Arizona December 19, 2016
The Alluring Park Along Route 66 That’s Full Of Unexpected And Ancient Beauty
Geological wonders thrive in the Arizona horizon. Iconic formations like the Monument Valley mittens, the Grand Canyon’s depths, and Sedona’s striking red formations all help define our state’s landscape. Another place rich in geological (and historic) beauty is our very own Petrified Forest National Park.
Petrified Forest is a national park covering 230 square miles of colorful desert landscape in northern Arizona.
The park sits about 26 miles east of Holbrook, bisected by Interstate 40. Originally, Route 66 brought in droves of travelers into the park so that tourists could get a glimpse of some rather unique landscapes.
The earliest known human presence in the region dates back about 8,000 years ago, based on the artifacts found in the area.
Indigenous groups passed in and out of the area for millenia, as evidenced by petroglyphs and old ruins. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they gave the area a name that has stuck over the centuries: El Desierto Pintado, or the Painted Desert.
However, the area didn’t really start to see huge groups of people until American settlers entered the picture. Stagecoaches passed through, homesteaders settled, and eventually the area became a popular stop for tourists.
One of the top lures? The petrified wood! While the park’s name suggests a rich, dense area filled with old trees, the reality is the wood fragments—large and small—are scattered around the park. This also invited plenty of people to capitalize on selling or stealing these bits of history.
In 1906, the area became known as the Petrified Forest National Monument in an effort to protect the landscape from looters, stray livestock, and other potential threats. In 1962, it was named a national park to ensure a greater deal of protection.
When Route 66 was built, Petrified Forest became one of the famous stops along the highway, introducing thousands of tourists to the beauty of the high desert. While Route 66 only exists in pieces today, a humble monument is dedicated to its phenomenal history: a rusty relic and the faint road indentations that are still visible in the grass.
Today, the park sees 645,000 visitors each year who want to see the pieces of history that remain, the vast landscapes that make this area such an unusual sight, and to make new memories.
Have you had a chance to visit Petrified Forest before? What was your experience like?
Petrified Forest National Park is located 26 miles east of Holbrook along Interstate 40. You can find details about visiting on the
National Park’s website.
Want to visit another cool place along Arizona’s stretch of Route 66? Check out our article featuring
Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, The Small Town Restaurant That’s A Must-See Along Arizona’s Route 66.