This summer, I am traveling from Asheville, NC to Phoenix, AZ. I have the choice to take I-40 west and see the Petrified Forest, or I can drop down in New Mexico to go by the Gila National Forest. I would love your input to help me make the decision. I'll be traveling with my cousin on my way to pick up my family at the airport in Phoenix.
Gila is good for hiking, but the Gila Cliffs Dwellings ruins are interesting, however Hwy 15 has a length limit on it, a fairly short one IIRC. You could either drop your MH in Silver City and drive up in your toad or go up Hwy 35 which is to the east. The Catwalk on Hwy 180 near Alma is also a good stop. City of Rocks SP is a good overnight unless you need FHU. The kids will love it.
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If you’re going to the Petrified Forest there are a number of other points of interest along the route. Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert, and Walnut Canyon National Monument are a few. Then, too, if you come down I-17 to Phoenix Montezuma’s Castle is just off the freeway. So I wouldn’t restrict myself to just the PD if you choose to go that route.
Been to both places and each has it things to do and see... I am a Natl Forest guy and like to be amoung the trees and mtns roads...
Gila Natl Forest has plenty of this to run around in...
Petrified Forest doesnt have a tree in sight hehe... Plenty of them that have turned to rock but didnt offer any shade at all for us. It was all nice to see but we went during the heat of the AZ summer and the heat was unbearable for us... It was a nice run anyway heading for the Flagstaff area and the Grand Canyon and finally got back to some trees that offered alot of shade... We found the Indian ruins around the Flagstaff area was really great to wander around thru...
Dont go to the Red Rock country area around Sedona. You will never leave....
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If you go to Petrified Forest or Painted Desert, try to plan your stops to spend time there early or late in the day. Not only is it cooler, but it is much more beautiful. The mid-day brassy light takes away much of the scenic value in these places.
I love this part of the country, but Petrified Forest is not the greatest any more. So much of it has been -- and continues to be -- carted off over the decades that there isn't much left to see. If you go, you'll just have to use your imagination.
We were up on one of the high Wupatki ruins just North of flagstaff right at sunset on our trip and it was a very beautiful scene looking East over the Painted Desert where we was just a week before. It really turns to the pink colors at sunset. Perfect way to end the day...
So much of it has been -- and continues to be -- carted off over the decades that there isn't much left to see
We was going through the winding paths and visitor center for the Sunset Crator north of Flagstaf and there was several posted stories on their walls there about the rocks and other small objects all being sacred and bad things will happen to you if you remove them. Was interesting reading about some that indeed did remove them from the crator area and had all kinds of bad things happen to them. They finally returned the rocks back to Sunset crator and all was fine after that...
Makes one wonder haha.. Made me empty my pockets...
I really enjoyed walking thru the lava flow fields around the sunset Crator. there is the fine black dust from the volcano for miles and miles around the crator. they used to allow passage through some of the lava tubes but all of that was closed off when we went through. That would have been very interesting to see...
The small trees you see way up on the side of the Sunset Crator is the same size as you see in this scene. This is a hugh crator..
I certainly agree that there are a lot of great places to see fairly close to I-40 in AZ.
You don't say where you were thinking of dropping South if you go to the Gila NF? El Moro and El Malpais National Monuments are not far South of I-40 in the Grants area.
South of Amarillo, TX is Palo Duro Canyon. US-60 will take you West through NM, but may be a hot long ride until you get West of Socorro and head up into the Cibola National Forest towards Pie Town. From there you could drop South to the Gila NF or continue West into the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. This was the location of the huge Wallow Fire last year so you would have to check on the current conditions, but It is my understanding that the facilities at Big Lake were not destroyed.