Gila and Petrified Forest

We stayed closer to our Four Corners route on day 4 than we had in day 3. We skipped Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, knowing we would see better sites at Mesa Verde, and drove from historic Silver City towards Gila National Forest. The drive offered rolling arid grassland hills and dramatic mountain peaks. About halfway through the forest, we stopped off at the Catwalk hike. A 1.1 mile trip, the trail consists of suspension walkways built by the CCC in the 20s and 30s. The first half of the trail is very accessible. The second half-mile is a little more strenuous, but offers some fun waterfall views. While not the most dramatic scenes of the trip, the hike breaks up a rather long driving day.

From Gila, we drove into Arizona and to the southern entrance of Petrified Forest National Park. The first stop was the Rainbow Forest where we saw petrified logs from 225 million years ago, predating the dinosaurs. We did the short trail for Crystal Forest and the spectacular Blue Mesa trail. The reds, yellows, and blacks of the wood stood out dramatically against the blues and purples of the mesa badlands.

With sunset approaching and park closing, we made a couple of quick pull-offs to overlook the Painted Desert on the north side of the park. The historic Desert Inn was already closed for the night, so we made our way to our hotel in Holbrook. Knowing that the park closed at 7pm, we probably should have stayed in Gallup, 45 miles down the next day’s route, instead of having to back-track from Holbrook. The next stop was our two nights in Mesa Verde National Park.

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