A Guide to Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park

Tours of Arizona are a treat for anyone fascinated by nature. While the Grand Canyon is arguably the most famous attraction in the state, there are many other sites well worth visiting - especially the Petrified Forest National Park. The park is a key stop on Route 66 road trips, as it's the only US national park to protect part of this historic highway, and is named for the petrified wood that it was set up to protect so that scientists could continue to examine it.

However, there are lots of other things to see in the park, making this a great destination regardless of how much time you have to spend on sightseeing and activities. Nicknamed the Painted Desert for the vibrant colours of the terrain here, the area that the park encompasses is rich in fossils. The most famous of these are ones dating back to the Late Triassic era, some of which are among the 200,000 artefacts kept at the park's museum.

There are also nine locations that are on the National Register of Historic Places. One of these is the Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs, which is a collection of drawings etched into a huge rock measuring around 200 sq ft in area. These images are believed to be up to 2,000 years old and offer a fascinating insight into the history of the region. Another historic site of note is Puerco Pueblo, a 600-year-old house - or pueblo - that was once made up of 100 rooms. Not much remains of the building, but it still makes for an intriguing sight as you wander around the ruins and imagine what it was like to live there.

A good place to head to find out a little more about the history of the Petrified Forest National Park is the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Here, you can see various exhibitions displaying all manner of objects from around the park, as well as watch an orientation film that will give you some idea of where to go to explore the site further. Top attractions include Kachina Point, a lookout point offering fantastic views of the surrounding badlands - i.e. a rocky landscape that has seen plenty of erosion over time, leading to a rather eerie appearance.

You could also take the Painted Desert Rim Trail to see the woodland around the park - and spot some of the local wildlife - or drive along Blue Mesa Road to take in the magnificent sight of formations featuring stripes in all kinds of colours, including lavender, green, blue and white. If you fancy a long walk around the park, try the trail to and from Agate House, which is a pueblo of great historical significance.

Once you've exhausted all that the Petrified Forest Park has to offer, you might want to think about visiting some of the other natural attractions located nearby. One of the most notable ones is Walnut Canyon, which was once the home of the cliff cave-dwelling Sinagua people. You can still see these homes as you walk around the canyon. Elsewhere, the Wupatki National Monument harbours five prehistoric pueblos that are well worth taking a few hours to see (although if you can only check out one, the Wupatki Pueblo is the biggest and most notable), while the Sunset Crater Volcano is a must-visit for its lava flow walking trails. You'll be able to see where the lava went when it erupted around 900 years ago - and this is juxtaposed with a few signs of life returning to the area. Watch out for animals, pine trees and wildflowers as you make your way around the site.

One last nearby sight to travel to is the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This is still the home of a group of Navajo people and offers plenty for interested visitors to see and do. You can take a tour of the canyon itself, go on a self-guided walk or drive along one of the scenic routes through the area for some unforgettable views. There's no better way to round off this particular leg of a Route 66 road trip than by leaving Arizona with memories of some of the most spectacular scenery the US has to offer.

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