Heading north on Park Road from the Painted Desert Visitor Center, our first stop on day two in Petrified Forest National Park — after checking out the visitor center — was the roadside pull out at Tiponi Point.
Tiponi Point is one of eight Painted Desert Overlooks in Petrified Forest National Park that showcase spectacular views of the multi-hued landscape, also including Tawa Point, Kachina Point, Chinde Point, Pintado Point, Nizhoni Point, Whipple Point, and Lacey Point.
Named for the Hopi corn goddess symbol, Tiponi Point provided our first views of the pink, red, brown, and orange hills of Arizona’s Painted Desert. In stark contrast to the blue skies overhead, the colorful rolling hills, mesas, and buttes took our breath away.
The Painted Desert is about 120 miles long by 60 miles wide and includes all of Petrified Forest National Park. As you look out over the Painted Desert from Tiponi Point, you can only see a small portion of it. The sandstone and mudstone formations you can see are part of the Chinle Formation and were deposited from 227-205 million years ago during the Late Triassic Period.
Over the next 180 million years, the rocks of the Chinle Formation were deeply buried, uplifted, and eroded into the badland landscape you can see in today.
All of the different colors are created from the iron in the sediments. During deposition, drier climates allow the minerals to be exposed to oxygen, rusting the iron and creating red, brown, and orange colors. Wetter climates can drown the sediments, allowing little to no contact with oxygen, causing the layers to turn blue, grey, and purple colors.
Know Before You Go
- Tiponi Point in the Painted Desert area of Petrified Forest National Park is located 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.