Thanks, Karine! It was a lovely experience hosting you both. If you are ever in Northern Arizona again, you may consider visiting the Petrified National Forest, an amazing 230 square mile natural wonder located in Navajo and Apache counties including semi-desert and the colorful Painted Desert in the Badlands, about one hour and 45 minutes from Flagstaff. It’s known for its fossils, especially beautiful ones of fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Period, about 225 million years ago. For hikers, the park has seven maintained hiking trails, some paved, varying in length from less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km) to nearly 3 miles (4.8 km). These named trails are Painted Desert Rim, Puerco Pueblo, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House. Hikers and backpackers may also visit the park's wilderness areas.
The sediments containing the fossil logs are part of the widespread and colorful Chinle Formation, from which the Painted Desert gets its name. Beginning about 60 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau, of which the park is part, was pushed upward by tectonic forces and exposed to increased erosion. All of the park's rock layers above the Chinle, except geologically recent ones found in parts of the park, have been removed by wind and water.
In addition to petrified logs, fossils found in the park have included Late Triassic ferns, cycads, ginkgoes, and many other plants as well as fauna including giant reptiles called phytosaurs, large amphibians, and early dinosaurs. Paleontologists have been unearthing and studying the park's fossils since the early 20th century. More than 600 archeological sites have been found inside the boundaries. Evidence suggests that the earliest inhabitants of the park arrived at least 8,000 years ago.
While illegal to take any fossils or petrified wood from the park, don’t miss stopping by the large gift shop nearby where a large variety of petrified wood sizes are available to buy at various prices. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you take home a piece of polished petrified wood from the gift shop.