Ancient, Petrified Wood.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona is known for its large deposits of petrified wood and preserved fossils. The trees were lying in river channels about 225 million years ago during the Late Triassic when they were covered by volcanic ash. Silica from the ash was carried into the wood from groundwater and left large amounts of petrified wood. Nine species of extinct trees have been identified in the park.
The park also contains fossils from both plants and animals during that time period. Fossils of phytosaurs (giant crocodile-like reptiles), Buettneria (large salamander-like amphibians), more than 200 fossil plants and early dinosaurs have all been found in the park. There are also more than 600 archaeological sites where the artifacts from the earliest inhabitants of the area are discovered and studied.
Visitors interested in more recent history will discover passing through the park the modern version of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad as well as a decommissioned portion of U.S. Route 66, the famous transcontinental auto highway developed in 1926.
Open / Close / Reopening Status of Petrified Forest National Park due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Last Updated: May 2, 2020
Most people take a half day to drive the 27 mile route through the park. There are eight pullouts offering scenic overlooks of the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert is a section of badlands in the Four Corners that features brilliant colored rock formations. The area was named the Painted Desert by Coronado’s 1540 expedition to find the Seven Cities of Cibola. The Painted Desert extends northwest from the park toward the Colorado River.
Local gift shops and Xanterra sell petrified wood obtained legally from areas outside the park. Please do not collect artifacts from the national park. If every visitor took a piece, there would be none left for future generations.
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Camping and Lodging
There is no overnight lodging or campgrounds in the park. Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit and more than one mile away from one of two parking areas. There are a few private campgrounds in the surrounding communities as well as public campgrounds in a few nearby state parks, National Forests and National Monuments. A few different nearby businesses allow RVs to stop in their parking lot overnight.
Motels are available in Holbrook, which is west of the park (Exits 285 and 286 off I-40).
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The Grand Canyon is a three hour drive northwest from Petrified Forest. It is one of the most visited national parks annually in the United States.
Northeast of Petrified Forest is Canyon de Chelly National Monument. It is one of the most visited national monuments in the United States. It protects ruins of the area’s early indigenous tribes and is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America.