When was the last time Arizona lush, green, and tropical? The Late Triassic period roughly, 225 million years ago. What is left behind today? Rainbow colored , fossilized tree remains:
You can visit Petrified National Park full of hiking, geology, and numerous photo-ops. The area is known for fossilized trees as well as creatures ranging from clams to a relative of a giant crocodile called a Phytosaur. Most of the tree fossils belong to a conifer species, Araucarioxylon arizonicum – also referred to rainbow wood! I went on a sunny day so you could really see the brilliant flecks of yellow, red, purple, indigo and green. My iPhone did an excellent job but failed to capture all the colors had to offer.
You can enter the park on the north side (Painted Desert Visitors Center off of Interstate 40) or through the south (Rainbow Forest Museum from highway 80). For $20 you can enjoy over thirty miles of drive-able National Park. Not including the numerous hiking trails and off shoots. I took the Crystal Forest trail where I got most of my awesome pictures and the Blue Mesa loop which was a little harder but worth it. You can hike down into the purple-ly mounds which takes you to a seemingly alien planet. Be prepared to carry water and sun protection, the closest gas station is nearly twenty miles away. The forest is also in the middle of the desert so it is hot, dry and usually windy.
Be warned there is a hefty fine for removal and/or destruction of any material in the park. Your vehicle is subject to being searched!
The second half of the park is the Painted Desert and dedicated to the Native people who occupied the lands for generations. Like the fossilized trees the land reflects similar colors in the striations of the geography. There are numerous examples of pueblos (dwellings) and a site called Newspaper Rock which is a well known petroglyph site. The most famous site is Casa Grande The last bit of road crosses over old Route 66 and overlooks the Devil’s Playground:
Stop off at: Tiponi, Tawa, Kachina, Chinde, Pintado, Nizhoni, Whipple, And Lacey Points!