If you generally think of deserts as lifeless, hot and not worth spending much time in, then you have yet to experience the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert is part of the larger Petrified Forest National Park and has its own entrance on the north side of the National Park area located right on Interstate 40 about 60 miles due east of Winslow Arizona.

While most deserts are kind of drab being filled with sand and lacking in color, the Painted Desert is aptly named because of its incredible multi-hued mountains, hills, rock formations and other geological wonders that make this place one of the most unique deserts on Earth. The multitude of colors you will see in the mountains within the park come from various mineral deposits in individual layers of soil that give the hills and countryside their distinct banded features. You will see reds, greens, pale blue and pale purple tints throughout the mountains and overlooks as you drive through the park.

It is a geologic marvelĀ  that we have the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest in the same location and in actuality, the same kind of mineral deposits that caused the many colors of the Painted Desert also were responsible for turning wood to stone in the Petrified Forest. But not only do you see beautiful colors in this unique desert landscape, you will also see Indian ruins and some of the most concentrated petroglyph carvings anywhere in the United States. While you can see some petroglyphs when rafting down the Colorado River, Newspaper Rock (there’s also a Newspaper Rock in Nevada) is covered with these same kinds of drawings. It is as if this location was one that acted as a local reporting station for many people to tell of their hunting and life encounters.

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs

Newspaper Rock was written upon some 1,000 years ago and it is fascinating to look at it and the surrounding rock and think that someone was sitting right there, one thousand years ago, and writing out the very first Dilbert-like comic (or whatever it was) and know that they had no idea there would be people viewing their form of communication some one thousand years later.

While not nearly as large as the Petrified Forest just to the south, the Painted Desert is one of the rare and beautiful geological wonders the Southwest has to offer. The next time you are heading down I-40 in Arizona, stop in and experience its beauty. Enjoy the additional pictures below.


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