I’m going to keep this short mainly because I don’t have any pictures to go along with it (I was driving on a highway, picture taking seemed inadvisable). But the drive from Tempe, Arizona to Petrified Forest National Park was one of the best segments of my 12,000 mile trip and a complete surprise. This was not a drive that I had any expectations from except that it would take me from point A to point Campsite, but it was a whole lot of fun. The drive cuts through Tonto National Forest and includes parts of Arizona highways 87 N, 260 E, and 377 N to create an impressive combination of ever-changing landscapes. You start in Tempe which maintains a desert-like feel full of flat landscapes and the occasional Saguaro cactus along the way. But pretty soon you start climbing and, before you know it, you’re dipping and climbing along incredibly fun mountain highways and that occasional Saguaro has turned into a practical forest of cacti. About an hour after that, the scene shifts again. Quite abruptly, the cacti disappear all together and you’re driving through the Sitgreaves National Forest, which looks like the traditional forest that you might find along the Appalachians—an impressive density of tall trees, only broken by a small lake or two. Not even an hour after this, you clear your way through forest and mountain to find yourself on a dried lake bed now home to tall grass and the shortest trees I’ve ever seen. They’re only about three feet high, but I swear they are still trees (not bushes or ferns or anything) because they completely maintain the anatomy of a tree, just on a miniscule scale. With four distinct landscapes and a road that can only induce pleasure, this route to the Petrified Forest is one you should go out of your way to drive.
I’ll talk briefly about Petrified Forest National Park (mainly because I have pictures of it), but honestly it was a bit of a snoozefest. Once you’ve seen a couple petrified logs, you’ve seen them all and this National Park only has a couple other things to offer over its 19 mile. It has some badlands which are cool but can’t sustain a long visit and it has a great view of the painted desert which deserves more of your time, but still isn’t the awe-inspiring experience that you get from many of the other national parks. In addition there is a ten dollar fee to get in. Not steep by any means, but considering that the Redwoods parks are free and Arches, Canyonlands, and Carlsbad all go for the same price, you’d be better served spending your national park budget on one of those places. But, here are some pictures anyways!
Side note: Not related to this post at all but I wanted to mention that I saw a tank on a highway. I was driving through El Paso after visiting Carlsbad and one of those wide load trucks had a full blown tank sitting on its bed. Another time when I wanted to take a picture but wasn’t confident that I wouldn’t kill myself and everyone around me in the process. But it seemed like such a Texas thing, I had to mention it.