Petrified wood is the fossil of a tree that has been turned to stone. Find out how this happens and see partially buried petrified logs in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. An easy 0.3-mile loop goes past several good examples of petrified logs, as well as informative panels detailing how the park’s petrified logs came to be.
Petrified Logs Loop is located on the southwest side of Valley of Fire State Park up a short gravel road from Valley of Fire Highway. A few paths leave from the end of the gravel road to approach the petrified logs. The simplest way to go is to begin down the trail to the right, saving the two trails to the left to use at the end of the loop. Hike out on the trail to the right along the side of a low ridge. As you go, enjoy views south toward a bigger ridge of red sandstone. There are no logs to observe on this first part of the trail, so continue down the trail, curving to the left around the end of the ridge.
Come to the first fenced-in area containing a petrified log after a tenth of a mile. Walk along the side of the fence and discover a chunk of petrified wood. This sample log is the least exposed but definitely looks like a big log turned into stone.
Hiking north up the trail, you will quickly arrive an area with two fenced-in rectangles protecting petrified logs. These are better examples of petrified wood with more of each log revealed above the desert floor.
Keep hiking north to a final fenced-in petrified log. From here, the trail curves to the left and ascends a gradual slope back to the trailhead. The route seems to splinter (no pun intended) into a few paths, all of which head back to the parking area.
Valley of Fire State Park charges an entrance fee, but no permit is required to take the easy hike on Petrified Logs Loop. Leashed dogs are allowed. On park maps, the trailhead is shown as “Petrified Logs (west).” Another area of petrified logs is located east of the Visitor Center.
How did these logs become petrified?
Panels along the trail explain that petrified forests are actually somewhat common in the west. To start the process, trees were carried from a forest miles away and deposited by floodwaters, buried beneath thousands of feet of silt, sand, and sea deposits. A panel describes how a log would then turned into stone:
While this log was buried, ground water, carrying minerals in solution, worked its way into the microscopic air spaces in the woody tissues. Here the minerals were deposited, completely filling available space. The colors in the log are usually caused by oxides of iron and manganese.
The minerals completely replace the wood material, while retaining the trees original structure. The result is a rock that looks like a tree trunk, matching the size and dimension of the original log.
What do we know about the trees that became petrified logs?
The logs likely came from primitive evergreens called Araucarian pines that grew in the surrounding area 150 million years ago (give or take a few million years), during the great Age of Reptiles.
To get to the trailhead: From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 north for about 35 miles to exit 75 (signs for Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area). At the end of the offramp, proceed southeast on Valley of Fire Highway. Go through the park’s west entrance after 14.5 miles and drive an additional 1.8 miles to an intersection where Scenic Loop Road (Campground Road) parts to the left. Go the other direction at this intersection and turn right up a gravel trail, following the sign for Petrified Logs. Drive another 0.2 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.
Trailhead address: Petrified Logs Road, Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV 89040
Trailhead coordinates: 36.42266, -114.5413 (36° 25′ 21.57″N 114° 32′ 28.68″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Nevada trails and campgrounds.
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