When driving south from the Painted Desert Visitor Center, Tawa Point was the second scenic vista point in Petrified Forest National Park we encountered. Tawa Point is one of eight Painted Desert Overlooks in Petrified Forest National Park that also includes Tiponi Point, Kachina Point, Chinde Point, Pintado Point, Nizhoni Point, Whipple Point, and Lacey Point.
In Hopi ideology, Tawa refers to the Sun Spirit, the creator of the World. The Hopi are one of seven modern Native American groups who are connected to the rich varied history of Petrified Forest.
From the lookout at Tawa Point, you can see the black basalt that forms the rim of the plateau you’re standing on. The basalt is part of the Bidahochi Formation that was deposited on top of the Chinle Formation.
- The Chinle Formation
Characterized by colorful bands of sedimentary rock, this formation was deposited between 227 and 205 million years ago by a northwest flowing river system. Based on rock type, it is divided into five layers — Mesa Redondo, Blue Mesa, Sonsela, Petrified Forest, and Owl Rock — which reveal a transition from moist to arid environments.
- The Bidahochi Formation
Sixteen to four million years ago, lake sediments were deposited on top of the older, eroding Chinle Formation across much of northern Arizona. Volcanic eruptions places basalt layers above the lake beds, preserving them. Further erosion of the Chinle Formation has left the basalt as high points from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the Painted Desert near the Painted Desert Visitor Center.
Trailheads At Tawa Point
Tawa Point is also the starting point for a couple different hiking opportunities:
- Tawa Trail leads 1.2 miles one way from Tawa Point through tranquil grasslands to the Painted Desert Visitor Center. It also connects with the Painted Desert Rim Trail.
- The Painted Desert Rim Trail is a 1.0 mile round trip walk (0.5 miles each way) along the edge of the windswept mesa to Kachina Point and the Painted Desert Inn and back. The views along the trail are amazing and several exhibits along the way provide more information about the park.
Know Before You Go
- Tawa Point in the Painted Desert area of Petrified Forest National Park is the second vista point south of the Painted Desert Visitor Center on Park Road, Arizona 86028 in Apache County.
- Download the Petrified Forest National Park Map.
- Petrified Forest National Park actually closes! The park is open daily year-round from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. When staff permits, extended hours go into effect from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm — and they’re not kidding. The park gates actually close and rangers drive the main park road around 4:30 telling you to wrap it up and start heading out of the park.
- The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert landscape is an extremely dry, high altitude desert so pack lots of water, even for short day hikes, to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Picnic Shelters are located at Chinde Point, Rainbow Forest, and Painted Desert Visitor Center.
- Restrooms are located at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, Rainbow Forest Curio Shop, Painted Desert Visitor Center, Painted Desert Inn, Chinde Point, and the Puerco Pueblo.
- Petrified Forest is one of the most animal friendly national parks. You can bring your leashed pet any place you are allowed to go except into the buildings.