Hiking in a Painted Desert

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Blue Mesa Trail

Petrified wood cascades down like a frozen waterfall from the sandy purple and blue hills that border this hike.  You are hiking in a land of prehistoric sand art and strewn everywhere are the stumps of Triassic trees.  Imagine the lush forest that used to cover this now arid Arizona desert.  It is strange and alien in this rocky, barren place, but its beauty is undeniable.

The hike showcases the awesome color of the geology around the area; therefore, hiking in the golden hours will really bring out the colors of the painted desert.  Due to the surrounding purples, blues, reds, and pinks, you will be struck with awe at the beauty of the barren landscape.

Springtime in the desert means unpredictable weather, and the painted desert of Arizona is no different.  It is possible to be hiking in the freezing morning rain, only to be surprised a few hours later with a sunny, breezy afternoon.  Most of all, you are sure to be stunned by its vistas.

The painted desert is steeped in both modern and prehistoric history.  Standing next to the petrified logs, you get a feel for how the ancient forest would have towered above you.  Also, it adds even more to the imagination when at the visitors' center, you look up to see the skeletons of creatures long past dangling above.

From Petrified Forest National Park, our journey continues to Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky.

Hiking Tips:

  • It is illegal to take petrified wood from the park.  Consequently, wood purchased in the gift shop is mined elsewhere.
  • This is a pretty easy trail.  Be cautious climbing up and down the steep grades, especially during icy conditions.
  • Watch out for the Ravens in the park.  They do not seem to have any fear of humans, so they will steal your food or anything else if unguarded.
  • The historic route 66 cuts through the park and is easy to access.  A cool old bumper and dilapidated car mark the entrance to the route.
  • The park offers easy access to ruins and petroglyphs from Pueblos.
  • For more information visit: https://home.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm

For great road trip ideas, click here.

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