(nr Holbrook AZ)
The Painted Desert straddles I-40 and includes pull-outs with views of the surrounding badlands. I drove through and stopped at most view points to snap photos. The desert there has varied colors and formations.
Thought I would be there at the right time for good light. But alas, most shots didn’t seem as intense as they should have been. It was a bit hazy, which may account for it.
Many of the stops had trails that you could take out into the desert or down a canyon. I didn’t venture though, as it was rather hot, and I wanted to explore the whole area.
The native ruins at the Rio Puerco were interesting, and included a partially excavated pueblo, a few petroglyphs, and a solar clock. They were putting the finishing touches on a research library at the site.
The restored Painted Desert Inn was nice with period furnishings, dining and soda fountain areas, and murals by a native artist. I was pleased to see that there is an Artist-in-Residence program for the Painted Desert.
As you drive south the road enters Petrified Forest National Park. There are several sites with fields of petrified trees. Some in fragments, and some rather large trunks. Trails allow you to wander amongst them.
The driving tour is 28 miles, with short side trips possible with names like Blue Mesa, Newspaper Rock, and Jasper Forest. Back country-wilderness camping is allowed with a free permit.
There are visitor centers at both ends of the park, and a museum. It’s an interesting place, but you need to take the time exploring to appreciate all it has to offer.
At the end of the day, I dry camped over night for free in the campground provided by the Crystal Forest Gift Shop at the south entrance to the national park. There are a few sites with electric for a fee.
Camp: Crystal Forest CG
Scene: Desert, cliffs, petrified trees, ruins