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The fossilized logs that comprise the namesake of Petrified Forest National Park existed in a markedly different Arizona than the mountainous desert of modern times. Some 220 million years ago, the trees were rooted here, huge conifers, were uprooted by floods and buried in silt and volcanic ash. Over time, the lack of oxygen kept decay at bay while silica slowly replaced wood. As the sediment eroded in the ensuing eons, these vibrantly hued quartz logs re-emerged in the new arid landscape. Beginning in the pioneer era, these dazzling rocks have commanded top dollar for decorative applications, leading President Theodore Roosevelt to ...

The fossilized logs that comprise the namesake of Petrified Forest National Park existed in a markedly different Arizona than the mountainous desert of modern times. Some 220 million years ago, the trees were rooted here, huge conifers, were uprooted by floods and buried in silt and volcanic ash. Over time, the lack of oxygen kept decay at bay while silica slowly replaced wood. As the sediment eroded in the ensuing eons, these vibrantly hued quartz logs re-emerged in the new arid landscape. Beginning in the pioneer era, these dazzling rocks have commanded top dollar for decorative applications, leading President Theodore Roosevelt to establish Petrified Forest National Monument here in 1906 to protect the petrified wood from looters. But park officials estimate that people continue to take over 10 tons a year from the park, despite a zero-tolerance policy and stiff fines for violators. Hiking is the primary pastime in the Petrified Forest; popular routes include the Agate House Trail, leading to a partially restored 1,000-year-old house made of petrified wood, and the Painted Desert Wilderness Trail, which descends into the brilliantly colored badlands of its name, which is a popular area with backpackers in search of solitude.

Eric Peterson
About the Expert

Eric Peterson has written and contributed to numerous Frommer’s guidebooks covering the American West, including Montana & Wyoming, Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, and Texas.

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Eric Peterson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Petrified Forest National Park is a United States National Park that is located in eastern Arizona, in the Southwest region of the United States
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

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  • Best Time to Visit:

    June and September