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Take a look at nature's color palette
People flock from many different parts of the country, and the world to see the Painted Desert, a beautiful work of art brought to you by mother nature. Some people confuse Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert as one and the same. However, they are not. Petrified Forest is ENTIRELY within the Painted Desert, a vast area extending from east of the grand canyon east of Petrified Forest and into parts of New Mexico. The Painted Desert is NOT only the northern section of Petrified Forest, although these are some of the Painted Desert's best views, so take your time in the North part of the park.
One of my co-workers described the Painted Desert very well. He explained that the park is within the Painted Desert. We, however, have different "color palettes" as you go through the park. He explains that at the south end, we have the purple/pink/mauve palette; around Blue Mesa, we have the Blue palette, and up here at the North End, we have the beautiful Red palette. This hike gives you spectacular views of the Red Palette of the Painted Desert.
The trail starts at Tawa Point and takes you .5 miles to Kachina Point and the Painted Desert Inn, a national historic landmark. Along the way, you cannot help but stare at the panoramas around you. You can see, depending on the time of day, many different colors. Among the colors I have observed in this area are: white, red, orange, pink, purple, and black.
As you walk along the trail, you walk through the volcanic and relatively new (5-8 million years old) Bidahochi Formation. Basalt is around you as you hike. Below you is the 220 million-year-old Chinle formation, which is exposed throughout the Painted Desert. See the problem? There are over 200 million years of geologic time missing in the park. Geologists call this an unconformity. The rock from the missing time, was either never deposited, or it eroded before the Bidahochi was deposited. This area is geologically fascinating!
As you walk on the trail, notice not only the multi-colored hills but also keep an eye out for Petrified Wood in the desert below. Many visitors think that the wood is restricted to the southern end of the park. However, the Black Forest in the Painted Desert Wilderness Unit contains some of the coolest Petrified Wood in the park. It also includes the relatively unknown Onyx Bridge, a natural bridge that you will not see anywhere else.
After about 15-20 minutes or less of hiking, you find yourself at the Painted Desert Inn and Kachina Point. Enjoy the views from Kachina before backtracking and returning the way you came.
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