This national park is really set up for a drive through, although if you do have more time there are options to camp within the park. You either enter from the north or the south depending on whether you’re coming from the east or the west. Coming from the east we entered the park at the northern end and drove south.
The park is renowned for the petrified logs that are a result of once fallen, covered by sediments and other natural processes (I won’t bore you here) became fossils. They truly are spectacular, but entering from the north means these beauties are at the end of the road. First, you must travel through various moonscapes.
The vistas of the Painted Desert are the first you come across as you start your journey south. It really is hard to believe that from the interstate (which the park crosses) there is no evidence that these views are a short drive away.
Of all the national parks within the USA, and as long as Route 66 is crossing the country, Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park to contain a part of the original highway within the park itself. The original highway location is marked by the telegraph poles in the photos below.
As the name suggests, Newspaper Rock told earlier peoples of the surroundings and the “news” through petroglyphs. Even though they cannot be viewed up close, there are binoculars for visitors to use, or with a good zoom lense they are visible also.
Even though there are a number of cars moving through the park, the desolate landscapes and open roads do make you feel like you are miles from civilisation. The Tepees are the first close up look of the coloured “sands” towering above the road cutting through them.
Much of these landscapes are what many would call moonscapes, but I call them mounds of rainbows. Essentially, due to the different minerals in the sediments weathering has caused bands of colour to appear. At the Blue Mesa they generally take on the cooler tones of blues and purples, which change with sunlight and other weather conditions.
Crystal Forest is what gives the park its name, it’s the Petrified Forest that has crystallised over time. The logs lying in the landscape from a distance don’t look all that exciting, but do take the walk and have a look at the logs, its close up that you can see their beauty.