As we were heading out west from Texas to California, we took our time getting there. There are so many beautiful places to see, and since I had never taken my kids this direction, we wanted to make sure and see as much as we could. My mom remembered loving the Petrified Forest when she was a kid, so that was one of the stops high on our list, and we were so glad we took the time to enjoy the beauty of the Painted Desert.
My mom got us in the park for free with her Senior Pass! We entered through the north entrance which is easily accessible from I-40. This park is unique as it feels kind of like a safari because you're given a map with stops along the way, and you just drive through and view the sights as you come across them. The entire trip through the Petrified Forest National Park is only 28 miles, but we took about three hours enjoying the drive. It was well worth it!
Touring the Petrified Forest National Park From the North
Our first stop was a breathtaking view of the Painted Desert from Tiponi Point.
My kids loved how high we felt! The clouds made fascinating shadows over the desert, and we honestly could have stood there for hours!
Even though we arrived at the first of August, the temperatures were only in the low 90s. It felt warm, but it wasn't unbearable! Additionally, we could hop back in the car and cool off between stops! We all appreciated that!
Even though many of the stops on the north side of I-40 were similar, it felt like we were experiencing a new view of the desert every time. Everyone had to get out at each stop and marvel at the vistas. The colors were just remarkable, and the views went on for miles!
Stops South of I-40
As we rounded the bend and headed south, our first major stop was Newspaper Rock. This fascinated my language loving son, and we enjoyed trying to see evidence of early communication through the free binoculars posted at the stop.
As unique as the writings on the stones were, nothing could prepare me for the change in scenery when we reached the Tepees! At first, I thought these hills looked a bit like Neapolitan ice cream! What I really loved was that the views at the first were from the top of the canyon, and by the time you reach the Tepees, your down in the midst of the giant hills. It's really an awesome experience!
Our first true "petrified wood" sighting came at the Blue Mesa stop.
These logs are just pretty remarkable. Although this happened in nature, it sure doesn't seem natural that a tree could be buried and crystallize into stone instead of decomposing. And this park is full of miracles!
The Blue Forest stop was another vista that just blew me away. The contrast of the blue skies and the white rocks were just stunning. There were quite a few trails in this area that would have been fun to hike around in, but the heat was catching up to us at this point!
While the Agate Bridge was fascinating, the views there of the expansive desert were just inspiring.
Again, my kids felt like they were on top of the world. It really is incredible to encounter a big sky. We were in awe.
At the end of the drive, you reach the south entrance to the park. Here you can walk around the giant petrified logs, enjoy the museum, or shop in the gift shop. Seeing the colors of the petrified wood up close is really remarkable. There are so many vivid colors and the variety is incredible.
What we loved about the Petrified Forest National Park was that it felt like we were immersed into nature. The views were so accessible even to my 70 year old mother who isn't as mobile as she used to be.
If you decide to make a trip through the Petrified Forest National Park, make sure to bring plenty of water (you're in the desert after all), wear sunscreen, and bring your camera. You just won't believe how beautiful and unique each view truly is.
An Added Bonus On The Way Back To I-40
After we left the park, we headed through Holbroock, AZ, which is home to the Wigwam Motel which inspired the Cars movie. We saw several cars that looked like the characters from the movie, as well as a few other locations down the street that looked like they inspired the movie.
Even though we saw some incredible sights heading west, the Petrified Forest National Park was ranked top among my entire family. It was definitely worth the stop along the way!