We spent a week in Holbrook, AZ so we could explore Petrified Forest National Park. Holbrook is a pretty small town right on Route 66. We had some below freezing temps while staying in Holbrook and saw some of the windiest days we’ve seen in Arizona. I would suggest coming to this area before November.
The park was a good twenty or so miles away from where we were staying, so we didn’t get to spend as much time there as we would have liked. We ended up spending three days there getting in as much as we could. We stopped at all the official view points and did all seven of the maintained trails and even snuck in two “Off the Beaten Path” trails!
This National Park is broken up into two parts. The Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert. It really needs to add one more section. The Badlands. Yup, there are badlands in Arizona. If you’re looking at a park map you’d see that the Petrified Forest is at the southern end and the Painted Desert is at the northern end. The Badlands are right in the middle and to be totally honest, it might have been my favorite part of the whole National Park! This section is called Blue Mesa, but it looks way more pink and purple to me! So what makes land bad? A badland area is an area of soft rock strata that is cut and eroded into gullies and weird shapes where vegetation just can’t take hold. Notice the lack of vegetation in the photo above.
We were all a little obsessed with the petrified wood. The colors…
A short one mile loop would take us twice as long as usual because we would constantly stop to check out a piece of petrified wood that had a new color we hadn’t seen or it had crystals growing in it or a different texture.
It seems so weird to think that this hot, dry landscape we see today was once a lush, green, humid prehistoric rainforest. Around 216 million years ago, the petrified wood we see at the park died and fell into a river. Over time they were buried under layers of silt, mud, sand, and volcanic ash. These layers protected them from decay while the mineral rich ground water seeped through the layers to the tree. The brilliant colors you see in the petrified wood are formed over time from the minerals found in the layers they were buried under. Silica or quartz crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree and eventually they replicated the tree. So the wood turned to stone.
This log is called Old Faithful. It measures 35 feet long and weighs about 44 tons…give or take a few pounds. Albert Einstein stood for a picture with this tree. We all felt a little smarter having walked in the footsteps of Albert Einstein.
We thought this seven room pueblo constructed of petrified wood was really neat! We walked all around it and looked up close at the walls. It’s called The Agate House and they think this was a single family home built sometime between 1050 and 1300. When they found it, they thought it was unique, but they’ve found several other pueblo structures built from petrified wood within the park.
These logs were so big! In the photo above, you can see how long one of these logs really is. Jerl and two of the boys are standing at one end while Littlest is at the other. The log stretches between them.
The Painted Desert Inn was originally built in the 1920s of petrified wood. During the 1930s it was given a make over to the adobe facade you can see today. You can no longer stay at the Painted Desert Inn. It’s been turned into a museum and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The stained glass ceiling was gorgeous.
Behind the Painted Desert Inn is one of the “Off the Beaten Path” hikes.
Some of our favorite places in the parks are the areas set aside for visitors to get off the path and explore. The trails are nice, but you’re never really going to truly experience all that a park has to offer if you stick to them.
Did you know that Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park unit to protect a section of Route 66? They’ve got this 1932 Studebaker sitting where Route 66 originally cut right through the park.
The sun is your friend at a park like this. The shadows make it hard to see the brilliant colors.
And there are some truly brilliant colors in this park!
One of the other “Off The Beaten Path” trails takes you to the Billings Gap. It’s about a three mile round trip hike with some amazing vistas. There’s more to do in this park than you might think.
In Holbrook, right on Route 66, is the Wigwam Motel. Y’all might recognize it’s likeness from the movie Cars. If you look at the photo above closely you might see Mater and some of the other vehicles from the movie at one of their favorite places.
Well, I think that’s all of the highlights from our week in Holbrook. I’ll leave you with this photo of just one of the vivid sunsets Arizona gave us.
See y’all on the road!