Painted Desert - Petrified Forest National Park, AZ - a desert painting in the middle of an Arizona desert
The Painted Desert of Arizona is part of the Petrified Forest National Park's northern end with a colorful array of badlands, buttes and mesa. The area has been designated for wilderness with a trail leading into it from the park road which is located near the Painted Desert Inn. A soft layer of earth consisting of volcanic ash, mud and sandstone known as the Chinle formation covers this area. The effects of erosion on the area are amazing when the mineral water runs over the deposits in the area staining them.
The Petrified Forest National park can be found approximately twenty-five miles to the east of Holbrook, Arizona off of I-40. Taking US 89 provides a nice view of the Painted Desert. There are also views of fossils and dinosaur tracks as well. The park also has rock art, fossilized wood and Indian ruins in addition to various scenic points.
There are two visitor centers in the Petrified Forest National Park. Fossilized artifacts from over two million years ago are exposed as the erosion of the Painted Desert continues. An ancient conifer forest is the most notable of these attractions and the largest amount of petrified wood in one location in the world. You can take the wilderness trail and notice that the hills are a bright red while the wood is black, in the southern portion of the park the land is dark and the wood is red. Petrified wood deposits can be found in drainage cracks where they have rolled off of the hillside. There are glittering specks of crystalline material imbedded in them.
There are no campsites within the Petrified Forest National Park in order to aid in the protection of the natural resources. The Painted Desert wilderness area permits backpackers to camp although the area surrounding it is fenced off and privately owned which means that there is no camping. Overnight camping or parking should be feasible on either side of the turn off to the park.
The entrance fee to the Petrified National Forest Park is $10 each for private vehicles and $5 each for bicyclists and walk-ins. Those that plan to visit the Painted Desert often can save money by purchasing a pass. $50 purchases a Golden Eagle Passport that allows visitors to enter any national park in the country free for one year. Those that are age sixty-two and older can purchase a life time pass known as a Golden Age Passport for $10. Permanently disabled Americans that qualify for federal aid can get a Gold Access Passport at no cost.
The park is open all year from 7:30am until 5pm with the exception of Christmas Day; hours are subject to change without prior notice. The park gates are locked at night, when the roads are not safe to travel the park is closed. The visitor center for the Painted Desert has a film showing visitors how the wood was petrified and the Rainbow Forest Museum has exhibits of the area's human history and geological story in addition to petrified wood exhibits.
Those wishing to stay in the area can stay in one of twelve hotels in the Holbrook area. The hotels are within walking distance of downtown Holbrook which offers a selection of shops and restaurants for visitors to patronize.
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