The mineralized remains of an ancient Mesozoic Forest were tens of millions of years in the making but the nation's largest field ofpetrified wood wasn't formally described until 1851. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad built through this area in the 1880s bringing profiteers to the forest. They carried off petrified wood specimens and dynamited the largest logs in
search of quartz and purple amethyst crystals. In 1895 the state of Arizona began petitioning for federal protection and on December 8, 1906 Theodore Roosevelt designated the petrified forest as America's second national monument. In 1962, with the addition of the scenic landscape of the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest became America's thirty-first national park.
Pets are banned from the 93,533 acres of backcountry and the popular Painted Desert Rim Trail near the Visitor Center but there is ample opportunity to experience the petrified forest with your dog. Three paved loops - all less than a mile long - lead into the barren desert amidst remains of the petrified forest. Although short and easy to hike, these interpretive trails are completely without shade so have a supply of water ready on hot days.
The Crystal Forest Trail meanders through the remains of obliterated petrified logs, leaving you to only imagine what these crystalized trees once looked like before the pillaging that led to the creation of the Petrified Forest National Monument. Some of those prehistoric trees can be seen on the Long Logs path. Extinct conifers form the largest concentration of petrified wood left in the park.
The Agate House Trail leads up a slight rise to a reconstructed Anasazi Indian Pueblo built entirely of colorful petrified wood sealed with mud. Also available to canine hikers is the one-mile Blue Mesa Trail. A sharp drop in the path leads to an ampitheater surrounded by banded badlands of bluish clay called bentontite. Rainwater is the brush that creates streaky patterns in the porous hills.
Take your dog to the nearby Four Corners to place a paw in four states at the same time.
DIRECTIONS TO Gunpowder Falls State Park:
- Just southwest of the Four Corners, the park curves between I-40 to the north and Route 180 to the south.