Petrified Forest
National Park
Arizona
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TAPESTRY OF TIME

Countless colors, hues, and shades paint this tapestry of time that stretches as far as the eye can see. Shaped by wind and water, this land holds vital clues to the past.

TRIASSIC TREASURE Petrified Forest National Park is one of the best places in the world to see the fossil record from the Late Triassic Period. The remnants of prehistoric forests, now petrified wood; plant and animal fossils; and artifacts have told us much about this beautiful, wild land, but there is more to be learned.

Explore where early dinosaurs roamed and giant forests toppled. At first glance these badlands might appear barren and lifeless, but look closely and discover a living scientific laboratory that reveals prehistoric plants, animals, and a river system larger than anything on earth today.

Petrified Wood Like precious gems shining in the sun, remnants of a prehistoric forest lie at your feet. Colorful specimens from small shards to massive trunks, are strewn across the landscape. In some areas of the park, fossilized trunks are visible. In other areas they remain hidden, still buried under layers of soil and rock. As the trees died or were knocked down by wind or water, many were carried downstream and buried by layers of sediment. The logs soaked up groundwater and silica from volcanic ash and over time crystallized into quartz. Different minerals created the rainbow of colors seen in many pieces.

Fossils provide crucial clues to the past. Hundreds of plant, animal, and trace fossils still being found here help us understand what the world was like during the Late Triassic Period. It was the "dawn of the dinosaurs," when smaller dinosaurs struggled with various crocodile-like reptiles for survival.

ANCIENT ARIZONA Hot. Humid. Lush. Green. It may be hard to imagine the desert grassland before you as a prehistoric rainforest. During the Triassic Period, 225 million years ago, this was a tropical landscape with abundant vegetation—ferns, horsetails, and cycads. Early dinosaurs and reptiles roamed; fish, clams, snails, and crayfish moved through rivers; and giant, 180-foot conifers reached to the skies.

Over the past 200 million years continents moved, regions uplifted, climate changed, and the river system, along with its plants and animals, was buried by layers of sediment. Wind and water have continually molded, sculpted, and peeled back these layers, giving us a glimpse of the once tropical land we know today as Arizona.

Hundreds of species of plant fossils have been found in the park, testifying to the varied and abundant plant life during the Triassic.

HOMELAND The names, faces, languages, and stories of the prehistoric people who lived here are unknown to us, but remnants of their lifeprojectile points, pottery, and messages in stone—help us piece together their story. Early families wandered searching for food and water. As time passed they settled here and began farming. They built pueblos and traded with distant people. Around 1380 they started moving away; it is likely years of drought forced them to leave. Hopi tradition says the villagers moved northwest and joined their people. Over 1,000 archeological sites have been found in the park, from one-room shelters to multiple 100-room pueblos.

Pottery and Arrowheads Ancient pottery and arrowheads are remnants of 13,000 years of human history.

Petroglyphs The abundant petroglyph sites of Petrified Forest comprise an astonishing showcase of southwestern rock art capturing thousands of years of the human story. Do they mark trails, commemorate events, or are they prayers? The answers are unknown, but we continue to learn about this art from those who trace their ancestry here.

Solar Calendars While the meanings of many petroglyphs are not clear, several are solar calendars. Some mark the summer or winter solstice, while others indicate both equinoxes. The Ancestral Puebloan people may have used them to manage ceremonial and agricultural activities. The accuracy of these calendars today is amazing.

GRASSLANDS Created by fire, drought, grazing, and storms, this environmental mosaic was once as vast as the sea. Waves of grass provided habitat and food for people and animals living in this endless, open space. The story of the land and its people is rooted in the shortgrass prairie.

By the late 1800s, sheep and cattle ranches were established and thousands of animals competed for each blade of grass. Overgrazing became a problem in the arid west. Ranching continues today, but the grasslands in the park have not been grazed for decades.

Explorers passed this way looking for routes to connect settlements throughout North America.

PRESERVING THE FOREST By the late 1800s interest in petrified wood was threatening this landscape. In 1895 the Arizona Territorial legislature petitioned Congress to protect this valuable scientific and cultural treasure. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating Petrified Forest National Monument. The monument became a national park in 1962.

From 1934 to 1941 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped improve the park by building roads, trails, bridges, the Rainbow Forest Museum, and the Painted Desert Inn.

TRAILS, ROADS, AND RAILS Petrified Forest is part of a natural travel corridor that has been used for over 10,000 years. In 1853 Congress authorized scientific surveys of all practical railroad routes between the Mississippi River and the Pacific. Lt. Amiel W. Whipple's expedition surveyed a possible route near the 35th parallel.

In 1857 the United States government hired E.F. Beale to build a wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the Colorado River. Beale experimented in using a camel corps to build the road.

Stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, Route 66 was a destination in itself. Established in 1926, it was one of the original highways in the US Highway System. People hit the road looking for a new life or to just get away from it all. Gas was cheap and magical roadside attractions beckoned you to "get your kicks on Route 66."

In 1956 the faster and more direct interstate highway system brought an end to the romance of travel along Route 66. The road was decommissioned in 1985. Petrified Forest is the only national park that preserves a section of this road, a true American experience.

A Landscape Through Time

The Chinle Formation Characterized by colorful bands of sedimentary rock, this formation was deposited between 227 and 205 million years ago by a northwest flowing river system. Based on rock type, it is divided into five members: Mesa Redondo, Blue Mesa, Sonsela, Petrified Forest, and Owl Rock. These members reveal a transition from moist to arid environments.

Bidahochi Formation Sixteen to four million years ago, lake sediments were deposited on top of the older, eroding Chinle Formation across much of northern Arizona. Volcanic eruptions placed basalt layers above the lake beds, preserving them. Further erosion of the Chinle Formation has left the basalt as high points from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the Painted Desert.

Welcome to Petrified Forest National Park

park map
(click for larger map)

Trails Stay on designated trails when in developed hiking areas. The park offers a variety of off-trail and backcountry hiking. Find detailed information on the park website and at park facilities.

Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.

Picnicking and Camping Picnic shelters are located at Chinde Point, Rainbow Forest, and Painted Desert Visitor Center. The park has no designated campgrounds. You may camp in the backcountry wilderness, but you must get a free permit at Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center.

Wilderness Congress has protected some 52,000 acres of Petrified Forest National Park under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Preserving wilderness shows restraint and humility, and benefits generations to come. Wilderness designation protects forever the land's wilderness character, natural conditions, opportunities for solitude, and scientific, historical, and educational values.

Wilderness Hiking and Camping Overnight hiking/camping in wilderness requires a free permit, obtained at Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center. Water is not available in the backcountry; carry—and drink!—one gallon per person per day. There are no designated campsites. Permits are not required for day use.

Protect Petrified Wood Please help us preserve the natural and archeological features in the park.

Federal law prohibits disturbing, collecting, or removing petrified wood, fossils, rocks, minerals, plants, animals, and archeological objects.

Safety and Regulations
Do not climb on petrified logs. • Be aware of symptoms of high altitude sickness: nausea, dizziness, headache, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. • Keep hydrated. Wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses with UV protection. • Wild animals can carry diseases including rabies, hanta virus, and plague. Do not handle or allow your pets near any live or dead animals. Avoid nests and burrows. • Do not stop in roadway. • Pets must be kept on a leash and are not allowed in buildings. Clean up after your animals and please, don't leave pets in a closed vehicle. • Bicycles and motorized vehicles are permitted only on paved roads. • For a complete list of regulations, including firearms information, check the park website or ask a ranger.

Throughout Petrified Forest National Park, nature's stark beauty and whimsical artistry evoke a landscape from another world. Follow the 28-mile park road for a journey of discovery.

Painted Desert Visitor Center has information, a film, historic architecture, bookstore, gift shop, food, gas, and restrooms.

Painted Desert Inn Built in Pueblo Revival style in the early 20th century, this National Historic Landmark is now a museum with exhibits on its history and architecture.

Painted Desert Overlooks showcase spectacular views of the multi-hued landscape.

Tawa Trail leads 1.2 miles from the entrance station through tranquil grasslands to Tawa Point and connects with the Painted Desert Rim Trail.

Tawa Point is the trailhead for the Painted Desert Rim Trail, a 1-mile roundtrip walk through pinyon-juniper shrubland atop volcanic rock. Enjoy excellent views and see where the landscape gets its name.

Chinde Point offers restrooms and a picnic area.

Route 66 Alignment A 1932 Studebaker shows where a section of the original Route 66 crossed the park.

Puerco Pueblo This 0.3-mile loop trail highlights petroglyphs and ancestral Puebloan homes occupied 1250-1380 CE.

Newspaper Rock displays more than 650 petroglyphs, some over 2,000 years old.

Blue Mesa features a 3.5-mile loop drive. A steep, 1-mile trail enters the vibrant badlands with equally colorful petrified wood.

Agate Bridge features sweeping views and a 110-foot long petrified log bridge.

Jasper Forest has a panoramic view of an area with a high concentration of petrified wood.

Crystal Forest is a paved, 0.75-mile loop trail through a badlands landscape with many intact petrified logs.

Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center has information, a park film, fossil exhibits and skeletons, bookstore, trail access, and restrooms.

Giant Logs Trail 0.4-mile loop. See some of the largest petrified logs in the park, including "Old Faithful"—almost 10 feet across its base.

Long Logs Trail* 1.6-mile loop. This trail leads through the site of a Triassic-period logjam, where some specimens are over 180 feet long.

Agate House Trail* 2 miles roundtrip. Walk to a seven-room pueblo constructed of petrified wood.

*Combine these two trails for a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike.

Source: NPS Brochure (2017)


Establishment

Petrified Forest National Park — December 9, 1962
Petrified Forest National Monument — December 8, 1906


For More Information
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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

A Catalog of Upper Triassic Plant Megafossils of the Western United States Through 1988 (Sidney Ash, 1989)

A Rare Bipinnate Microsporophyll Attributable to the Cycadales, From the Late Triassic Chinle Formation, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona (Joan Watson and Sidney R. Ash, extract from A Century of Research at Petrified Forest National Park: Geology and Paleontology, Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin No. 62, 2006, ©Museum of Northern Arizona, Archives, all rights reserved)

"Age of Reptiles": Uncovering the Mesozoic Fossil Record in Three Intermountain National Parks (Vincent L. Santucci, Adam Marsh, William Parker, Dan Chure and Don Corrick, extract from Crossroads in Science, Spring 2018)

An Archeological Overview of Petrified Forest National Park Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology No. 10 (Yvonne G. Stewart, 1980)

Archeological Investigations at Puerco Ruin, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology No. 54 (Jeffery F. Burton, 1990)

Archeological Survey and Testing at Petrified Forest National Park, 1987 Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) Publications in Anthropology No. 48 (Susan J. Wells, 1988)

Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger (Date Unknown)

Bird Community Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park

Bird Community Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2007 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2010/101 (Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, November 2010)

Bird Community Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2009 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2012/421 (Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, December 2012)

Bird Community Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2012 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2014/624 (Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, February 2014)

Bird Community Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2015 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2016/1066 (Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, November 2016)

Construct a Campground at Chinde Point Environmental Assessment (August 1, 2016)

Contributions to the Archeology of Petrified Forest National Park, 1985-1986 Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology 45 (Anne Trinkle Jones, 1987)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Painted Desert Inn, Petrified Forest National Park (2010)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Painted Desert Community Complex H.D., Petrified Forest National Park (2008)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Rainbow Forest Complex, Petrified Forest National Park (2002)

Days in the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forests of Northern Arizona, Contributions of the Archeology of Petrified Forest National Park, 1988-1992 Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology 62 (Jeffery F. Burton, 1993)

Dicynodont Trackways from the Holbrook Member of the Moenkopi Formation (Middle Triassic: Anisian), Arizona, USA (Adrian P. Hunt, Vincent L. Santucci, Martin G. Lockley and Thomas J. Olson, extract from New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science Bulletin 3, 1993)

Draft General Management Plan Revision / Environmental Impact Statement, Petrified Forest National Park (February 2003)

Exclusive: Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona Highways, Vol 59 No. 2, February 1983; ©Arizona Department of Transportation)

Final General Management Plan Revision / Environmental Impact Statement, Petrified Forest National Park (May 2004)

First records of diapsid Palacrodon from the Norian, Late Triassic Chinle Formation of Arizona, and their biogeographic implications (Ben T. Kligman, Adam D. Marsh and William G. Parker, extract from Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, Vol. 63 No. 1, 2018)

Foundation Document, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona (December 2015)

Foundation Document Overview, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona (January 2016)

Enjoy the View — Visual Resources Inventory Report, Petrified Forest National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/PEFO/NRR-2019/1980 (Mark E. Meyer, William Parker, Melanie V. Peters and Ryan Felten, August 2019)

General Management Plan Amendment/Environmental Impact Statement, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona (February 2010)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Petrified Forest National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2010/218 (K. KellerLynn, June 2010)

Geology of Petrified Forest National Monument (Vincent W. Vandiver, undated)

Historic Furnishings Report: Painted Desert Inn, Part 1: Historical Data, Part 2: Implementation Plan, Petrified Forest National Park (2004)

Historical Overview (Date Unknown)

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2007 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2009/005 (James K. DeCoster and Megan C. Swan, July 2009)

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2008 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2009/020 (James K. DeCoster and Megan C. Swan, December 2009)

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2009 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2011/173 (James K. DeCoster and Megan C. Swan, June 2011)

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2010 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2013/514 (James K. DeCoster and Megan C. Swan, July 2013)

Integrated Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring for Petrified Forest National Park: 2012–2014 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SCPN/NRDS—2016/1040 (James K. DeCoster and Megan C. Swan, August 2016)

Junior Arizona Archeologist (2016)

Junior Ranger, Petrified Forest National Park (2017)

Long-Range Interpretive Plan, Petrified Forest National Park (September 2000)

Microanatomy and paleohistology of the intercentra of North American metoposaurids from the Upper Triassic of Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona, USA) with implications for the taxonomy and ontogeny of the group (Bryan M. Gee, William G. Parker and Adam D. Marsh, PeerJ, April 18, 2017)

Maintenance Guides for the Treatment of Historic Properties: Petrified Forest National Park (Andrew Gorski and Michael Lavato, June 2005)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms

35th Parallel Route (Gordon Chappell, September 17, 1976)

Agate House Pueblo (Roger E. Kelly, October 1974)

Painted Desert Community Complex Historic District (Amanda Zeman, Rodd Wheaton and Dawn Bunyak, December 16, 2004)

Painted Desert Inn (Roger M. Cox, Roger E. Kelly, Gordon S.Chappell and Thomas D. Mulhern, February 10, 1975)

Painted Desert Inn (Laura Soullière Harrison, 1986)

Rainbow Forest Historic Designed Landscape (Michel M. Hellickson, March 20, 2001)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment (Revised with Costs), Petrified Forest National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/PEFO/NRR-2020/2186 (J. Judson Wynne, November 2020)

Osteology of the Late Triassic aetosaur Scutarx deltatylus (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia) (William G. Parker, PeerJ, August 30, 2016)

Paleontological resource damage from "poor science:" Examples from Petrified Forest National Park (William G. Parker and Karen A. Dorn, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science Bulletin 34, 2006, ©New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, all rights reserved)

Park Newspaper (InterPARK Messenger): c1990s1992

Park Newspaper: c1980199620072009201020122014201620192020

Patterns of Lithic Use at AZ Q:1:42, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona: Data Recovery Along the Mainline Road Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology No. 25 (A. Trinkle Jones, 1983)

Petrified Forest Grasslands, Status and Trends: Vegetation and Soils Monitoring 2007-2018 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SCPN/NRR-2020/2068 (Mega C. Swan, Lee M. McCoy and Jodi R. Norris, February 2020)

Petrified Forest National Park (United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Petrified Forest National Park Boundary Survey, 1988: The Final Season (Susan J. Wells, 1989)

Pueblo Period Archeology at Four Sites, Petrified Forest National Park Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology No. 38 (A. Trinkle Jones, 1986)

Rainbow Forest Historic Designed Landscape: Cultural Landscape Report, Part Two (Bert Collins West Ltd., January 2011)

Redescription of Calyptosuchus (Stagonolepis) wellesi (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia: Aetosauria) from the Late Triassic of the Southwestern United States with a discussion of genera in vertebrate paleontology (William G. Parker, PeerJ, February 8, 2018)

Reducing Theft of Petrified Wood at Petrified Forest National Park (Joseph W. Roggenbuck, Carolyn J. Widner and Dennis W. Stratton, August 1997)

Rehabilitate Painted Desert Inn and Cabins Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect (November 2003)

Report of Regional Geologist on Petrified Forest National Monument (Chas. N. Gould, August 1, 1936)

Revised phylogenetic analysis of the Aetosauria (Archosauria: Pseudosuchia); assessing the effects of incongruent morphological character sets (William G. Parker, PeerJ, January 21, 2016)

Rio Puerco Bridge: Photographs, Historical and Descriptive Data HAER No. AZ-13 (Clayton B. Fraser, January 1989)

Sacral anatomy of the phytosaur milosuchus adamanensis, with implications for pelvic girdle evolution among Archosauriformes (Christopher T. Griffin, Candice M. Stefanic, William G. Parker, Axel Hungerbrühler and Michelle R. Stocker, extract from Journal of Anatomy, Vol. 231, 2017)

Second Report on Petrified Forest National Monument (Chas. N. Gould, July 2, 1937)

Secretary of the Interior's Annual Report, 1913 - Report on Wind Cave National Park, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves (1913)

Secretary of the Interior's Annual Report, 1915 - Report on Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin; the Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves (1915)

Sources of volcanic detritus in the basal Chinle Formation, southwestern Laurentia, and implications for the Early Mesozoic magmtaic arc (N.R. Riggs, Z.A. Oberling, E.R. Howell, W.G. Parker, A.P. Barth, M.R. Cecil and J.W. Martz, extract from Geosphere, Vol. 12 No. 2, 2016, ©The Geological Society of America)

The Archeology of Sivu'ovi: The Archaic to Basketmaker Transition at Petrified Forest National Park Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology 55 (Jeffery F. Burton, 1991)

The axial skeleton of Poposaurus langstoni (Pseudosuchia: Poposauroidea) and its implications for accessory intervertebral articulation evolution in pseudosuchian archosaurs (Candice M. Stefanic and Sterling J. Nesbitt, PeerJ, February 14, 2018)

The Painted Desert Inn: Evaluation of Structures and Cultural Resources (Tom Muihern, Robert Cox, Gordon Chappell and Roger Kelly, 1974)

The Petrified Forest National Park and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History: A Case Study in Paleontological Research Draft (David D. Gillette and Chris L. Andress, undated)

The Petrified Forest Through the Ages: 75th Anniversary Symposium, November 7, 1981 Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin 54 (Edwin H. Colbert and R. Roy Johnson, eds., Museum of Northern Arizona Press, 1985)

The Petrified Forests of Arizona (HTML edition) (Lester W. Ward, extract from Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1901)

The Road Inventory for Petrified Forest National Park (March 1999)

Third Geological Report on Petrified Forest National Monument (Chas. N. Gould, January 28, 1938)

Triassic Stratigraphy, Biostratigraphy, and Correlation in East-Central New Mexico (Spencer G. Lucas, Andrew B. Heckert and Adrian P. Hunt, extract from New Mexico Geological Society Guide book, 52nd Field Conference, 2001)

Vegetation Classification and Distribution Mapping Report: Petrified Forest National Park NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SCPN/NRTR—2009/273 (Kathryn A. Thomas, Anne Cully, J. M. Shawn Hutchinson, Monica L. McTeague and Keith Schulz, November 2009)

Visitor Study 2001/2002: Petrified Forest National Park (Martha E. Lee, Amy Hockenberry and Jeremy Delost, April 2002)

Where Did The Trees Grow? (M.V. Walker and James B. Felton, August 23, 1935)

When is a Great Kiva? Excavations at McCreery Pueblo, Petrified Forest National Park Western Archeological and Conservation Center Publications in Anthropology 63 (Jeffery F. Burton, 1993)

Wilderness Recommendations, Petrified Forest National Park (November 1967)

Wilderness Stewardship Plan/Environmental Assessment, Petrified Forest National Park (February 2013)



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Last Updated: 09-Apr-2022