Road trips from Southern California: Arizona
For more destinations, visit our road trips guide.
Image 24 of 24
( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )
Petrified Forest National Park
Distance: 582 miles one-way
For the longest time, I had imagined that the Petrified Forest was a prehistoric jungle frozen in time. The reality, while still impressive, is less fairy tale-like.
The trees were formed more than 200 million years ago when they were washed into streams and buried under sediment, so none stand upright. The trees, however, wear an impressive palette of colors from minerals -- mostly quartz -- that formed in lieu of their organic matter.
Photographic opportunities abound at the Painted Desert, a colorful collection of hills, buttes and mesas carved by millions of years of erosion. The Blue Mesa Trail carries you into the bowels of the Painted Desert's badlands, an alien-like landscape strewn with kaleidoscopic petrified wood. History buffs should stop at Newspaper Rock, a collection of boulders bearing over 650 petroglyphs.
-- Jason La
Read more: Uncovering Arizona's hidden gems