View of the Painted Desert Enclosed in the Petrified Forest National Park
If you think you’ll be in Arizona for a while exploring what it has to offer in addition to the Grand Canyon, then the next logical progression would be a trip through the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. The reason for doing so is easy: the Painted Desert is part of both the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest National Park.
Painted Desert History and Background
The Painted Desert is considered a “badlands” area because of its lack of vegetation, steep slopes, and characteristics of erosion. It was discovered in 1540 by Spanish explorers quite by accident because they were seeking something else, the mythological Seven Cities of Cibola.
The chemical compounds of iron and manganese are what give the Painted Desert its color. The desert itself covers 7,500 square miles and is 120 miles long and 60 miles wide.
Weather in the Painted Desert area can be hot and dry in the summer and chilly during the winter months. Overall, though, it doesn’t get much snow.
Fees to enter the park are $25.00 by car or $15.00 if you enter by bike.
Cycling through Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert
View of Red Rock Formations
If you choose to do a bike ride through Petrified Forest National Park, you will be rewarded with little traffic and many scenic viewpoints along the way. The main park road is called the “Blue Mesa Loop” and runs for 28 miles.
The best starting point for all NPS visits and bike rides is probably the visitor center. There aren’t a lot of paved roads going through the park and the Blue Mesa Loop is mostly flat.
The Painted Desert is another unique area in the Grand Canyon area of Arizona. While not in close proximity to the canyon, if you know you are going to be spending some extended time in Arizona, then you should do the three hour drive to the Petrified Forest National Park to see the Painted Desert.
And unlike at the Grand Canyon, you can get in a decent bike ride of 28 miles, maybe more or less. Plus, if you choose to ride the Blue Mesa Loop, you’ll have more time at various viewpoints along the way.
Have you been to Petrified Forest National Park? Have you experienced the Painted Desert? Please like, comment, and share if you enjoyed this post. Until next week, I hope you all enjoy your long Thanksgiving weekend.