There’s no need to be afraid in the Petrified Forest. This incredible National Park takes its name from the brightly coloured mineral remains of ancient trees that lie here. Petrified Forest was awarded National Park status in 1962 to protect the scientifically significant wood. Covering an area of 897 km2 (346 mi2), the park is located in north-eastern Arizona.
With its enormous concentration of Late Triassic fossils, ancient archaeological sites and unique landscapes, the park is endlessly fascinating. Its landscape is composed of semi-desert shrub steppe and the dry badlands of the Painted Desert. Badlands are aptly named, since travelling across the region is extremely difficult. Geological structures such as canyons, gullies, hoodoos and ravines are common features, and the eroded rocks shimmer in vibrant colours, creating a spectacular display.
The park has a dry, windy climate with summer temperatures rising above 38°C (100°F), but falling well below freezing in winter. The rainbow colours of petrified wood hold a mystical appeal and attract over 600,000 visitors a year to the park. There are seven maintained hiking trails, varying in length from just under 0.8 km (0.5 mi) to nearly 4.8 km (3 mi), but hikers and backpackers can also explore the park’s wilderness areas for a magnificent nature getaway. Horse riding is an exciting way to tour the park, especially as horses are permitted in all of the wilderness areas.
Archaeological sites are also notable attractions. Highlights include Agate House - a pueblo reconstructed using petrified wood - and Newspaper Rock, which is covered in hundreds of ancient etchings. The park visitor centre, Rainbow Forest Museum, Painted Desert Inn and a series of ranger talks all provide detailed information about the park’s 255 million year history. Visitors can view fossil displays, museums exhibits and a short orientation movie.