Think of those beautiful desert vistas you see on television and in movies. It’s desolate, but beautiful, with colorful peaks and valleys dotted by small areas of brush.
Can you see it?
If the answer is yes, chances are what you’re imagining is the Painted Desert in Arizona. This desert isn’t so much one spot but actually a large swath of land that covers nearly 100,000 acres near the Four Corners region of the Southwest.
The good news is you can take in Arizona’s Painted Desert all for yourself.
But first, some history.
About the Painted Desert
What sets the Painted Desert in Arizona apart is its amazing rock formations. In a typical desert you’re going to expect to see muted reds and browns. But because these rocks represent millions of years of layers of different types of minerals and formations you can actually see lines of colors like reds, purples, and yellows too.
This area has also been the homeland of many of the Navajo and Hopi peoples for generations as well. So this part of Arizona has all sorts of fascinating culture on top of just being a picture-perfect spot.
Things to Do and See
There are plenty of things to do and see. We’re going to show you a few of our favorites.
The area known as the Painted Desert runs into two National Parks. You’ll find the start of the Painted Desert at the edge of Grand Canyon National Park’s southeastern rim. It runs over 150 miles away to the Petrified Forest National Park, near the border of Arizona and New Mexico.
There aren’t many spots in the world where you can hit up two National Parks in one go, so that’s just one reason a mini-road trip through the Painted Desert is fun.
The Painted Desert Inn
This building was first constructed over 100 years ago by a homesteader using petrified wood and stone native to the area. In the 1930s, the National Park Service bought the property. As a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, it was renovated to serve as a stopping point along Route 66. Today, the inn is a National Historic Landmark.
Lookout and Stopping Points
Along the Painted Desert, there are a couple of cool places to pull off the side of the road and catch a glimpse of the vistas you can see. Here are a few of them.
Since this area has been home to people for such a long time, you can see all sorts of ancient petroglyphs on some of the rocks in the desert. Newspaper Rock is one spot where the petroglyphs are 2,000 years old.
This is the highest elevated spot for cars in the Painted Desert. So it’s a great place to pull over, look around, and get a 360-degree view.
You probably get where these formations got their names. But as you’re driving, you can get a beautiful closeup view of these, especially their unique coloring.
As you can see, Arizona’s Painted Desert is a pretty special place — one you don’t want to miss.