New Mexico is huge and has many different types of geology. Finding petrified wood in the state can be tricky without the right direction. It’s easy to get lost or miss out on possible finds if you don’t have the correct information beforehand.
Plains cover the majority of our state mostly broken into two parts, the lava-capped uplands in the northeast and the Llano Estacado plains that is bounded roughly by I-40, the Pecos River, and Roswell to Hobbs. We also have the Northwestern plateaus and the southern deserts.
With so many different environments, finding petrified wood in Arizona can be really tough!
To find petrified wood, you need to know how to tell it apart from regular rocks and have some experience. This makes the hunt even harder. Even though it’s hard to find here, the rewards are fascinating!
What Is New Mexico Petrified Wood
Petrified wood is a fascinating natural phenomenon when minerals slowly replace the organic parts of old trees, turning them into stone. Most of the time, petrification takes millions of years and needs specific geological conditions.
It starts when a tree that has fallen or been buried is covered by sediment, like volcanic ash or river sediment, and can’t get oxygen. Without oxygen, decomposition happens more slowly, and minerals in the groundwater start to get into the wood’s cells.
You can look at our detailed guide on where to find petrified wood near you once you’ve visited all the places in our state. We are adding new state guides all the time.
The types of petrified wood found in New Mexico
Several kinds of petrified wood can be found in New Mexico, each with distinct characteristics. Here are some types of petrified wood found in the state.
Rainbow petrified wood
Rainbow petrified wood is a type of fossilized wood with a wide range of bright colors. The name “rainbow” comes from how it looks, bright and colorful like a rainbow.
Most of the mineral silica in rainbow petrified wood is in the form of quartz. As minerals replace the organic parts of the old tree during the petrification process, different impurities and trace elements can lead to a wide range of colors. These impurities and minerals react with the silica.
Coniferous petrified wood
Coniferous petrified wood comes from evergreen trees like pines, spruces, cedars, and firs. It’s a type of fossilized wood that has become stone through petrification. In this process, the tree’s organic matter is slowly replaced by minerals, turning the wood into stone.
This type of petrified wood forms when a tree falls or is buried in sediment, like ash from a volcano or sediment from a river. The water or groundwater seeps into the hole and covers the tree, cutting off oxygen. Without oxygen, the process of decay moves slower.
Fossilized palm wood
Palm petrified wood is fossilized wood from palm trees. It’s made in the same way that other types of petrified wood are. It starts when a palm tree falls or gets buried by sand or ash from a volcano or a river.
It can have different grain patterns and sometimes even keep the structure of the palm trunk, like how it looks like it’s made of fibers. These fossilized remains give us important information about ancient plants and help us learn about Earth’s history.
The tools every petrified wood hunter will need
When you're out looking for petrified wood having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.
We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced petrified wood hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.
Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.
At a minimum you should have:
1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard
2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set
3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well
4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill
5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable
6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to
7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect
The petrified wood-finding books that we use most
There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:
We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.
The Best Places To Find Petrified Wood In New Mexico
Here’s a list of the best places to look for petrified wood in New Mexico. Although rockhounding in New Mexico is broader, you can also try it out for more chances of finding petrified wood.
Fra Cristobal Range
The Fra Cristobal Range boasts a diverse and intriguing geology. It has an exciting mix of sedimentary and volcanic rock formations that have changed over millions of years. This variety of geology creates the perfect conditions for petrified wood to last, making it a haven for people who love fossils.
The range is in a place with a lot of beautiful natural scenery. The tall mountains, beautiful valleys, and winding streams make for a beautiful place to explore. Its rough slopes and bare cliffs make it a thrilling adventure for those who want to find hidden treasures.
Where we found petrified wood at the Fra Cristobal Range
The mountains themselves are known to contain petrified wood specimens. Exploring the slopes and valleys within the range may yield exciting finds.
Erosion and natural processes have also exposed petrified wood in washes and creek beds that flow through or near the Fra Cristobal Range.
Before bringing your petrified wood home, know the latest rules about collecting in New Mexico.
This remarkable mountain offers a fascinating blend of geology, geography, and terrain, making it an ideal location for discovering ancient treasures.
Mt. Chalchihuitl comprises sedimentary rock formations, which show that the area has a long geological history. As layers of sediment build up over time, they bury fallen trees in a way that makes them the perfect place for petrified wood to form.
The mountain rises majestically, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Its location within the diverse terrain of New Mexico adds to its appeal, with rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and winding streams creating a scenic backdrop for fossil hunting.
Where we found petrified wood at Mt. Chalchihuitl
Exploring the mountainside and slopes of Mt. Chalchihuitl may allow you to discover petrified wood. Look for exposed rock formations or areas where erosion has occurred, as these can expose fossilized specimens.
The sedimentary rocks that make up the Ojo Alamo Formation were formed in the late Cretaceous about 73 million years ago. These rocks were made in a place that used to be a floodplain, where rivers built up layers of sediments over time.
The Ojo Alamo Formation is an excellent place to look for petrified wood because it has a lot of fossils. The ancient floodplain was the perfect place for trees to stay alive and become stone over millions of years.
Because of this, many well-preserved pieces of petrified wood can tell us about the ancient plants and the area’s geological history.
Where we found petrified wood at the Ojo Alamo Formation
This vast and scenic wilderness area is part of the Ojo Alamo Formation and is known for its unique geological features and petrified wood deposits.
You can explore washes, dry creek beds, and areas around the formation where water has flowed can increase the chances of finding petrified wood specimens.
Mud Springs Mountain
Mud Springs Mountain comprises layers of sedimentary rock that were formed long ago. These rock layers tell the story of the area’s long geological past and make it easy for petrified wood to stay in place.
It’s an excellent place to look for petrified wood because of its geological history. Petrified wood is all left of the ancient forests that grew in the area.
Mud Springs Mountain has rough slopes, rocky outcroppings, and washes now and then. As erosion and weathering reveal ancient treasures hidden in the mountainside, these unique features make it possible to find pieces of petrified wood.
Where we found petrified wood at Mud Springs Mountain
The slopes and hillsides of Mud Springs Mountain can offer opportunities for petrified wood discoveries. Erosion and weathering can expose fragments or larger specimens of petrified wood once buried within the mountain.
Zuni Mountain comprises many different kinds of rocks, such as sandstones, shales, and limestones. These rock layers show the area’s long geological history and make it easy for petrified wood to stay in place.
The mountain range stands tall and gives breathtaking views of the landscapes around it. Its location in New Mexico, with its rolling hills, lush valleys, and clean rivers, makes it even more appealing. This makes it a great place to go fossil hunting.
Where we found petrified wood at Zuni Mountain
Exploring the slopes and creek beds of Zuni Mountain can offer opportunities for finding petrified wood. Erosion and weathering can expose fragments or larger specimens of petrified wood once buried within the mountain.
Other Great Places To Find New Mexico Petrified Wood
We’ll provide you with a list of more fantastic spots in New Mexico where you can discover petrified wood after making our recommendations for the best areas to find them. To make things simpler, we’ve arranged them according to county.
General Areas You Should Try
We want to ensure your search is successful because New Mexico is large. It’s crucial to search for the key and pay attention to locations where petrified wood is frequently found.
Collectors looking for petrified wood treasures love to go to petrified forests. These old forests have been kept safe for millions of years and are full of fossils. These forests used to be full of tall trees, but now they are full of petrified wood.
Petrified forests often contain a variety of petrified wood types. Because of the many fallen trees and branches that turned into stone, collectors have much to choose from.
Streams and creeks
Streams and creeks are fantastic places for collectors to find petrified wood treasures. These flowing bodies of water offer unique opportunities for the discovery of fossilized wonders.
Streams and creeks help water get where it needs to go. As the water flows, the land around it slowly wears away, revealing treasures hidden in the sediments. This erosion process brings to the surface pieces or even whole pieces of petrified wood that were once buried below the surface.
Volcanic regions are fascinating and fruitful locations for collectors searching for petrified wood. These areas, shaped by volcanic activity, offer unique opportunities to discover remarkable fossilized wonders.
Most places with volcanoes have a lot of different minerals and elements. During the petrification process, these minerals get into the buried wood. This gives the petrified wood its bright colors and unique patterns. The fantastic beauty of the fossilized wood is partly due to its location in a volcanic area.
Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In New Mexico
It’s essential to answer the following questions that are often asked about petrified wood in New Mexico.
How old is petrified wood in New Mexico
The age of petrified wood in New Mexico depends on where it is and the geology. Most of the petrified wood in New Mexico is from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods, which happened between 208 and 180 million years ago. The ancient forests that grew in this area are still there.
Can you find petrified palm wood in New Mexico
Yes, petrified palm wood can be found in New Mexico. Petrified palm wood is the fossilized remains of old palm trees that have turned to stone through the process of petrification, in which minerals replace the organic material.
The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In New Mexico
Not everyone likes going outdoors and looking for petrified wood all day. Sometimes, you only need a single piece to display or add to your collection. Here’s a list of rock shops where you can buy petrified wood:
- Ancient of Days – 127 N Main St, Roswell, NM 88203
- Casa Grande Trading Post – 17 Waldo St, Los Cerrillos, NM 87010
- Meteorite, Mineral, and Fossil Gallery – 110 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501
- Trina’s Rock Shop – 1812 Columbus Rd, Deming, NM 88030
- Touchstone Gallery – 127 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501