The Painted Desert National Park and Petrified Forest National Park are one and the same park, you enter one visitor center to see both.
I really am a National Park Geek, I’ve been so excited about seeing these petrified logs. We drove 2 hours from Williams to see them. It was well worth it! The first one I came into contact with I was in awe and so moved. This is a living organism from the Late Triassic period (225 million years ago) that was been frozen in time. I have a thing for trees.
Some downed trees accumulated in river beds and then were buried by sediment containing volcanic ash. Groundwater dissolved silicon dioxide from the ash and carried it into the logs, where it formed quartz crystals that gradually replaced the organic matter. Traces of minerals combined with the silica to create varied colors in the petrified wood.
There is evidence of humans inhabiting this area 8,000 years ago. There are several areas that have petroglyphs from 2,000 years ago when they lived in pueblos, which are still partially intact.
We entered the park in the Painted Desert Visitor Center so the girls could pick up their Junior ranger booklets. We saw all of these highlighted stops on the route, I just didn’t take pictures of all of them… crazy, right?
We drove the whole road through the park down to the Rainbow Forest Museum, where the largest log is located on a trail behind the building. We made it just as they were closing. The girls got their badges and had time to take the trail hike.