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Road Trip: Painted Desert/Petrified Forest

Painted Desert NP, Arizona
Painted Desert NP, Arizona

No road trip through New Mexico and northern Arizona is complete without a stop at the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park. It’s right off Interstate 40 in northeast Arizona.

The park has a 28-mile road from the north entrance to the south exit. TAKE THE WHOLE TRIP! You no sooner see one breath-taking sight, but then you drive down the road and around a bend and there’s another.

Painted Desert overlook
Painted Desert overlook

The first overlook is an amazing vista of the Painted Desert. Amateur pictures don’t do it justice. I wish I was a better photographer. The colors are truly painted on the landscape.

Newspaper Rock features hundreds of petroglyphs engraved in the rocks by Native Americans, some as old as 2000 years. The rocks are right below an overlook, but hard to see without using the free telescopes on the overlook, or good binoculars or a long telephoto lens.

The Tepees
The Tepees

Just around the bend are the Tepees, large mounds of layered, multi colored rock. The colors are almost unnatural; they are so vivid and beautiful.

The largest petrified forest remains, the Giant Logs and Long Logs, are found at the Rainbow Forest ranger station near the south end of the park. There are covered picnic shelters, restrooms and a museum. Amazingly, these former trees are over 200-million years old and used to stand in forests along the equator, migrating north with continental drift.

Petrified logs
Petrified logs

There are many easy trails at various stops along the road. There are a number of longer backcountry trails. Pick up a guide at the visitor’s center when you enter the park.

Wilderness camping is allowed. Get a free permit when you enter. If you are really adventurous, get a permit and cross-country hike to the Devil’s Playground on the northwestern edge of the park. It is a serious backcountry hike so check precautions at the Ranger Station before you go, and pack in plenty of water.

“Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona….”

Winslow, Arizona
Winslow, Arizona

You know the old Eagles hit from the 70’s, “Take It Easy”. This is what it’s all about, the corner at Second Street and Kinsley in downtown Winslow, Arizona, right on historic Route 66, a short and easy side trip off Interstate 40. There’s a small monument and even a flat-bed Ford. It was great to have a friendly French tourist snap our picture.

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North Texas Active Life is your guide to resources in North Texas that will help you and your family lead active and healthy lives. We are focused on the Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Allen areas and surrounding communities. Our topics cover events, recreation, activities, fitness resources, and healthy living . Articles cover hiking, biking, trails, fitness, parks, kayaking, bicycling, rock climbing, walking, and more.