Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park was declared a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962. It is really two parks in one. In addition to the prehistoric petrified forest which is its namesake, part of the painted desert is included in the northern portion of the park. Also in the Park are the Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark, and the ancestral puebloan village of Puerco Pueblo. The Park has a north and south entrance. My suggestion is to start at the north entrance (exit 311 off Interstate 40) and drive the park road to the south entrance at U.S. Hwy 180. You can stop at the Visitor Center and Painted Desert Inn, loop through the Painted Desert, cross I-40 and historic Route 66, visit Puerco Pueblo just south of the Rio Puerco, travel through the Petrified Forest, and visit the Crystal Museum on the way out. Tah Dah! I've been to the park four times: 1979, 1989, 2002, and most recently in May of 2022.

Entrance Sign (1989)

Entrance Sign (2022)

Visitor Center May 2022
Undergoing minor repairs

Painted Desert Community Complex


Gift Shop

Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark

Herbert Lore built the “Stone Tree House”, which became the Painted Desert Inn. Petrified Forest National Monument purchased the Painted Desert Inn in 1936. The Painted Desert Inn was redesigned in the Pueblo Revival style by NPS architect Lyle Bennett in the 1930s. Construction and renovation was done by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The exquisite skylight panels were hand-painted by CCC workers. The inn reopened on July 4, 1940 and served travelers along Route 66. The inn closed in October 1942 with the advent of World War II, reopening five years later under management of the Fred Harvey Company. The Inn was built on a bed of bentonite, which made its foundation unstable. The inn’s structural problems led to its closure in 1963 and much debate over demolition versus preservation. The park initially scheduled demolition of the building for 1975. However, a campaign to save the Painted Desert Inn resulted in its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and it reopened on a limited basis as the Bicentennial Travel Center. The Painted Desert Inn gained National Historic Landmark status in 1987. Repair and renovation has continued up to the present day, and the Inn is now operated as a museum featuring decor and architecture from its heyday in the 50s and 60s. I chanced upon a Jaguar rally (cars not cats) at the Painted Desert Inn in 2002, and I've included a couple of photos of these beautiful autos.

Painted Desert Inn (1989)

Painted Desert Inn (2002)

Painted Desert Inn (2022)

Painted Desert Inn

Vintage Jaguar E-type

Vintage Jaguar C-type

Wish I knew what this was
Looks like a molecular model of a protein



Painted Glass Skylight Panels

Ice Cream Parlor

Dining Room Wall Mural 2002

Dining Room Wall Mural 2022

Dining Room Wall Mural 2002

Dining Room Wall Mural (2022)


Harvey Girls

Painted Desert

The Painted Desert is an area of badlands in the four corners region. It extends from east of the Grand Canyon southeast into Pertified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert is composed of various eroded rock layers from the Triassic Period. These layers are rich in iron and manganese that color the badlands in shades of red, brown, and lavender.

Painted Desert (1979)

Painted Desert (1989)

Painted Desert (1989)

Painted Desert (2002)

Painted Desert (2002)

View from Tiponi Point (2022)

View from Kachina Point at Painted Desert Inn (2022)

View from Whipple Point (2022)

Route 66 Marker

Route 66 - Highway of Dreams

Old Studebaker

Puerco Pueblo

Puerco Pueblo is a late (Pueblo IV) ancestral puebloan village of about 100 rooms. It probably had 200 residents at its peak around 1300 A.D. By 1380 it was deserted. Who knows why? There are some interesting petroglyphs at Puerco Pueblo, as well as a restored 1935 entrance station/visitor center.

Puerco Pueblo (1979)

Puerco Pueblo (1989)

Puerco Pueblo (2002)

Puerco Pueblo (2022)

Spiral Petroglyph Solstice Marker

Summer Solstice Marker Explained

1935 Entrance Station/Visitor Center

1935 Entrance Station/Visitor Center

Common Raven (Corvus corax)

Newspaper Rock (1979)

Newpaper Rock (2002)

Newspaper Rock (2022)

Petrified Forest

The Petrified Forest is a large area of fossilized trees from the late Triassic Period. Other fossil plants including ferns and ginkos are found here. Prehistoric fauna such as phytosaurs are also present. Blue Mesa, Jasper Forest, and Crystal Forest are all worthwhile stops in the Petrified Forest. Short, easy hiking trails are located at Blue Mesa and Crystal Forest.

Trees eroded from hillside (1989)

Petrified wood among rock formations
Blue Mesa (2002)

Petrified Tree Trunk

Blue Mesa Trail (2002)

Petrified Redwood

Petrified Wood

Agate Bridge - 110 ft (34 m) fossilized tree trunk

Petrified wood
Jasper Forest Overlook (2022)

Petrified tree trunk

Crystal Forest (2022)

Petrified Wood
Crystal Forest Trail (2022)

Rainbow Forest Historic District

Construction of the Rainbow Forest Complex was started in 1928. It served as park headquarters for 39 years. The complex consists of a visitor center and museum, concession building and gift shop, and residential and service areas for park staff. It is also the site of Rainbow Forest, an area containing the largest and most colorful petrified wood in the park. I was most interested in the paleontological displays in the museum.

Rainbow Forest Historic District

Rainbow Forest Museum

Museum Gift Shop

Placerias hesternus

Postosuchus kirkpatricki


Thanks to the National Park Service and Wikipedia for background content.
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