The Petrified Forest National Park is an amazing sight and offers some truly wonderful hiking for novices and experienced hikers alike. If you thought that the world of Jurassic Park was something, then just visit the park and take a look back in history to a time some 200 million years before those dinosaurs roamed the Earth widely.
After millions of years of exposure to the elements wood turns to something which resembles stone and this obscure fact of chemistry in probably demonstrated nowhere better on Earth than it is in the Petrified National Park in Arizona. Here, you will discover some of the most beautiful colors of nature along with some of her most fascinating ancient sights.The Badlands National Park in South Dakota is home to fossils from the Oligocene period which existed some 20 to 35 million years ago but the Petrified Forest beats this by an impressive 200 million years. Many people are familiar with the Jurassic Period when dinosaurs roamed widely across the Earth but the Petrified Forest dates back beyond this to the late Triassic period when the dinosaurs were just developing and today there are many active excavation sites in which dinosaur remains are still being uncovered today.Because of their softer structure few plants have survived but the fossilized remains can be found and some of the ancient trees which once dominated the area are still to be found. Fossilized clams found here also provide evidence of the prehistoric waterways which once wound through this part of the country.The Painted Desert is quite extraordinary and it offers scenery that looks as if it has been deliberately colored by a team of abstract artists. The canvas is provided by shifting sand dunes and the painting is decorated with tumbling scrub brush and stationary cactus. The whole scene resembles the set of an old western.A highlight of any visit to the Petrified Forest National Park has to be the 27 mile scenic drive which has more than 20 stopping points from which some one million visitors each year can view the park. Along the way you will find ruined pueblos, together with the art left by some of the inhabitants, and petroglyphs which are an ancient form of carving or painting on rocks.For those of us who prefer peace and quite of seeing the land on foot, the park provides almost endless hiking opportunities and in this desert landscape there is really no need for trails. For the novice hiker it is also quite difficult to get lost and you will find that you can see for miles in all directions.As you hike along you will be delighted by sights such as Pilot Rock and Devil's Playground and, if you follow the short Painted Desert Rim Trail, you will be in for a special treat as you wind your way through the unusual sight of brightly colored vegetation. Here the rich soil, fortified with volcanic ash, provides an excellent growing medium for these plants and they are as amazing as anything you will find in any forest.Also, do not forget to stop at the Painted Desert Inn Museum at Kachina Point where you can find out everything you need to know about the park and be sure to visit the excavations of the Puerco Indian Ruins which were worked by natives in the 1400s. But that is not all. Newspaper Rock is a particularly fascinating sight which is named for its dozens of petroglyphs. A hike over Blue Mesa Trail will also demonstrate vividly just why this area has earned its name.