Petrified Forest National Park, Oct. 30, 2014
We drove ~4 hours from Albuquerque and arrived at the park around 1:30PM. The northeast entrance from I-40 has a visitor center and it's a short drive from there to the Painted Desert overlook.
You can hike a couple of miles through there to the Black Forest of petrified wood. But we had limited time and chose to follow the park roads to the easily accessible sites.
First up was Puerco Pueblo, which had several foundations of pueblo buildings plus some petroglyph rocks. Noteworthy was this solstice marker:
Around 9AM on the summer solstice sunlight shines through the narrow crack in the large rock at left and illuminates the spiral marking on the darker rock at right.
Next up are the striped Tepee rock formations.
Ravens were looking for handouts at most of these stops.
The first petrified wood is at the Blue Mesa overlook.
Farther along Blue Mesa is a hiking trail down into an eroded area that exposes more petrified wood.
Sometimes the petrified wood is on a pedestal as softer clay erodes around it.
The Agate Bridge is a natural bridge formed under an intact petrified log.
It was shored up with cement to prevent the log from breaking.
The largest concentration of petrified wood is the Jasper Forest, viewed from an overlook above.
However the highlight of the park is the Crystal Forest, which has a short hiking trail with close up views of wood petrified by varied colorful minerals.
There were several broken logs of considerable length.
And here are a few examples of why they named it Crystal Forest.
It was after sunset when we left Crystal Forest, so we missed the Rainbow Forest Museum at the southern end of the park.
Petrified Forest is one of those small footprint parks like Bryce, but it was not that busy on a nice day in late October. There were typically only 2-4 cars at each stop. We were tired and spent the night in nearby Holbrook. Petrified Forest is about 2 hours east of Flagstaff.