Although a bit west of what is considered the tradition Midwest, Petrified Forest National Park is an American national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, park covers about 230 square miles, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands.
The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Epoch. The sediments containing the fossil logs are part of the widespread and colorful Chinle Formation, from which the Painted Desert gets its name.
The park’s seven maintained hiking trails, some paved, vary in length from less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km) to nearly 3 miles. These named trails are Painted Desert Rim, Puerco Pueblo, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House. Hikers and backpackers may also visit the park’s wilderness areas.
Panorama of shortgrass prairie near Dry Wash in the southern section of the park.
Some of the larger animals roaming the grasslands include pronghorns, black-tailed jackrabbits (hares), Gunnison’s prairie dogs, coyotes, bobcats and foxes. Bobcats and bullsnakes hunt smaller animals, such as deer mice and white-tailed antelope squirrels in the park’s riparian zones. More than 16 kinds of lizards and snakes live in various habitats in the park.
The once Historic Route 66, of the most famous roads in the United States that ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and ended in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covered a total of 2,448 miles. It has always been iconic for roadside stops….dinners…antiquing…and many historical sites. Although it longer exists, you can still “get your kicks” on the path it took through the United States on other highways and roads. In this series, I will highlight the many places you can stop to explore nature along this route….focusing on spots in the Midwest. Looking for more stops….check out this guide.
And here are a few other great resources.