April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.
It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!
As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.
Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.
At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.
Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:
The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.
As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.
But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.
Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!
We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.
That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!
I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!
Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.
Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.
Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.
But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.
The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.
First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!
I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!
Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!
If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.
Never miss a post — it’s free!
More info about Petrified Forest National Park:
- Petrified Forest National Park – Official Website
- How Does Petrified Wood Form? – Geology.com
- OK RV Park – A spacious and friendly RV park in nearby Holbrook AZ
- Location of Petrified Forest National Park, Blue Mesa and Jasper Forest – Interactive Google Maps
Other blog posts from our travels in Northeastern Arizona:
- “Cliff Dwellers” on Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Drive – A Fun Stop!
- A Glimpse of the Navajo (or “Diné” as they call themselves)
- Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More!
- Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies
- Canyon de Chelly, AZ – A Canyon of Indian Cliff Dwellings
- Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook
- Horseshoe Bend Overlook – Page, Arizona – Stunning!
- Lees Ferry & Marble Canyon AZ + Pretty Paria River Hike
- Mysteries in the Navajo Nation, Arizona
- Navajo Bridge, Arizona — A Scenic Roadside Attraction in Red Rock Country
- Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Bears Ears
- Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking!
National Parks and World Heritage Sites – by RV, sailboat, and airplane!
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..the color contrast between the lavender/blue/grey hills and the warm reds/oranges of the petrified logs is striking….and the paths not taken are the inspiration for “next time” 🙂
It’s a beautiful area that’s well worth going back to!!
Lovely pics and story, Em. I rather like the “Oops” photo. Very artistic! 🙂
I like it too… nice diagonal coming out of the lower left corner and the cool curvy lines that curve in opposite directions… I’m not sure exactly how it did that!!
Love the pictures – never saw purple cliffs like that! Nature does all the work and we get to enjoy the beauty!! And also those yellow flowers…and that bright blue sky…wow… I will add this to my bucket list!! Thanks for sharing!
We were so surprised by the beauty, Deborah. You go to a place like that thinking “petrified logs,” and then you start hiking and realize it is stunning simply for the exotic colors and landscapes, never mind the petrified wood. Definitely go!
We were there just three weeks ago, I loved the beauty of the area also. Great pictures. Alhough we stayed in Gallup after seeing the small campgrounds at the South entrance we wish we would have stayed there.
It’s a beautiful park, and this is a great time of year to see it. I’m glad you enjoyed it too!
Great pics and review — as usual 🙂 We almost did the paved trail but the wind was really kicking it when we were there and we just figured we’d do it the next day but we didn’t 🙁 It’s always nice to save something undone for next time.
That wind can be just insane, Jim, and we too had a few days where the gusts (to 40 mph!) were just too much to go do anything. Next time you get to Petrified Forest, I hope the wind simmers down and you can get out on this beautiful trail.
We are SO enjoying your blog and pictures. We’re photographers too and we’ll be visiting this area soon (in May). Just wondering if you would recommend pulling a 40′ fifth wheel through the park. We’re trying to decide whether to see Petrified Forest on the way to Flagstaff. We’re thinking more than likely we’ll need to get to Flagstaff, then backtrack to Petrified Forest as a day trip. Even if you CAN pull the RV through the park, would it be possible to stop in enough places for photography? Can’t exactly pull that big thing off just anywhere, as I’m sure you know. Thanks so much, and keep up the great work!
You can definitely tow a 40′ fifth wheel through the Park. We’ve towed our 36′ fiver through many times. The main road is a highway, and the mistake many folks (including us) make on their first time through it to drive straight through and not stop, not realizing that they are in the Park and will soon be out of it if they keep going!
It will be hard to stop with your big rig, however, as many of the pullouts are designed to hold a handful of cars and not a huge rig. You could probably do it as a day trip from Flagstaff, but it will be 240 miles of driving not including seeing the Park. I’d suggest you take your fiver somewhere closer to Petrified Forest and do it as a day trip from there. Have fun and thanks for reading our blog!