The Largest Concentration of Petrified Wood in the World

I think I won't be wrong if I say that the American West holds the largest concentration of natural wonders in the world. While apparen...

I think I won't be wrong if I say that the American West holds the largest concentration of natural wonders in the world. While apparent biggies such as Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Yosemite are well-known and heavily travelled, there are still plenty of less-known places with no less fascinating features. Petrified Forest National Park located in the eastern Arizona is one of the best kept secrets despite its accessibility - just off the Interstate 40.

This park has two entrances - the north and the south ones connected by a 28 mile / 45 km scenic road. I recommend you start from the north one, because the amount of petrified wood increases as you move south. So if you start from the south one and drive northbound, you get the 'wow' effect at the very beginning and your driving won't be as interesting as it would be should you drive in the opposite direction.
The first thing you encounter in the park as you drive in from the north entrance is the Painted Desert. Iron and manganese give this soft sedimentary rock its unbelievable palette of colours. 
The colours are even more vivid as it was raining when we visited this desert. Yes, you heard it right - it's a desert and it was raining. Moreover, it was snowing in the morning, then the temperatures rose and the rain took over close to noon. After a few brief hours of sunshine, dark clouds covered the sky and chunks of ice started falling down. The Mother Nature is truly amazing and sometimes offers a weather that breaks all stereotypes. 
If the Monument Valley resembles Mars, the Painted Desert resembles Jupiter!
Desert Inn is a museum now, but back in the late 19th - early 20th centuries it used to be a hotel where park visitors could stay overnight. 
Painted Desert can be grey and brown as well.
It's hard to believe now, but about 200 million years ago, dinosaurs and their ancient relatives-reptiles whose bones can be found in museums used to roam, swim and fly here. This place was a tropical wet forest with lots of evergreen trees. When a tree died, its log would get to a swamp and over time would be buried under layers of mud and volcanic ash. Underground water with a high concentration of silicon would penetrate a dead log and substitute its organic matter with a silicon, thus creating a petrified wood.
Apparently, the climate changed and a tropical wet forest became a prairie. Water and wind eroded top layers of soil and unearthed petrified logs.
Because of the weather, we witnessed how fragile these sedimentary rocks are. It looks like they are made with clay and sand.
Blue Mesa trail offers excellent views of sedimentary rock and petrified wood up close.
This water is greyish due to washed out sediments.
The biggest petrified logs can be found close to the south entrance. This log forms the agate bridge that was strengthened by a concrete frame.
Crystal Forest - my favourite part of the park.
It's strictly prohibited to collect petrified wood in the park, yet some individuals still try to sneak it. The store right outside the park's gate offers petrified wood for sale - from tiny rocks to big logs - which was likely collected on the private land.
What a beauty! What colours do you see?
The biggest log in the park.
My favourite picture - the storm is coming, the people are running away.
Hailing aftermath.

When to go
Any time of the year should be fine to visit this park. Winter temperatures are cooler, so be prepared to wear layers.

North entrance is located 26 miles / 42 km east of Holbrook, AZ or 70 miles / 114 km west of Gallup, NM on Interstate 40.
South entrance is located 18 miles / 30 km southeast of Holbrook, AZ on U.S. Highway 180.

GPS coordinates of the Painted Desert Visitor Center and Park Headquarters
35.06543746738773; -109.78153824806213
GPS coordinates of the Rainbow Forest Museum
34.81517743163217; -109.86576497554779

Additional Information
For additional information visit the Petrified Forest National Park's official website.

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