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Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Utah and Surrounding Views

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Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Utah Vacation

Between the national parks of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, my mother, niece, and I discovered a couple of unique state parks in Utah. This post will show some pictures taken at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

We traveled through some fascinating-looking scenery after leaving the extraordinary setting of Bryce Canyon.

At one point, grey-toned, petrified dunes were adjacent to the road. If one would knock on them (as my niece did), they sounded as though they were hollow inside. We had never even heard of petrified dunes before seeing and learning about these. They were hardened just like rocks and obviously would no longer be able to be shifted about with changing winds. Thus the road was paved and directed right through these dunes without danger of them impeding vehicle passage. Interesting!

Traveling Through Southern Utah

There seem to be many abandoned old homesteads that are seemingly left to deteriorate along this stretch of highway in southern Utah. They dot the landscape leaving a trail of what used to be human habitation at some point in the past.

If only those old buildings or remnants of buildings could talk! Many stories would be able to be related to willing listeners. I will enclose a few pictures of traveling through this southern Utah country so that the reader can look (through the lens of my camera) at what we were viewing as we passed these sites.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway

Highway 12 is the paved road that we were traveling between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. It is one of the most beautiful scenic byway roads in that part of the country. It runs for 122 miles between the two national parks mentioned and takes about four hours to go from one national park to the next if one does not stop to sightsee. Open year-round, it accommodates visitors for every season.

Although small (around 850 residents), Escalante's town is the largest one for about 70 miles in any direction. It offers some cafes, motels, fuel, and a place to replenish camping supplies and groceries.

The location of Escalante is in south-central Utah off of scenic Highway 12. The town is about 50 miles east of Bryce Canyon National Park and about 75 miles south of Capitol Reef National Park. It is a place of magnificent scenery and a jumping-off point for tours to various destinations, each of them offering outdoor adventures for those inclined to take advantage of them.

An old gasoline pump serves as a nice yard sculpture!

An old gasoline pump serves as a nice yard sculpture!

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Only 2 miles west of the town of Escalante is the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Since we were so close to this and had some extra time, my mother, niece, and I decided to check it out.

This state park is open year-round and offers campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities. The elevation is at 5,800 feet. It is situated in a scenic part of the State of Utah and would be especially inviting for outdoor enthusiasts.

The area has many lakes, 47 of them to be exact, including reservoirs and streams in which aquatic activities are available.

White Hollow Reservoir in Escalante State Park has 130 acres. The total area of the park consists of 1,400 acres.

Centuries-old petrified wood and dinosaur bones are gradually coming to the surface. One can expect to see about 5 1/2 million tons of petrified wood within view due to the erosion taking place within the park over time.

Nature Trail

There is a moderately strenuous hike within the park that is about one mile (1.6 kilometers) in length. One has to climb up to the top of the ridge while at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Then, of course, the climb back down takes place. This trail may seem like nothing to those acclimated to higher altitudes and hiking, but it does make for some effort for lowlanders who live near sea level.

My mother and niece stayed at the bottom while I joined some people visiting from Germany on that hiking trail. At the top, there is another 3/4 mile Rainbow Loop Trail.

Truthfully, the petrified wood's prettiest specimens are at the bottom where everyone going to the park can easily see them. But for those of us who like to exercise and see more of the terrain, the specimens of petrified wood started showing up about halfway up the trail where broken chunks of logs started appearing scattered here and there.

Old conifer trees cling to life at these altitudes and do not achieve much height.
Anasazi and Fremont Native Americans used to live in this area, and they utilized the petrified wood for the making of tools.

Near the top of the ridge, one gets a good look at the surrounding landscape. Water lies below, as portrayed in the first photo of this post. Another photo shows a balancing rock with the water far below.


The nature trail brochure had numbered spots along the way and explanations of what the hikers would be viewing at each point. Number five explained lichens, and this is what was available to read:

The brilliantly colored plant on the rock face is actually two plants growing as one. This is an example of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. One uses the other's by-products. The fungus protects the algae while the algae produce food for the fungus. They even reproduce together.

These tiny lichens may have been the first living organisms to exist on dry land. There are at least 16,000 different species. Some of the individual plant colonies could be thousands of years old.

Lichens growing on the rocks

Lichens growing on the rocks


Escalante Petrified Forest State Park's topography with lakes, trees, trails, and scenic wonders, including other nearby state and national parks, makes it a worthwhile destination. Hopefully, the pictures in this post did it some justice.

The 130-acre Wide Hollow Reservoir near the campground within the park offers anglers a chance to catch largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and bluegill.

To check on amenities within the park, including camping, rentals for kayaks, paddleboards, fishing gear, and more, click on the source link below.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods