Recently I drove through the Petrified Forest National Park on my way to Phoenix. I wasn’t originally planning to visit the Park, but after seeing how close it was to Highway 40, I realized it just couldn’t be passed up.
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So after I ensured that my camping truck was full of gear and that I had plenty of hiking snacks, I set out to discover what I thought was going to be a bunch of wood on the side of the road.
Oh, boy was I wrong!
If you’ve lived in Phoenix your whole life, or even just for a while, and you haven’t made the trip to the Petrified Forest what have you even been doing? Even if you aren’t much of a “hiker” or “outdoors” person, this is one stunning destination.
For one, the Petrified Forest is more than just logs on the ground. Although those logs are actually quite stunning when viewed up close - truly, you won’t regret the trip for those gorgeous gems alone. Additionally, though, the PFNP is also part of the stunning Painted Desert, whose colors have to been seen to be believed. There is also plenty of human history in the park worth checking out.
Here are 5 things that will convince you to visit the Petrified Forest National Park - in winter, no less!
No Lines to Speak Of
While I was in the Park, the only lines to see anything at all were the lines to the gift shop. This probably had more to do with COVID-19 than anything else, because the gift shops are small, and of course, only a small amount of people can be there at one time.
The most recent time I went to visit Arches National Park - a place I’ve been to multiple times - I decided that I really wanted a picture with the iconic Delicate Arch. However, it’s a popular spot and I stook in line for literally 20 minutes just to snap that photo. If you’ve always wanted to snap the perfect photo in a National Park, but you don’t want to wait in line for a photo op, Petrified Forest could very well be your chance.
The Hikes Are Perfect, With Noone to Block the View
While driving down the road that runs through the Petrified Forest National Park, we often had expansive views without another car in sight. Those of you who have traveled to multiple National Parks in the USA know that this is almost unheard of!
We had long stretches of road - especially in the middle of the park - where we didn’t see another car for miles. It’s such an amazing feeling to drive through such a vast desert plain and feel like the only people around.
Snow in the Painted Desert is Otherworldly
The day we arrived in Holbrook, it actually dumped snow. After a long winter in New Mexico where snow was insanely scarce - this was quite a shock. We almost decided to drive straight to Phoenix, because our companions didn’t want to hike in the snow.
This would have been a huge mistake!
The snow in the Painted Desert made the landscape look like something out of a science fiction movie. The entire area was an alien planet, with vibrant colors peeking out from under the blanket of snow. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, friends.
You’ll Get a Brand New Perspective
The Petrified Forest National Park will put your entire life into perspective. The logs laying on the ground have crystalized in the most amazing colors and patterns. This miracle of science happens over millions of years.
This means that the wood on the ground in the National Park was standing in that spot before North America was even a continent. The wood in the Petrified Forest existed over 225 million years ago, in the Triassic when the Dinosaurs were still a thing.
That kind of age really puts the universe into perspective for a person.
The Snow and Overcast Clouds Will Truly Make the Colors Pop
Finally, the overcast clouds and low light that tends to accompany winter weather conditions actually lend themselves very well to photography. Not only that, but the low light makes the colors in the Painted Desert and Blue Mesa region appear more vivid.
If you want to visit a National Park during prime season, in conditions that most people won’t get to experience, winter is the time. Snow makes everything quiet and lends an out-of-this-world quality to areas, and even creates visuals that are rarely seen by most tourists.
If you’re looking for an excuse to drive up from Phoenix to the Painted Desert this weekend, you just got it. Happy travels everyone!