In 1906 Petrified Forest NP was made a national monument to preserve and protect the petrified wood. Millions of years ago water that contained components of minerals such as quartz and calcite seeped into wood (that was buried) and, over time, replaced the organic material in the wood. The resulting hardened wood is made of rock but still has the appearance of wood. Like so many other natural wonders, petrified wood helps scientists unlock the mysteries of the past; thus it has great scientific value and was worthy of the protection that national monument status gave it. Nearly sixty years later, on December 9, 1962 Petrified Forest National Park was established.
The park, which lies on both sides of Interstate 40, is about 3.5 hours (by car) from either Phoenix, Arizona or Albuquerque, New Mexico. It includes a grassland ecosystem and the badlands of the Painted Desert. Badlands are semi-desert regions with little rainfall and vegetation and high rates of erosion. Water and wind transform soft sedimentary rock into peculiar, yet awesome, shapes and sizes. A drive through Petrified Forest NP will yield many different types of terrain very quickly - from the Painted Desert's vistas, into grasslands of a large plateau, through geologic formations, to multi-colored arrays of petrified wood.
Petrified Forest NP has so much to offer those who are looking for a great escape into a different place and time. The best way to see the park is by foot. Imagine hiking into the hills of the Blue Mesa region to view incredible displays of petrified wood eroding in bluish bentonite clay hills. Maybe you will decide to venture into the base of the gray badlands where you will find the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park. You could also take a trek into the Painted Desert to soak up the spectacular views, look at the many species of plants, and search out desert animals. You can also:
Drive the 28 miles of park road and stop at any number of overlooks to view petrified wood, petroglyphs, archeological sites, and the Painted Desert
Horseback ride through the park
Participate in educational programs and guided tours
Visit park museums
Petrified Forest NP (National Park) is evidence of the fact that nature's wonders are endless. In this unique environment, visitors can walk through miles and miles of desert that contains wood that has been turned into rock. Just remember that removing petrified wood or any other materials from the park is illegal. But, all is not lost because visitors can buy petrified wood from the gift shop (the wood comes from private land) and taking photos is always a good way to capture the experience.