The vastness of Arizona’s desert landscapes conceals hidden pockets of petrified wood. You may spend much time looking in the wrong places if you don’t know enough about the state’s geology, minerals, and historical sites.
Petrified wood often looks the same as the rocks and land around it, which makes it harder to find. But the rewards for those who keep going are remarkable! Once it’s located, the beauty of petrified wood is breathtaking.
The colors, patterns, and textures made when wood turns into stone over millions of years are mesmerizing. These exciting pieces glimpse ancient forests and make you wonder how much time has passed.
With the right tools, techniques, and guidance, anyone can find a beautiful piece of petrified wood in Arizona!
What Is Arizona Petrified Wood
Petrified wood is a unique natural phenomenon when organic wood turns into stone through petrification. It occurs when trees or plants are buried by sediment or volcanic ash, which protects them from decay and keeps them from breaking down.
Over time, groundwater minerals like silica, calcium carbonate, and iron oxides seep into the porous wood cells and replace the organic matter. As the wood breaks down, the minerals slowly form crystals and harden. This keeps the wood’s original structure and cellular patterns in stone.
Arizona’s unique geology and mineral-rich groundwater have contributed to the formation of petrified wood with vibrant colors and intricate patterns.
Once you’ve seen all the places in our state, you can look at our detailed guide to see where you can find petrified wood near you. We’re always adding new directions for each state.
The types of petrified wood found in Arizona
Arizona has different kinds of petrified wood, each with its traits. Here are some types of petrified wood found in the state.
Agatized petrified wood
Agatized petrified wood is a special kind of petrified wood in which the wood has been replaced by agate, a type of microcrystalline quartz. It’s a beautiful type of petrified wood that is highly valued because it looks like glass and has intricate patterns and colors from the replacement process.
Agatized petrified wood starts to form when dead trees or branches are buried under sediment or volcanic ash layers. This cuts off their access to oxygen and slows down the decomposition process.
Over time, silica-rich groundwater seeps into the buried wood. The water with lots of silica seeps into the wood cells and spreads through the organic matter, slowly replacing it with quartz.
Blue forest petrified wood
Blue Forest petrified wood, also called Blue Forest Stone, is unique in some places, especially in northeastern Arizona. It has a unique bluish-gray color and often has complex patterns and dendrites made of manganese and other minerals.
As the wood breaks down and rots, the minerals in the groundwater are deposited in the cellular structure of the wood. Manganese oxides, in particular, make dendritic patterns that look like delicate ferns or tree shapes. As the manganese becomes minerals and grows in the wood, it makes these dendrites.
The unique bluish-gray color of Blue Forest petrified wood is often attributed to the presence of iron minerals, such as iron oxides, which can give a blue color when combined with manganese dendrites.
Jasperized petrified wood
Jasperized petrified wood is a special kind of petrified wood in which the wood has been replaced by jasper, a type of microcrystalline quartz. Its rich red and brown colors make it look like jasper, where it gets its name.
It’s made in the same way that other types of petrified wood are. It starts with trees or plant parts being buried under layers of sediment or ash from a volcano. Over time, the wood sinks into groundwater with a lot of minerals, like silica.
The mineral-rich water enters the wood cells, slowly replacing the organic matter with quartz. In the case of jasperized petrified wood, jasper, opaque, fine-grained quartz is the replacement mineral.
Rainbow petrified wood
Rainbow petrified wood is a type of petrified wood that is beautiful and highly valued because of its bright colors. It’s made through a process called permineralization. In this process, the original wood is replaced by a mix of minerals, giving the stone a beautiful range of colors.
The bright colors in rainbow petrified wood come from certain minerals and how they interact with the cellular structure of the wood. Iron oxides, for example, can make red, orange, and yellow tones, while copper can add blue and green tones.
The swirls and patterns in rainbow petrified wood are caused by the minerals that enter the wood’s growth rings and cell structure.
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 Arizona
Here’s a list of the best places in the state to look for petrified wood. Even though rockhounding in Arizona is more general, you can also try it out for more chances of finding petrified wood.
The river starts in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and flows through several states, including Arizona. Along its path, the Colorado River has cut deep canyons, like the famous Grand Canyon, and exposed layers of sedimentary rock that are millions of years old.
The area’s geology comprises different formations, such as sandstone, shale, limestone, and conglomerate. Each of these formations has unique qualities and the potential to hold petrified wood.
The river’s geography is characterized by the dramatic and rugged terrain surrounding its banks. Steep cliffs, rocky outcrops, and vast stretches of desert provide an ideal environment for preserving and discovering petrified wood.
Where we found petrified wood at the Colorado River
The town of Holbrook, situated east of the Colorado River, is known as the “Gateway to the Petrified Forest.” This area offers access to several private quarries and rock shops specializing in petrified wood.
Before you take your petrified wood out of Arizona, make sure you know the latest rules.
The beautiful Nazlini Canyon is an excellent example of the rich geological history of the area. This beautiful canyon is in the northeastern part of the state. It has a wide range of geology, geography, and terrain, which makes it a great place to look for petrified wood.
The canyon’s geology comprises sedimentary rock layers, like sandstone and shale, formed over millions of years. The weathering and erosion of these rock formations have slowly revealed interesting fossil deposits, such as petrified wood.
Geological processes that shaped Nazlini Canyon helped keep these ancient treasures safe and show them to the world.
Where we found petrified wood at Nazlini Canyon
An excellent place to look for petrified wood is along the creek that flows through Nazlini Canyon. The creek’s erosion exposes layers of sediment and fossils, like petrified wood. You might find some fantastic things when you look around the creek bed and the area around it.
Petrified Forest National Park is famous for having a lot of petrified wood. Because of the Chinle Formation’s sedimentary rocks, ancient forests, and dry climate, petrified wood has been able to stay in great shape.
The park is a treasure trove of beautifully preserved wood pieces, logs, and even whole trees that have turned to stone, showing the natural beauty and wonder of petrification.
Petrified Forest National Park has a lot of high deserts, dry landscapes, and famous painted desert views. The park has a unique mix of badlands, mesas, and petrified wood forests of different colors.
Where we found petrified wood at the Petrified Forest National Park
In the southern part of the park, in Rainbow Forest, an extensive collection of wood has turned to stone. There are a lot of dead trees that have turned into brightly colored petrified wood in this area.
At the north of the park, Crystal Forest has a beautiful collection of petrified wood with crystal formations. On the Crystal Forest Trail, there are a lot of petrified wood pieces that are different colors and can be seen through.
Rotten Bananas Butte in Arizona is a fascinating natural formation showing how geology has changed. This unique butte is in the southwestern part of the state. It has a mix of unique geology, different geography, and rough terrain, which makes it an excellent place to look for petrified wood.
It has a variety of terrain, from rocky slopes to eroded cliffs, which makes it a great place to explore and find new things. Ancient forests used to grow in this area, and pieces of petrified wood are all over the land as evidence.
Where we found petrified wood at Rotten Bananas Butte
You can find petrified wood along the many different rock formations at the Rotten Bananas Butte.
Because Tucson Mountain has a lot of different types of terrain, there are many places to look for petrified wood. You might be able to find these exciting fossils on hiking trails, in dry washes, or eroded slopes.
The desert landscape of Tucson Mountain is rough, with dry landscapes, steep rocky slopes, and deep canyons. Because the landscape is so different, petrified wood is more visible and easier to find in the mountain range.
Where we found petrified wood at Tucson Mountain
Petrified wood is abundant along the hiking trails of Tucson Mountain.
Other Great Places To Find Arizona Petrified Wood
We’ll give you a list of more great places in Arizona where you can find petrified wood after we tell you where we think you should look first. We’ve put them in order by county to make things easier.
|Coconino||Pipe Spring National Monument|
|Santa Cruz||Adobe Mountains|
|Yuma||Cabeza Prieta Mountain|
General Areas You Should Try
Because Arizona is so big, we want to ensure your search works. It’s essential to look for the key and focus on places where petrified wood is often found.
Desert areas are great places for collectors to look for petrified wood for several reasons. The dry climate of deserts helps keep living things alive for a long time. With little rain and low humidity, dead trees and plants don’t break down as quickly, which allows the petrification process to work better.
Geological structures in deserts often make it easy for petrified wood to form and stay in place. Ancient river systems, floodplains, and volcanic activity all help deposit sediments, which cover timber and start turning it into stone.
Because of many things, petrified forests are great places for collectors to find petrified wood. Petrified forests are places where old trees were kept and turned into stone over millions of years.
There is a lot of petrified wood in petrified forests, making it easier for collectors to find pieces. These forests often have many fallen logs, tree stumps, and small amounts of wood. This gives collectors a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors.
Streams and creeks
These bodies of water act as natural channels that can move and show off pieces and specimens of petrified wood. With the help of erosion and weathering, moving water can break petrified wood loose from rocks or sediment nearby and carry it downstream.
Petrified wood that was buried or partially covered can be found and seen because water is always moving. As streams and creeks cut through layers of sediment, they expose new surfaces. This gives collectors the chance to find petrified wood that was hidden under the surface.
Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In Arizona
It’s important to know the answers to the following questions about petrified wood in Arizona.
How old is petrified wood in Arizona?
Arizona’s age of petrified wood depends on where it is and how it was formed. Most of the petrified wood found in Arizona is from the Chinle Formation, which dates back to the Late Triassic and is thought to be about 225 million years old.
This formation covers a large area in northeastern Arizona, including Petrified Forest National Park.
Can you find petrified palm wood in Arizona?
Arizona is known for having a lot of petrified wood, primarily from coniferous trees, but there are also places where you can find petrified palm wood.
The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In Arizona
Not everyone likes to spend the whole day outside looking for petrified wood. Sometimes, you only need one piece to display or add to your collection. Here is a list of rock shops where you can buy petrified wood:
- The DoBell Ranch – 9274 Old Us Highway 180, Holbrook, AZ 86025
- Everything Just Rocks – 2235 W 1st St Unit 104-105, Tempe, AZ 85281
- Fantasia Crystals – 3510 E Bell Rd #9, Phoenix, AZ 85032
- Stewart’s Petrified Wood Shop – Washboard Rd, Holbrook, AZ 86025
- Stones, Crystals, Minerals, Gemstones, & Fossil Shop – 7085 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251