My memory of this park was more about leaving than being in it. On the way out, visit this site there was an exit station where rangers would ask questions to try to make sure you had not taken any of the petrified wood out, and also signs indicated that they could search your car. I’m sure this discouraged people from taking things, and also would cause a big traffic tie up. As I look through their materials on the web, I don’t see any evidence that they continue to do this. It did make an impression though!
Most people will start their tour of the park off of interstate 40, exit 311 – just 195 miles away from Grand Canyon National Park. There is a visitor center here (Painted Desert), where you can get weather conditions and tips on good hikes. My memory was also a bit faulty here, I remembered there being a Painted Desert Park and a separate petrified forest park adjacent, but apparently the “painted desert” (very colorful formations) are just a section of the park and not a separate NPS unit.
Next you’ll come to the “Painted Desert Inn” which sounds like a great place to stay, and it originally was – a beautiful stop right on the original route 66 – perched on a hill at the side of the desert. When I came years ago, it was in disrepair, and I don’t think we could even go in. Now it’s restored, and from the website photos looks beautiful – so I want to come back and see it. You can’t stay in it, but you can tour it. Hearty souls can also do day trips out to the wilderness from this points via a series of switchbacks that heads down the hill (no permit required unless going overnight). There are no developed campgrounds in the park, and it closes at dark.
Next on the road you’ll arrive at many scenic pullouts from which to admire the views. You’ll then drive under I 40, and in to to the areas with the petrified logs. Mostly these are turnouts with small interpretive trails. Some like the ones at Blue Mesa, crystal forest, and long logs/agate house – are longer. But in any case, the park service says you can do this park in 45 minutes. If you stop at all the areas, you could make that about 3 hours.
My favorite things to do here
- Walk the trails
Things I want to come back to do
- See the painted desert inn
- $375 minimum fine for taking or disturbing the petrified wood
National Park Service Website: http://www.nps.gov/pefo/