off the beaten path: Jasper Forest

Let’s take a leisurely yet scenic walk in the Jasper Forest area of Petrified Forest National Park in northeast Arizona.

Note the small desert plant growing up through the crack in this piece of fossilized wood.




short intro for background and context

The geologists tell us that Arizona had been located just above the equator when the fossilized trees in the park had been alive.  Approximately 217 million years ago, this area had been tropical and supported large forests.  That span of time is hard to wrap one’s mind around.  It squashes a man’s ego as we are on Earth for a very short time indeed.  That long ago in the late Triassic period, the dinosaurs were just appearing and had not yet grown so large and so diverse as they did later in the Jurassic period.

Per the park’s website, there are many “off the beaten path” walks visitors can take.  These are not so clearly defined trails where one can wander among the petrified wood and across the land and find one’s own way.  Trail finding skills are needed.  This choice of Jasper Forest was quite rewarding as it lies in the park’s natural transition zone from desert scrub and gently rolling hills or knolls to badlands and painted desert.  Most of the petrified wood is in the southern part of the park.  Lava flows (11 to 16 million years ago) cooling to hard basalt in the northern part of the park (painted desert area) have prevented much petrified wood there from emerging from the ground via slow erosion processes.

The walk in this area was mostly over level ground after the rather gentle descent from the parking area at the overlook.  For most of this walk, one has the overlook viewing area in sight as a landmark and frame of reference to help one from becoming lost.  Per the website, the round trip distance for this walk is 2.5 miles, but we only did about two-thirds of that and started back early after seeing the best this walk has to offer.  To really appreciate this area of the park, you have to take the walk as just snapping a few quick pictures from the overlook above does not give you the full experience of this land, its rocks, and its beauty.  The “off the beaten path” walks are not indicated with official trailhead signs in the parking areas.  Thus, most visitors are not aware of these opportunities (pre travel research is thus helpful).  While walking, we saw from a distance several people at the overlook, but no one took this walk.  Thus, we had the whole area to ourselves on this pleasant, early autumn day (25 September) at an elevation close to 5,000 feet above sea level.

Reviewing the pictures we took on this week long holiday, we can say that these may be some of the best pics we have captured (even going back to the days of the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s when we used Minolta and Canon cameras with Kodak and Fuji films).  It is quite difficult to choose the “best” photos from this walk for this essay as these all appear so captivating to us.  As usual, we shot too many pics in the excitement of the moments.  The challenge is choosing enough images to present to do justice to the beauty of the place without wearing out the viewer with too many images.  We give the reader the full experience.   These images were taken in “natural” mode, not in “chrome” and with no enhancements or extra processing.  We prefer au naturel pics as these convey the authentic colors realistically.

Enjoy!  And, kindly click the like button at the end, and we will post more such essays in the coming weeks.

The overlook.



A glance down from the overlook.  Don’t be deceived.  There is beauty to come.



We next see a piece of petrified wood that is slowly emerging from the ground.



There are opportunities to purchase (legally) some of this wood from private gift and souvenir shops.  Their supplies are from the fossilized wood that is found outside of the park’s boundaries.  Visitors are prohibited from taking any specimens from the park.



Another view with desert plant nearby.



Another specimen.



Variation of colors.



Continuing our descent, we pass by some bigger logs.



Here is a closer look.  One may not be faulted for thinking these are somewhat in the shape of a burrito.



Closer up to a log, we see more of the texture of the stone.  Rare sights found here in this park.



Lucy “pushing” the stone log here.  I bet it is very heavy (nearly as heavy as concrete).



Another colorful chunk in the sunlight.



Here we are descending to walk among the badlands that are sprinkled with much fossilized wood.



We think the yellow areas of discoloration are indications of some type of lichen growth on the surface.  But, of course, we could be wrong about it.  Perhaps, it is Sulphur or another yellowish mineral substance leaching out.



A stray chuck of stone wood.



Only several feet away from where we were walking we see close up the erosion effects that forms these badlands.



This formation is a miniature canyon system only several feet away from us.



More badlands near us.



A bizarre moonscape like scene to our left.



Petrified wood seen here.



Another rocky area along our way, this time to our right.



Another view.



Petrified wood samples.



A haunting, eerie landscape with stark beauty seen here.



A colorful sample.



Another specimen from the remote past.



Another example of fossilized wood.



A hole has formed in this large stone log.



Different color combinations.



As noted above, we had the whole area to ourselves this day.



Strange effects of the erosion processes place this large chunk of wood on a “pedestal”.



Another view.



Communing with this cluster of ancient wood in the calm stillness of the high desert.



Yet another colorful specimen.



And, nearby, another.



A conglomeration of petrified wood.



More to see.



An interesting sample.



This “rock” seems to grow out of the ground in this view.



A lonely landscape with stark beauty.



Even though the wood has emerged from the eroding ground, we may describe it as strewn across the land.



This piece is located at the edge of the wash that was still a little muddy in places from a thunderstorm a couple of days past.



Now, walking back the way we came, we see these next views of the nearby landforms.



The blue sky provides nice contrast to the colors of the land.



Continuing with our pictures from our left to our right we capture this last scene.



We pass by this specimen that is ever so slowly emerging from the ground.



Returning the way we came, we now see the same pieces of wood along the path.



My companion linking to the logs.  Here we are walking up to the parking lot.



Colors in the midday sun.



Back at the southern entrance/exit to the park, we stop at the museum and capture these last few images.



These areas are adjacent to the parking areas.



You have no doubt heard of flower arrangement.  Here it is as though there was a hand in the fossilized wood arrangement.



This delightful walk was and is an unforgettable experience for us.

copyright 2017 –


    1. Thanks for your kind words. The thing is we always take too many pics, and then have the hard time deciding which ones to use. We end up posting too many it seems and the posts are long.

      1. Not too long at all!! I enjoyed every single photo, and if that was your wife pushing the log, then she is as beautiful as she is strong and you are a lucky man.
        Keep on taking those pics, and post as many as you can! 💜

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