I-40, Exit 311, Petrified Forest, Arizona
The park’s geological story began over 200 million years ago, when pinelike trees were carried by waterways here and buried in the silt of a huge floodplain. The silica-rich waters slowly penetrated the logs’ tissue. Eventually the silica crystallized, turning the logs into a stone aglow with a rainbow of colors. Millions of years of erosion created the area’s magnificent mesas, badlands, and buttes and exposed the logs.
Rainbow Forest Museum, at the southern end of the 28-mile road traversing the park, has exhibits explaining the area’s paleontology. Extraordinary specimens of petrified logs may be seen along the half-mile Giant Logs Trail, just behind the museum. Trails lead to Agate House, the colorful ruins of a pueblo built from petrified wood, and Long Logs, where the ancient timbers have remained intact.
One of the most beautiful areas is Blue Mesa, 10 miles north of Rainbow Forest on the park road. Here erosion has left the petrified logs resting on stone pedestals. A mile-long trail leads from the mesa top to the badlands below.
–Open daily except Christmas. Admission charged.