Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert

During our Route 66 travels through Arizona last summer I visited the famous Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. These two wonders have been on my bucket list for years and they’re definitely worth seeing. The Petrified Forest is the only national park in our country that protects a section of Route 66.

The Petrified Forest National Park, which has one of the world’s largest deposits of petrified wood, encompasses the badlands of the Painted Desert, archeological sites and 200-million-year-old fossils. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating the Petrified Forest National Monument, and it became a national park in 1952. The park averages about 645,000 visitors each year. 


The Petrified Forest is known for its fallen trees (coniferous, ferns, and gingkoes) from the Late Triassic Period 225 million years ago. It’s believed some of the trees reached 200 feet high when they were alive. The park has one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. Other places with petrified wood are North Dakota, Argentina, and Egypt.



Painted Desert Inn



The National Park also contains the historic Painted Desert Inn, which sits on a mesa overlooking the Painted Desert. The Inn was built in 1924 as a roadside hotel called the Stone Tree House by Herbert David Lore (the name came from the petrified wood used in its construction). In 1935 the National Park Service purchased it and the surrounding land. The Inn was redesigned in the Pueblo Revival style by architect Lyle E. Bennett. The Civilian Conservation Corps supplied the labor. In 1987 The Painted Desert Inn became a National Historic Landmark.

View out the back of the Painted Desert Inn


Inside the Painted Desert Inn



The Painted Desert encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles. It begins about 30 miles north of Cameron, Arizona near the southeastern rim of the Grand Canyon and extends all the way to the Petrified Forest about 26 miles east of Holbrook, AZ.

Photos don’t do justice to the breathtaking scenery and the vast emptiness that stretches to the horizon in all directions. I can only imagine what early travelers thought when they came upon the apocalyptic-looking badlands that seemed more like a planet from outer space than earth.

I’m wondering how many western historical authors have mentioned or used the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert…or perhaps the Painted Desert Inn in the plot of a book. Have you read a historical romance that mentions these places?

Until Next Time…Happy Trails!

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26 thoughts on “Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert”

  1. I have not read any that included that. I have visited and they are both incredible. Thanks so much for the revisit.

  2. God morning, wonderful blog. I don’t recall ever reading a book that features this. I hope since you’ve gone and visited that you will write one so we can read it. Happy early Valentine’s Day to you!

  3. Interesting post. Thanks for the pictures. I’ve never seen so much open space. Probably because I live in the North East. 🙂
    Carol Luciano

    • Carol, the open space is something you can’t get a real feel for unless you see it in person and It is difficult to imagine for city dwellers, I’d think because it’s so different.

  4. I can’t remember a western that mentioned either of those, but now I will have to be on the lookout! I just finished The Future She Left Behind and really liked it! 🙂

    • Katie–thanks so much for taking the time to read The Future She Left Behind-I’m glad you enjoyed it! If you find a book using the Painted Desert of Petrified Forest location please share it on the blog I’d love to know!

  5. Marin, I’ve always loved driving through that part of Arizona, but boy, is it hot! Rocks are my thing though and I’ll always treasure my petrified wood. I have some small pieces but also a very large one that is just beautiful. I kinda have a rock garden “inside” my house. Crazy. I like my rocks close so I can look at them.

  6. Beautiful pictures. There is also “Ginko Petrified Forest” state park in central Washington between Ellensburg and the Columbia River just north of I-90. Many of the trees would be considered tropical, today, and this area like Arizona receives less than 10 inches of moisture in a year. It makes you wonder what the climate must have been like when those trees were green and growing.

    • Alice, I have never heard of “Ginko Petrified Forest”that sounds like another great place to visit! And yep, it makes you wonder what life was like in those areas that long ago when the climate was so different.

  7. Great pictures. Thank you for sharing. We went through there in the mid-1980’s, but had an elderly aunt 3 elementary school children and a one year old. It was an interesting trip. We lived in Colorado Springs at the time and my aunt and nephew were out for their one big trip to the West. The 7 of us in a 27 ft. RV for 2 weeks covering Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah was interesting. It was amazing we were still on speaking terms at the end. Needless to say, we weren’t able to spend much time anywhere. To me one of the saddest things is before It was protected, there were large crystals in many of the petrified logs. These were pried out and taken along with many of the nicest logs. I would love to have seen them. It is too bad that people still take pieces with them. All they have to do is drive out of the park and they can find pieces along the side of the road.

  8. Although not by name, I get the feeling such a background was in a book where a man rescues a woman and then is attacked by hombres who take her and leavei him for dead in a pit with snakes. Really desolate territory.
    Thank you for the enlightening story and pictures.

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