Petrified woods are a fascinating part of our natural world. Some pieces are as hard as rocks but show the details of the bark, branches, and even tree rings. It’s as if they are frozen moments in time, telling us stories of the ancient world. Their vibrant hues of red, yellow, and brown are truly a testament to nature’s artistry.
If you’ve ever tried to find petrified wood in Colorado, you might know it can be quite challenging without the proper guidance. This is because it can look a lot like regular rocks if you don’t know what to look for. Plus, they’re often hidden under layers of soil and other materials.
But here’s the good news: our state is home to numerous locations rich in these ancient treasures! And in this article, we’ll share these awesome spots where you can find Colorado petrified wood. With the right information, your expedition can be a great success!
What Is Colorado Petrified Wood
Petrified wood is basically ancient wood that has turned into stone. This amazing transformation happens over millions of years. When a tree dies, it gets buried under layers of earth. Minerals from groundwater slowly replace the wood’s organic materials, turning it into a rock that preserves the tree’s original structure.
Even though petrified wood looks like a rock, you can still see the tree’s growth rings and even the bark. The minerals give it all sorts of vibrant colors, like red, yellow, and brown. You can often find it in dry, desert areas where sediment quickly covered the wood. This can happen during volcanic eruptions or floods.
Lucky for you, Colorado is one of the places where you can get lucky enough to stumble upon this incredible slice of history!
The Types of Petrified Wood Found in Colorado
As we’ve discussed above, it can sometimes be tricky to identify a petrified wood and tell it apart from an ordinary rock, so we created an article on it for you. It would also help if you’re familiar with the different types of petrified wood that you can encounter when you explore Colorado.
Below are what you may find here:
Agatized Petrified Wood
Agatized petrified wood is a stone version of an ancient tree with one difference from regular petrified wood— it’s filled with agate! This type has an array of vivid hues and captivating designs. Its colors can range from vibrant reds and blues to subtle yellows and greens, often appearing as unique bands or patterns.
The stunning visuals of agatized petrified wood make it not just a curiosity for scientists, but a sought-after gem for artists and collectors. You can find it in many places, including Colorado if you know where to look.
Opalized Petrified Wood
Opal is a gemstone that’s loved for its amazing display of colors, and it’s this opal that makes opalized petrified wood so special. It can contain a wide spectrum of colors from dazzling blues and greens to fiery reds and oranges. Often, the colors can shift and change depending on how the light hits it, giving it a magical look.
Opalized petrified wood is not only a treasure to behold— it’s also a snapshot of the earth’s history. You can still see the original structure of the tree, from the growth rings to the grain, frozen forever in opal.
Jasperized Petrified Wood
Jasperized petrified wood gets its rich, earthy colors from the jasper it contains. You can find colors like deep reds, browns, and yellows swirled into fantastic patterns within the petrified wood. Sometimes, it can even have spots or bands of color that make each piece one-of-a-kind.
Like regular petrified wood, jasperized petrified wood keeps the original structure of the tree intact. The best part? You can find it in many places, including right here in Colorado.
Silicified petrified wood is like a time capsule from nature. It looks just like the original wood, but it’s hard as rock! It has the same shapes, textures, and even the growth rings of the original tree.
Silicified petrified wood can come in a range of colors, from earthy browns and grays to vibrant reds and yellows, depending on the minerals present. It’s a stunning piece of natural art and history, all wrapped up in one.
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 Colorado
There are a lot of great spots for rockhounding in Colorado that you might find it hard to sort which ones contain petrified wood. So we did the hard work and scoured our state for these awesome spots. Below are our most recommended sites to find Colorado petrified wood:
The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is one of our absolute favorite places to explore. Nestled within the Rocky Mountains, the monument’s geography is truly awe-inspiring, with breathtaking mountain views and lush, green valleys. And, of course, the fossil beds are some of the richest and most diverse in the world.
From a geologist’s perspective, it’s a real treat. The area was shaped by volcanic activity millions of years ago, leaving a fascinating landscape that has preserved a wealth of ancient plant, insect fossils, and petrified woods— a testament to the rich forests that once flourished here.
Take note, though, that there are rules and regulations about where you can and cannot collect in our state. Collecting is not allowed in the monument, but you’re allowed to observe and see petrified woods closely. Check Colorado’s most recent collecting guidelines for more information.
Where we found petrified wood in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
You can find petrified woods in the “Big Stump”, a massive fossilized redwood tree, and other petrified stumps along the Petrified Forest Loop, a one-mile trail to the petrified forest.
Elbert County is a place that truly sparks joy in rockhounds. It’s located on the high plains to the east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, offering a landscape that’s both sprawling and captivating. It has flat grasslands and rolling hills, and it’s peppered with small, charming towns.
Geologically speaking, this county’s exciting! It’s well-known for its abundance of sedimentary rocks, particularly sandstone and limestone. These rocks not only tell a story of the area’s ancient past, but they’re also home to various fossils, including petrified wood.
The terrain in Elbert County provides a mix of prairies and forests, so there’s always something new to explore. What’s even greater is that getting here is pretty straightforward. It’s just a short drive southeast of Denver, which means it’s easily accessible for a day trip or a weekend adventure.
Where we found petrified wood in Elbert County
Elbert County abounds in different amazing spots where you can find petrified wood, such as:
- Bijou Creek gravels
- Kiowa Creek gravels
- Union Pacific railroad cuts and river gravels of Elbert
- Surrounding region in Agate
- Short distance southeast of Elbert
- Kit Carson Monument
- Area between Cherry Creek and Running Creek
- Near farmhouse in Elizabeth area
- Windmills area in Fondis
Willow Creek is situated in the northern part of our state, flowing through the scenic landscapes of Routt County and the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains. It has an impressive geology, with high peaks, deep valleys, and of course, the bubbling stream of Willow Creek itself.
When you go here, you can find all sorts of interesting rock formations and geological structures, thanks to the region’s volcanic past. From cool basalt columns to layers of sedimentary rock exposed by erosion, there’s always something exciting to discover.
The terrain around Willow Creek varies from thick forests of aspen and pine to open meadows dotted with wildflowers. And getting here is not too complicated, as it’s a short drive from Steamboat Springs, with plenty of signs to guide you.
Where we found petrified wood in Willow Creek
You can explore the different nooks and crannies of Willow Creek to find samples of petrified wood.
Dolores River begins high in the San Juan Mountains and winds its way across varied landscapes before joining the Colorado River. Its spectacular geology includes towering peaks, rolling hills, and the river cutting a path through it all. Surrounding it are lush riverbanks, rocky cliffs, and forests.
The river runs through layers of sandstone and shale, carving deep canyons and revealing the region’s geological past. You can see evidence of ancient seas, river deltas, and sand dunes here.
Reaching the Dolores River is pretty simple. There are various points along its length, with easy access from towns like Dolores and Gateway.
Where we found petrified wood in Dolores River
Explore the different areas of Dolores River, especially its gravel, to find fascinating petrified woods.
Mesa County is nestled on the western edge of our state, with a landscape that stretches from the towering peaks of the Grand Mesa to the dramatic cliffs of the Colorado National Monument. When it comes to geology, this county is a standout. It’s filled with ancient sedimentary rock formations showcasing layers of history.
The county’s terrain is also incredibly diverse. It has high-altitude forests atop the Grand Mesa, arid shrublands in the lower valleys, and rocky canyons carved by the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers. It’s a place that always keeps you on your toes, in the best way possible.
And here’s the cool part: getting to Mesa County is a snap! It’s well connected by major highways, and Grand Junction, the county seat, even has an airport.
Where we found petrified wood in Mesa County
We highly recommend exploring the following sites in Mesa County to spot petrified woods:
- Colorado River Valley and side canyons of Grand Junction
- Indian Hunting Ground
- Opal (Blue) Hill
- Glade Park area including Pinon Mesa
- North East Creek and Johnson Creek
- Serpent’s Trail area in Glade Park
- South of Fruita area
- Indian Creek Canyon
Other Great Places To Find Colorado Petrified Wood
Aside from our top recommendations, Colorado petrified wood can also be found in plenty of other awesome spots here. We’ve listed these spots below by county for your convenient reference:
|Chaffee||Hills in Poncha Springs area to Sargents|
|Douglas||Area float in Parker|
|El Paso||Surrounding areas of Calhan|
|El Paso||East half of the county in Peyton|
|El Paso||Bijou Basin|
|Fremont||Four Mile Creek|
|Kit Carson||South Fork of the Republican River|
|Las Animas||Plum Creek|
|Moffat||Area exposures in Craig|
|Park||Hill beneath low cliffs in Hartsel|
|Park||South Platte River|
|Prowers||Along both sides of US 287 / 385 in Lamar|
|Rio Grande||Old Woman Creek|
|Teller||Pike Petrified Forest|
|Weld||Gravel road to Kalouse area|
|Weld||Two Mile River|
|Yuma||South Fork Republican River|
General Areas You Should Try
Pay close attention to the following areas if you need to explore broad or wide locations. More often than not, you can uncover Colorado petrified wood here:
Petrified forests are an absolute treasure trove for finding petrified wood. These were once thriving forests that, over millions of years, have transformed into amazing displays of nature’s artistry.
Visiting a petrified forest is like stepping back in time. You can see, touch, and explore these relics of ancient ecosystems. Not only are they visually stunning, but they also provide an exciting and accessible way for people of all ages to engage with geology and Earth’s history.
Streams and Creeks
Streams and creeks in Colorado are fantastic spots to hunt for petrified wood. These flowing waters are like nature’s conveyor belts. They carry all sorts of rocks and minerals from upstream and then, over time, deposit them along their banks. Among these treasures, you can often find pieces of petrified wood.
These waterways cut through layers of rock and soil, exposing ancient petrified forests and carrying bits of them downstream. When you’re exploring these areas, keep an eye out for unusual shapes or colors among the rocks.
Rivers and River Banks
Rivers are like natural highways for rocks and minerals. As they flow down from the mountains, they carry along a variety of geological materials, including petrified wood that has been dislodged from its original location.
The rushing waters of the river carved into the landscape, revealing hidden geological layers. Within these layers, there may be remnants of petrified wood. When a piece gets caught up in the river’s current, it’s carried downstream and often ends up deposited along the riverbank.
Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In Colorado
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions when it comes to finding petrified wood in Colorado:
How old is Petrified Wood in Colorado
Colorado petrified wood can be extremely ancient, often dating back tens of millions of years. It’s a record of a time when the climate and ecosystem were vastly different from today.
During the Eocene epoch, roughly 34 to 56 million years ago, Colorado was a lush, sub-tropical environment, filled with large lakes and dense forests. This is when many of the trees that later became petrified wood grew and eventually underwent permineralization, where their original structure is preserved in incredible detail.
Can you find Petrified Palm Wood in Colorado
Unfortunately, petrified palm wood is not a common find in Colorado. The specimens found here are typically from coniferous trees and other ancient vegetation that thrived in the region during different geological periods.
The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In Colorado
Exploring and uncovering petrified wood is no easy-breezy feat, so if you don’t have much time and energy to engage in a full-blown exploration, you can also opt to visit our trusted local shops that offer petrified wood. Below are some of these stores:
- Geofossiles, LLC – 5631 N Academy Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
- Jewelry & Fossil Shop of Steamboat – 745 Lincoln Ave, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
- Lithos Mineral, Fossil, Meteorite, Book, and Hobby Shop – 5695 Yukon St, Arvada, CO 80002
- Nature’s Own – 411 S Main St #7, Breckenridge, CO 80424
- Red Rose Rock Shop & Dick’s Rock Museum – 490 Moraine Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517