Home to fossils older than 200 million years, and some of the largest and most beautiful concentrations of petrified wood, "painted desert" badlands, archeological sites and historic structures, Petrified Forest National Park is a very unique national park. For visitors who are interested in seeing an ancient landscape, it's worth the 3-hour drive from Grand Canyon National Park.

To tour the park by car, it will take about 45 minutes. Plan at least an hour to adequately take in the sights of the ancient forests and sites. If possible, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Also plan on taking in the sights at Kachina Point, drive the Blue Mesa Road and stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum.

The Painted Desert at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

The Painted Desert

Stunning striped purple sandstone formations of Blue Mesa badlands in Petrified Forest National Park

Stunning striped purple sandstone formations of Blue Mesa

If you have more time and want to experience this unique park at a deeper level, walk the Giant Logs Trail, the Puerco Pueblo Trail and spend a little time at the Painted Desert Inn Museum.

Puerco Pueblo, an ancient 100+ room pueblo in Petrified Forest National Park

Puerco Pueblo, an ancient 100+ room pueblo in the center of the national park

Petrified Forest's Two Secrets

At Petrified Forest National Park, you'll discover two things you may not find at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: solitude and a warm welcome for your pet.

You can bring your pet anywhere, except the park's buildings, making it one of the most animal-friendly locations in the park system. Rangers like to point out that even the park's name begins with the word "Pet."

Dog and Dad at Crystal Forest in Petrified Forest National Park

Dog and Dad at Crystal Forest in Petrified Forest National Park

It's also one of the least crowded national parks. And with the new addition of backcountry hiking areas like Martha's Butte (no one recalls who Martha actually was) and Red Basin, you can route-find on your own or go on a guided ranger hike. The 2-mile out-and-back Martha's Butte hike leads you to a stunning solar-marker petroglyph that gets covered exactly in half by shadow during the summer solstice. At Red Basin, you'll find petrified wood, petroglyphs and vibrant badlands formations.

Sandstone rock formations in the expansion lands of Petrified Forest National Park

Sandstone rock formations in the expansion lands of Petrified Forest National Park

Getting to Petrified Forest National Park from the Grand Canyon

It's a three-hour drive to the park from the Grand Canyon's South Rim. Take Hwy. 180 to Flagstaff, a fun university town. Then travel I-40 east with stops at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center and  Winslow, made famous by the Eagles song Take It Easy, to Exit 303, Adamana Road.

For more information about Petrified Forest National Park, visit www.nps.gov/pefo/.

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