Nestled into the Northeastern portion of Arizona, the Petrified Forest National Park is named for the deposits of petrified wood that cover about 230 square miles of the park. Encompassing semi-desert shrub and colorful badlands that make it look like you’re on another planet, Petrified Forest National Park is also situated near the famed Route 66.
Known for a dry, windy climate and situated abut 5,400 feet above sea level, visitors can expect hot summer temperatures and freezing temperatures in the wintertime. It’s also home to fossils that can be traced to nearly 225 million years ago, containing sediments that are part of the Chinle Formation. Leftover from the residency of Native Americans, there are also plenty of petroglyphs that can be discovered throughout the park.
With the arrival of Europeans and the gold rush movement, roads and railways brought tourism to the park. Plenty of fossils were taken from the park before it was protected. Unfortunately, theft of petrified wood remains a real problem in the 21st century.
The Petrified Forest National Park is home to plenty of large animals, like pronghorns, coyotes, bobcats, deer mice, snakes, lizards, and frogs. It is also a layover spot for many migratory birds. Other animals that can be enjoyed in the park include prairie dogs, foxes, and golden eagles. Due to its desert climate, most of these animals will be hidden by day. According to park websites, the one animal you are guaranteed to see while hiking there is the raven.
Lastly, the park is home to more than 400 species of plants, dominated by bunchgrass, sacaton, and blue grama.
The Petrified Forest National Park’s Animals
- Deer mice
- This large, nonvenomous snake is one of the longest snakes in North America, with lengths up to 8-feet. It can be found in and around the park.
- Praying mantises
- Red-spotted toads
- Most active in the rainy season, which extends from July through September, these toads can be found around rocky areas, near streams, and in the canyons.
Pintado Point: This is a great spot for wildlife viewing at dawn or dusk. Since the park is in the desert, many of these animals will be asleep during the day.
Agate House: This unique point is a great spot to add to your trip.
Blue Mesa Badlands: Stare out onto the badlands and into the sky to catch birds and ravens floating above your head on wind streams.
When Should You Go?
This is one of those parks that is great to visit throughout the year. Even in the winter months when it can snow, the temperatures will still be moderate in the afternoon. As for the summer, the strong winds make the park more tolerable when it gets hot during the day. Springtime blossoms and blooming plants make Petrified Forest a colorful experience which is great for photography. As for rain, the wet season starts in July and ends in October. Since this park is in the desert, there’s still never too much rainfall.
Fun fact: You are more likely to see animal life in the park if you come as early as the park hours allow you to and stay as late as you are allowed to. These are also the best times to capture photos as the sun enhances the colors of the Painted Desert.