Day 3: Crystal Forest & Painted Desert || 16 States in 16 Days

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Are They REAL?!

Crystal Forest and The Painted Desert. The names sound like magical places, imagined, brightly-colored, and in a far away land. However, they are right here in Arizona, in the United States of America! Join me as we travel and adventure 6,000-mile road trip, “16 States in 16 Days,” at ThereGoesSaraRose.com! Let’s begin Day 3 as I explore the Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona!

Petrified Forest National Park Sign, Arizona (Photo Credit: Michael Neri, 2021)

Petrified Forest

Set aside in 1906, the Petrified Forest National Park is one of the largest collections of petrified wood in the world! Many of the local structures in use are now on the National Register of Historic Places as well! Whatever spot you are visiting, be sure to ask a park ranger for the most up to date information on the park or visit http://www.nps.gov/pefo. The most popular way to visit is to take the 28 mile drive through the park with short trails to stop at along the way. It is illegal to take any wood with you, but you can purchase some at the shops nearby! So what can we do at this park how did wood become rock? Let’s find out!

My Experience

A dry heat hits you as you open the car door. Similar to opening a heated oven, moisture is sapped from your face like a sponge that fell out of the ocean. A California native, this heat didn’t bother me as much as I thought. Why? The air here is clean (more on California air another time!). Strapped with water bottles, my first trail of the day was at the back of the visitors center. About a mile later, I was SHOCKED at the layers of colored earth in the valley below! There may have been heat, wind, and a dryness that did not stop, but every moment of the day, things looked different. The sun moved and changed the colors around me. I could have stayed and relaxed in the sunlight all afternoon. What will YOU do on your visit?

What To Do

Any time spent at the park is amazing! The highest concentrations of petrified wood are found in the southern end of the park, while the northern end showcases the human story and Painted Desert views.

One or Two Hours to Visit:

  • South End: Visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and watch the park film; walk Giant Logs and Crystal Forest Trails; drive the Blue Mesa Road
  • North End: Watch the park film at Painted Desert Visitors Center; select several overlooks to take in views of the Painted Desert, walk the Tawa Point Trail and visit the Painted Desert Inn.

Half a Day to Visit:

  • Drive through the entire park (28 mi/45km main road)
  • Walk the Painted Desert Rim Trail to Kachina Point
  • Enjoy the views and wayside exhibits at Route 66, Newspaper Rock, Agate Bridge, and Jasper Forest.
  • Walk the Giant Logs Trail (pick up a trail guide at Rainbow Forest Museum)
  • Visit Puerco Pueblo
  • Attend a ranger program (available seasonally)
  • Explore Blue Mesa and walk the trail

Full Day or More to Visit:

  • Hike to Long Logs and Agate House
  • Choose an Off the Beaten Path hike
  • Spend the night at the park’s Wilderness Area
  • Celebrate!

Painted Desert

“A broad region of rocky badlands encompassing more than 93,500 acres, this vast landscape features rocks in every hue – from deep lavenders and rich grays to reds, oranges, and pinks,” the Painted Desert must be experienced in person. Photo after photo made me realize, I could not capture every color in one photo, the adventurer must experience the desert in person to truly understand the beauty of such a place.

There is a sizzling quietness which, if you listen closely, is teeming with life and survival, not a dead thing to be disregarded. These elegant layers, painted by mother nature through volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods is home to many amazing views and worth every moment spent here!

Painted Desert, Arizona (Photo Credit: Sara Rose, 2021)

Painted Desert Inn

Although no longer accommodating overnight guests, the Painted Desert Inn is a historical monument surviving from the 1920’s! Originally, “The Stone Tree House,” Herbert David Lore created his vision with the help of family members and officially registered the tourist attraction in 1924. This National Historic Landmark, although touted as a museum online, was closed when I visited. Since no one was around, I was happy to get footage of the outside of the museum, be sure to check that out here on my Tiktok! Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below!

More to Come!

There are still so many questions! Did I bring any petrified wood home? Why is there a broken down car on my Instagram? What chaos occurred on Day 3? I could not share it all in just one post so be sure to check back soon for more from Arizona and New Mexico on Day 3 of, “16 States in 16 Days”! Still not enough for you? Check out more on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or hangout with me LIVE on Twitch! Until next time adventurers, There Goes Sara Rose!

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