Petrified Forest National Park Things to Do

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    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui

Most Recent Things to Do in Petrified Forest National Park

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    Look at old stuff

    by John195123 Written Feb 17, 2014
    These are trees when they get really scared...
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    Great title, huh? Ok, so there's a bunch of old trees that look like rocks. Pretty neat, but there's so much more- the topography, the arid nature of the region, the desert life. Go for the petrified forest, but let the whole place sink in; it's an amazing experience.

    I'd love to be able to get off the trails and explore this area more.

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    Agate House A House of Gems

    by Yaqui Updated Dec 1, 2013

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    I really wanted to see the house even though it was about 90 and my RA was really bothering me, but I was determined. So off I went on my own with a couple of bottles of water. My hubby's back was hurting him, so he couldn't come with me. Thankful about the mid way there is a shaded structure. So each way I would stop here to drink and relax. What a beautiful view from the structure too by the way. The Agate House is worth your time.
    While walking back I said a prayer under breath a breeze would be nice and all of sudden a had a beautiful breeze on the way back along with cloud cover. Hmmm, I think someone was listening to me;^)

    The panel reads: This structure, called Agate House, is a partial reconstruction of an Indian pueblo built here almost ten centuries ago. Indians built dwelling walls like these of petrified wood sealed with mud mortar. Archeologists believe the original eight-room pueblo was built between A.D. 1050 and 1300.

    The absence of a kiva (underground ceremonial chamber) and the relatively small amount of cultural debris found at Agate House indicate a brief occupancy. Reconstruction of its room occured after archaeological excavation in 1934. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Painted Desert Inn

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 9, 2013

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    In 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps replaced an earlier lodge. This building was designed by Lyle E. Bennett and the Pertrified Service Branch of Plans and Designs. Operated as a Fred Harvey House from 1947 to when it closed its doors 1963. Thankfully declared a National Historic Landmark, it now services the public by opening its doors and letting visitors a peek into its rich history.

    This plaque reads: Painted Desert Inn
    Has been designated a
    National
    Historical Landmark
    This site possesses National Significance
    in Commemorating the
    History of the United States of America
    1987

    Photo #4: Painted Desert Inn - Peek a boo!
    Need a room for the night? Half of these six rooms along the west wall were originally guestrooms for visitors, complete with mirror, sink, bunkbed, and fireplace. Staff stayed in the other three rooms.

    Starting in 1950, the rooms all became onsite quarters for the Fred Harvey Company employees. A head Harvey Girl acted as watchful den mother to ensure proper conduct. This room was occupied by Rachel Ramirez (photo below and right) and a second Girl. Harvey Girl Rachel Ramirez stands outside quarters, 1950s.

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    Desert Vistas

    by Yaqui Written Oct 9, 2013

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    The plaques reads: From Pintodo Point, vistas of remarkable clarity extend far beyond boundaries because the air quality in the surrounding Petrified Forest is among the purest in the continental United States. At times, the San Francisco Peaks, 120 miles (193 km) away near Flagstaff, can be seen clearly. Long-distance visibility also allows us to see the Painted Desert's vibrant colors extending out to the horizon. But clean air is extremely sensitive. In pre-industrial times, visibility flunctuated naturally depending on conditions of weather, wind, dust, and smoke. Today, visibility also is affected by man-made pollutants that reduce constrast, wash out colors, and render distant landscape features indistinct or invisible. Most of these pollutants are fine particles of sulfates, organic matter, soot, mitrates, and soil dust from industry, farming, motor vechiles, forest firest, and other sources. As in many rural western areas, sulfates, organic matter, and soot contribute almost equally to decreased visiblity. The park's air quality equipment measures and monitors the amount of these fine particles in the atmosphere. We can help improve air quality through carpooling, recycling, reducing use of electricity, and becoming involved in community air quality issues. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    A Gap in the Geologic Record

    by Yaqui Written Oct 9, 2013

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    The plaques reads: The black basalt the caps the cliff before you stands in stark contrast to the colorful Chinle Formation visible throughout the Painted Desert. Below this layer of basalt, a horizontal line cuts across the face of the mesa and separates rocks of two different geologic periods. The pink mudstone below this line belongs to the Chinle Formation deposited about 225 million years ago. The brown mudstone and basalt layers above the line represent the Bidahochi Formation deposited only 5 to 8 million years ago. How is it that only this thin line represents more than 200 million years of geologic history? This gap is known as an "unconformity." Geologists believe the missing layers were more than 1,000 feet (305 m) thick and that they were eroded over the years by running water and wind - forces that continue to shap this landscape. The emplacement of the basalt has temporarily stopped erosion on the Painted Desert rim, while it has continued in the valley below. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Early Explorers

    by Yaqui Written Oct 9, 2013

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    This plaque reads: U.S. Army Lt. Amiel Whipple, surveying for a railroad route along the 35th Parallel about one mile south of here, passed down the broad sandy wash below in December 1853. Impressed with the deposits of petrified wood visible along the banks, Whipple named it Lithodendron (“stone tree”) Creek. Although American Indians have long used petrified wood for projectile points, knives, scrapers, and other tools, Whipple was one of the earliest explorers to report its presence in this area. The expedition’s artist, Balduin Mollhausen, published accounts of his visit and the first illustrations of petrified wood. Jules Marcou, a geologist who accompanied the expedition, published the first professional description of Triassic plant fossils and rocks found in the Southwest. Between 1857 and 1859, Edward Fitzgerald Beale and his surveying expedition established the Beale Wagon Road along the 35th Parallel. In an interesting army experiment, camels were used to transport men and supplies along this route. Today, Interstate 40 lies close to the 35th Parallel line surveyed by these early explorers. “We really though we saw before us masses of wood that had floated hither, or even a tract of woodland where the timber had been felled…On closer examination wer found they were fossil trees that had been gradually washed bare by the torrents…” -Balduin Mollhausen, Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the Coasts of the Pacific with a United States Expedition, 1853. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    The Painted Desert

    by Yaqui Written Oct 9, 2013

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    There are even more beautiful landscape in the Painted Desert area, just breath taking. This plaque reads: The Painted Desert stretches before you as an outdoor museum of fossilized plants and animals. Its striking colors emanate from the Chinle Formation of the Late Triassic, which has been eroded by the Little Colorado River drainage system.

    An aerial view of the Painted Desert reveals tie-dyed corrugated hills of highly colored sedimentary rock, mostly soft, fine-grained mudstone and claystone. Also present are harder beds of more somber-colored siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate. The wide range of reddish color in these rocks is due to the presence of iron minerals.

    The Chinle Formation is a storehouse of plant and animal fossils that provided evidence of a time when giant amphibians and reptiles ruled the Earth. If you look deep into the Painted Desert, you may see large fragments of petrified wood. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Route 66

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 9, 2013

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    This is a neat memorial to the good old days of Route 66, it reads:

    You are standing near old Route 66. The line of the roadbed and the telephone poles in front of you mark the path of the famous "Main Street of America" as it passed through Petrified Forest National Park. From Chicago to Los Angeles, this heavily traveled highway was not only a road. It stood as a symbol of opportunity, adventure, and exploration of travelers.

    A trip from Middle America to the Pacific Coast could take about a week - no interstate speeds here! For many, the journey was not just across miles, it was across cultures and lifestyles - from the most mundane to the exotic. Of course, getting to your destination was important, but the trip itself was a reward. From the neon signs of one-of-kind motels to burgers and chicken fried steaks of multitudes of restaurants, from the filling stations that served as miniature oases to gaudy tourist traps, these more than 2,200 miles of open road were magical.

    Gaze down the long road and listen. You may hear echoes of the past - echoes of Route 66.

    It winds from Chicago to L.A., More than two thousand miles all. Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six.~ Bobby Troupe, Route 66, 1946

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    Santa Fe Railroad

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: Across the Puerco River, the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad stretch for miles to the east and to the west. With no landforms or forests to block your view, you can see very long trains from beginning to end. More than 60 trains a day pass through the park.

    The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad built this important line across the Southwest in 1882. That sparked the founding of many northern Arizona towns, including Holbrook and Winslow to the west.

    The Fred Harvey Company, famous for excellent meals and hotels along the Santa Fe line, hosted guided tours into the Petrified Forest National Monument during the 1930’s. Passengers disembarked at the Adamana station one mile (1.6 km) to the west to tour “petrified forests” in open roofed “Harvey Cars.”

    The advent of automobiles brought visitors to the park along Route 66, which was later replaced by Interstate 40. Although the whistle-stop town of Adamana has disappeared and Route 66 through the park is mostly overgrown by the short grass prairie, trains still roll along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Village on the Rio Puerco

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: The village on the Rio Puerco (Puerco Pueblo) is a prehistoric settlement built of shaped sandstone blocks by ancestral Puebloan people. It was inhabited between A.D. 1250 and 1380. At its peak the pueblo had over 100 rooms, with a possible population of 200 people. During the village’s occupation, fields of corn, beans, and squash sustained by the summer rains would have filled the river’s floodplain.

    Puerco Pueblo was not isolated in space or time. The river provided a travel corridor across the grasslands of the Colorado Plateau. Large and small communities existed up and down the Rio Puerco and Little Colorado River (shown on the map below right). Puerco Pueblo would have been visited by travelers and traders from far outside the ancestral Puebloan cultural area who brought different types of pottery and goods, as well as new ideas to the residents of Puerco (see map below left). Researchers study these types of interactions through the wide variety of artifacts and rock art found in or near the village.

    Archeologists have excavated only about a third of the site, some of which has been backfilled to preserve the fragile remnants of walls and floor features. Take a walk past the remnants of masonry walls and imagine the dynamic community that once existed here.

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    Whispers of the Past

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: For thousands of years, indigenous people have used rock faces as means of communication. Petroglyphs are images, symbols, or designs scratched, pecked, carved, or incised on the surface of rock. These features are like whispers from the past and there are thousands of them at hundreds of sites in Petrified Forest National Park. How do we know what petroglyphs mean? Interpreting images that hare hundreds to thousands of years old is not easy. One method involves asking contemporary indigenous ocmmunities about the meaning of these images. On the rocks below are several examples of petroglyphs, including one that tribes have identified as migration symbol, which is an important theme in Puebloan oral history. The images on the right depicts circular faces on a dark rock surface. Modern groups identify these as Kachinas, or spirit beings in Pueblo religion and cosmology. Research suggests that the “Kachina Culture” arrived in this region circa A. D. 1300. Similar symbols, found on modern Puebloan pottery and weaving remind us of the continuity between prehistoric sites, like Puerco Pueblo, and the present. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    A Canvas for Ideas

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: The dark coating on the boulder below you is desert varnish – a concentration of mineral, clay, and organic material that accumulates over time. Prehistoric artists created rock art by exposing the lighter material underneath. But what do these symbols mean? Unlike contemporary writing, petroglyphs are not letters or sounds. Instead they represent the ideas of the artist. Like all of us, the creators of these petroglyphs were trying to communicate with the world around them.

    Present day indigenous oral traditions help us understand what petroglyphs might mean. Members of the Zuni tribe believe that this rock art depicts clan ties of the artist – perhaps a mother from the Crane Clan and father from the Frog Clan. An alternative Hopi interpretation recalls stories of a giant bird that came to villages to eat bad children.

    What do you think large bird pytroglyph represent? Visitors often say “a stork and a baby,” which is a European oral tradition with a different cultural history. Yet the image is similar to a native bird at Petrified Forest. The white-faced ibis is a water bird that eats frogs and other small animals. If you look closely, you can see what might represent water drops below the frog. Instead of a literal interpretation, this petroglyph likely represents aquatic resources and
    fertility. Around the world, people in arid regions show reverence and give thanks for water through symbols such as fish, tadpoles, and dragonflies. What do you think that these symbols might represent? Erected by Petrified National Forest.

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    Summer Solstice Marker

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice annually as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, June 20th is usually the longest day of the year and is referred to as the summer solstice.

    These photographs illustrate how sunlight from the rising summer solstice Sun flows down the cleft in the boulder in front of you. The play of light and shadow on the spiral petroglyph changes as the Sun rises and moves across the sky. From between June 14th to the 28th a shaft of light forms, moving down the side of the adjacent boulder, until it touches the center of the spiral within a few minutes of 9:00 am. The full interaction of the solar marker takes about a hour, shown in each photograph below.

    Why would the inhabitants of Puerco Pueblo want to mark the date of the solstice? Prehistoric peoples used solar calendars to plan their lives around the changing season. For agricultural people knowing when to plant crops or expect summer rains is vital for survival. Solstice days marked important points in the seasonal calendar and formed the cornerstones of annual ceremonial cycles. This importance persists in the ceremonial calendars of contemporary indigenous communities where the year is divided in two by the summer and winter solstices.

    In Petrified Forest National Park researchers have identified over a dozen calendric petroglyph sites and many more exist throughout the Southwest. These features demonstrate the importance of marking the passage of the changing season to prehistoric peoples and their descendants. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Life in the Village

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: Did you notice where the trail passed over the faint outlines of the rooms? Over 100 rooms formed a one-story apartment complex surrounding a central plaza in the village. The building materials for the pueblo were blocks of native sandstone, shaped by hand, and mortared together with mud. The exterior and interior walls were finished with plaster.

    The structures above ground served as living quarters and storage rooms. There were also several subterranean rooms, or kivas, such as the one behind you. Kivas are ceremonial and religious structures. These likely had flat roofs with a square entrance, fresh air was drawn through a small ventilation shaft.

    The plaza was the center of activity in the village. By examining artifacts and structures found at Puerco Pueblo and their context, researchers are able to reconstruct the daily life of its inhabitants. Everyday tasks such as the preparation of food or the manufacture of tools, pottery, and baskets occurred in this space. In addition, ceremonial activities took place within these walls that tied the community of Puerco to their ancestors and to their neighbors in the region. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Newspaper Rock

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaques: More than 650 images adorn the boulders below – one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the park. People who farmed the Puerco River Valley 650 to 2,000 years ago pecked these petroglyphs onto the rocks, leaving a legacy etched in stone.

    When rocks are exposed to the elements, a patina called “desert varnish” forms on the surface. Native people used sharp tools to chip into this veneer of iron and manganese oxides, clay minerals, and organic material, revealing the lighter colored rock beneath. The various shades of desert varnish are due to the amounts and ratio of minerals present. Blacker shades tend to be higher in manganese oxides, while redder tones indicated a higher amount of iron oxides.

    The great variety of petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock includes anthropomorphs (human-like figures), zoomorphs (animal-like figures), katsinas (spiritual figures), hands and tracks, and geometrics.

    Spotting scopes are provided to help you examine the petroglyphs below this overlook. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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Petrified Forest National Park Things to Do

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