The Petrified Forest is… underwhelming. Historically interesting, geologically interesting, but still – underwhelming. The petrified wood looks, from a distance, just like dark rocks. I knew that, having already visited before, and warned Cory of the lack of actual “forest”. But, since it’s attached at the hip to the Painted Desert, and on the way from Grand Canyon to Four Corners, we trekked right on through. 

While looking online for a campsite, we came across a pretty hilarious discussion thread, in which a man posted:

Petrified Forest is the most disappointing NP I’ve been to, and I’m a geologist! [...] The trees around Petrified Forest NP are all rock!

Responses to his post ranged from mildly witty to downright critical of his credentials as a geologist (I’m inclined to agree on that – I’m pretty sure finding the Petrified Forest fascinating is a requirement for geologists).

Cory had a great time casually dropping that line – “Where are the trees? All I see are rocks!” – whenever we would pass by another group. That, and: “What do they do to scare the trees?”

Just in case anyone is disappointed – this post has exactly one picture of an upright tree in it. Said tree is nowhere near a forest, and is certainly not petrified.

 Anyway, since we arrived in absolute darkness, we woke up to find the free campsite we thought we parked in was actually across the road.

Another surprise was this! FROZEN PEE!!! (Not really, just a sad consequence of our pipes freezing while in Grand Canyon).

But here is the excitement of Petrified Forest:

And another. This one’s shiny:

I really enjoyed reading the letters the park posted from previous visitors who had stolen pieces of petrified wood. It’s illegal to take anything from the park, and rangers stop you at a checkpoint. Allegedly, a curse follows anyone who steals the petrified wood – divorce, illness, loss of job, etc. The park receives returned stolen pieces every year, usually accompanied by letters of apology detailing the curse that has fallen upon the thief’s life.

It is pretty amazing to see trees that have been preserved in this state for about 225 million years ( Late Triassic period). A few even retain their basic trunk shape, though not many. 

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2 Responses to Petrified Forest – Arizona

  1. “Underwhelming” is similarly the word that I turn to in describing Petrified Forest NP. What were your thoughts on the Painted Desert? To me it totally beat out the rock-tree stuff further south and was pretty beautiful. We spent an afternoon up by one of the overlooks, enjoying lunch and the view. Where’s next for y’all?

  2. Anna says:

    word of advice: don’t take young kids here. even if their favorite movie is Jurassic Park

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