Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best trails to see Petrified Forest’s wonders

Petrified trees on Giant Logs Trail.
Photo courtesy of Petrified Forest NPS.
Among the best ways to see Petrified Forest National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Three short trails and one brief walk will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – petrified trees, painted deserts, ancient pueblos, and volcanic craters.

Petrified trees
The national park is a literal forest of fallen trees, cycads and ginkgoes that grew about 225 million years ago when a humid, sub-tropical climate dominated this part of the world; fossils of phytosaurs and early dinosaurs also have been unearthed here. For a great view of petrified trees, take the 0.4-mile Giant Logs Trail, on which can be seen the Old Faithful Log with its 10-foot wide base.

Painted Desert
Colorful badlands, created by eons of erosion, dominate large swaths of the national park. The Painted Desert Rim Trail offers fantastic views of one such landscape covered in the hues of a red sunset. The trail is 1-mile round trip.

Ancient pueblos
The ruins of the 100-room Puerco Pueblo, lived in more than 800 years ago, overlooks the Puerco River. The 0.3-mile Puerco Pueblo Loop takes visitors through the remains; petroglyphs also can be viewed at the trail’s south end.

Volcanic craters
Erosion also has exposed volcanic landforms called maars – flat, circular craters in which steam and gases exploded straight out of the ground. The Pintado Point lookout in the park’s northern section offers a view of one maar vent. This is not much of a hike but a pulloff along the park road.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.