the park.
Not just any bones and fossils, but some that are 223 million years old.

It is both fascinating and incomprehensible...

Just out the backdoor of the museum is the Giant Logs Trail, a short self-guided trail with numbered posts that correspond to a booklet you receive at the museum. 
We make a pretty good team.  Joe reads the book and gives a report...

and I document the day's activities! 

We learned some cool stuff !  
A log is petrified when all of its original plant material is replaced by minerals.  A petrified forest is made of stone.
The fossilized taproot on this log is similar to modern day pine trees.  

Sections of petrified logs appear to be cut, but actually it is the weight from the dirt on top of the buried trees that broke it into sections.  Silica-quartz minerals break on a clean angle.

A short walk "down the street" from the museum and across Jim Camp Wash is the trailhead for the Long Logs Loop and the Agate House trail...our next adventure. 

This trail did not get its name by mistake.  Some of the trees in this Triassic-period logjam are over 180 feet long.

The Agate House demonstrates a very innovative use of petrified wood.  

It is an eight room pueblo that was built and occupied sometime between 1050 and 1300.  The small structure is located near agricultural fields and atop a small hill surrounded by beautiful vistas in all directions.  
The Agate House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

It is uncertain if this building was used as a single family residence or as a meeting place.  

Workers from the CCC reconstructed the Agate House under the watchful eye of archeologist Cornelius B. Cosgrove in 1934.  Since its excavation in the 1930s, hundreds of similar petrified sites have been discovered in the park.  

Back in the jeep, we drove a few miles to Crystal Forest.  The paved loop trail meanders its way in a badlands landscape (more on that in Day 2).  


It was interesting to learn why some of the petrified logs are so colorful.  It is all determined by what kind of minerals the log is made of.

Iron oxides with more yellow...

or with more purple.  I couldn't decide which one to post so I just did them both!
Manganese oxides

Some of all three...
After Crystal Forest, we drove the rest of the main road (The road is only 28 miles from the south entrance to the north entrance.) to the north entrance and returned to Holbrook via I-40.  

I should say that the distance form Holbrook to the south entrance is 21 miles and from Holbrook to the north entrance is 26 miles.

It is hard to picture the Petrified Forest as a prehistoric rainforest with ferns, rivers, dinosaurs, reptiles, and amazing 180 foot conifers.  

Wind and water have and continue to peel back the us a glimpse of the once tropical land we know as Arizona. 

With day one in the books, we were looking forward to day two.  So stay tuned, it is up next !



  1. Loved the Petrified Forest--we visited long, long ago back in our early RVing days. Safe travels!

  2. We enjoyed our low key but very interesting visit there a couple years ago. Lots to see, hard to imagine the landscape when those trees were actually living trees. Happy belated birthday Joe!

  3. Happy Birthday Joe! That's a great way to celebrate

  4. Thanks for taking me back!! I just loved this park. I couldn't get enough of the beautiful petrified logs. The colors were amazing. I couldn't hike very fast because I had to look at each piece. Isn't it amazing how what looks like cut logs are actual clean breaks. The Agata House was so cool!!! Who needs art work with that natural beauty on the walls. Can't wait for Part 2!! Happy Belated Birthday, Joe!

  5. Thanks for the tour. We visited there a few years ago and were fascinated by the petrified wood. It was nice to see your pictures reminding us of a beautiful place we had visited in the past.

  6. You got some great pics of this amazing geological and historical park. It's amazing to me that you can drive by on I-40 and never know this and the Painted Desert are even there! Looking forward to Day 2!

  7. We took a day to tour the park and managed to miss these sites. Oh well, a good excuse to re-visit the park!