The 18 Proven Spots To Find Utah Petrified Wood in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 18 Proven Spots To Find Utah Petrified Wood in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Utah is home to a vast and diverse landscape, and petrified wood can be found scattered throughout the state. However, due to its abundance and the region’s largeness, it can be hard for beginners to find specific spots.

You need a sharp eye, a basic understanding of geology, and the ability to figure out what nature is trying to tell you. If you don’t, you might mistake a normal rock for a valuable fossilized treasure. No one wants to go through that when searching for these valued specimens.

But don’t worry, you’re not on this journey by yourselves! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a plethora of resources to help you increase your chances of success. Get ready to go on a petrified wood hunting trip full of wonder, excitement, and, of course, beautiful finds!

What Is Utah Petrified Wood

A distinctive white petrified wood with beautiful intricate patterns
Petrified Wood photo provided by and available for purchase at OregonCoastGeology

Petrified wood is a cool natural thing that happens when wood turns into stone over millions of years. The process of petrification, also called “permineralization,” starts when mineral-rich water or sediment is poured over dead or buried wood.

As time goes on, the wood’s organic matter slowly breaks down, and minerals like silica, calcite, and opal slowly seep into the cells to replace it. This mineral infusion keeps the wood’s original structure, making a beautiful fossilized copy.

In Utah, petrified wood can be found in various locations due to the state’s rich geological history. There are many different kinds of petrified wood in these places, each with its own colors, patterns, and ways of staying alive.

You can look at our detailed guide to see where you can find petrified wood near you, once you’ve visited all the areas in our state. We’re always adding new information about each state here.

The types of petrified wood found in Utah

Each kind of petrified wood in Utah is different. Here are some types of petrified you can find in the state.

Agatized petrified wood

Agatized petrified wood is a type of petrified wood in which the original organic material has been replaced by agate, a type of chalcedony. When a tree is buried or submerged in mineral-rich water or sediment, it starts to turn into agatized petrified wood.

As the wood breaks down over time, mineral-rich groundwater moves through the tree’s cells. This groundwater has silica that is dissolved in it. Over time, the silica settles out of the water and fills the spaces left by the decaying wood.

Silica slowly builds up layers of chalcedony, like agate, in the tree’s cells and the porous spaces around them. Agatized petrified wood gets its bright colors and intricate patterns from impurities and trace elements in the silica-rich solutions that seep into the wood.

Opalized petrified wood

Opalized petrified wood is a beautiful type of petrified wood in which the original organic material has been replaced by opal, a precious gemstone known for its iridescence.

Opal is a type of silica that has water in it. It has a unique structure inside that bends light, which gives it its characteristic play of colors. By replacing the wood with opal, the intricate cell structure and wood grain are kept while the mesmerizing iridescence of the gemstone is added to the petrified wood.

The colors in opalized petrified wood, which is often called “opal fire” or “opalescence,” come from the way silica spheres are arranged inside the opal. When light goes through these spheres, it gets bent and spread out. This makes a spectral display of bright blues, greens, reds, and other colors.

Palm root petrified wood

Palm root petrified wood comes from the roots of palm trees that lived long ago. Other types of petrified wood come from the trunks or branches of trees. Palm root petrified wood, on the other hand, shows the complex structures and textures of the roots.

Because the root system is made up of a complex network of fibers and vessels, the root structures and textures are still there in palm root petrified wood. The new minerals fill the spaces left by the decaying organic matter, making a fossilized copy of the palm tree’s root system that looks just like the original.

Petrified palm root wood is a prized find among fossil collectors and enthusiasts because it’s so rare and gives a unique look into the ecosystems of palm trees long ago. It shows how beautiful and varied plants were millions of years ago.

How We Found Petrified Wood in Utah
Petrified wood can be pretty tough to find in our state if you aren’t strategic about your search. We’ve compiled a list of great locations where you can find it from a number of proven sources. These are the main inputs we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience of our team
  • Input from a variety of local rockhounds and rockhound groups
  • The difficulty in accessing a location
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both the experienced and newbie hunters who are just starting out

Using these inputs we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding petrified wood for our collections!

Rock pick being used

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:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southwestern Quadrant 

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 Utah

Here’s are the following excellent places in the state to find petrified wood. Even though rockhounding in Utah is more broad, you can still do it for more chances to find petrified wood.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

A majestic formation of rocks at the Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks is renowned for its breathtaking amphitheater, showcasing vibrant rock formations that resemble a colorful canvas painted by nature. This awe-inspiring destination showcases a unique blend of geological formations, dramatic landscapes, and a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Cedar Breaks National Monument is on the Markagunt Plateau, which is a high-elevation area with limestone and sandstone formations that have been lifted up. The different minerals and oxidation processes are what give the cliffs and hoodoos in the amphitheater their bright colors.

The erosion and revealing of rock layers in the monument sometimes reveal small pieces of petrified wood. This gives you a chance to find and admire the fossilized remains of ancient trees.

Where we found petrified wood at the Cedar Breaks National Monument

Petrified wood can be found through the hiking trails of the area, which has a lot of different and rough terrain.

Before you bring your petrified wood finds home, make sure you know the recent rules and regulations about collecting in Utah.

Green River

A nice view of the Green River flowing through canyons

The Green River is known for making important contributions to the geology of the area. It gives a unique look at how the Earth has changes throughout millions of years. It has tall canyon walls and a variety of ecosystems.

This river is a beautiful place for nature lovers and those who are looking for petrified wood. The combination of geological activity, ancient forests, and mineral deposition has created favorable conditions for the preservation and discovery of petrified wood in the area.

Where we found petrified wood at Green River

Explore the riverbanks and sandbars along the Green River, particularly where the water has eroded the surrounding areas. Erosion can expose fragments of petrified wood that have been washed downstream from their original locations.

Horse Canyon

The beautiful landscape of Horse Canyon where petrified wood can be found.

Horse Canyon is a geological uplift that shows layers of sedimentary rock from different time periods. The canyon cuts through sandstone, shale, and limestone, creating a geological tapestry that tells the story of ancient environments and the forces of nature at work.

Horse Canyon’s landscape is made up of high cliffs, deep canyons, and interesting rock formations. Its remote and rugged nature adds an element of exploration and adventure to your petrified wood hunting experience.

Where we found petrified wood at the Horse Canyon

Examine the exposed canyon walls and slopes for any signs of petrified wood. Erosion processes can reveal fragments or larger pieces embedded within the rock layers.

Also keep an eye out for areas of disturbed ground, such as landslides or rockslides. These disturbances can expose petrified wood that was previously buried or hidden.

San Rafael Swell

Rows and rows of majestic canyons at the San Rafael Swell

The San Rafael Swell is a prominent anticline, which is a fold in the Earth’s crust that shows sedimentary rock layers that date back millions of years. Formations of sandstone, shale, limestone, and even volcanic ash can be seen in this geological masterpiece, which reveals a mesmerizing story.

Petrified wood hunters are drawn to the San Rafael Swell because of the ancient forests that used to grow there. Through a process called mineral replacement, the trees have turned to stone over time.

Wind and water, which are both eroding forces, have exposed pieces and specimens of petrified wood, which are waiting to be found among the different geological formations in the Swell.

Where we found petrified wood at the San Rafael Swell

This drainage system within the San Rafael Swell, called Cane Wash, is known for its petrified wood deposits. Explore the wash and its surrounding banks, as erosion may expose fragments or larger pieces of petrified wood.

Sweet Water Canyon

In Sweet Water Canyon, there are deep canyons, tall cliffs, and streams that wind around. The remote and rough nature of the canyon adds a sense of exploration and adventure to the hunt for petrified wood.

Its varied landscape, which includes sandy washes, rocky slopes, and exposed rock outcrops, gives petrified wood plenty of chances to be found and exposed by natural erosion.

Ancient forests that used to grow in the area make Sweet Water Canyon a good place to find petrified wood. As the canyon is worn away by erosion, pieces and specimens of petrified wood may become visible, waiting for the keen eye of collectors and fans.

Where we found petrified wood at Sweet Water Canyon

As you walk through Sweet Water Canyon, look at the ground. Small bits of petrified wood can sometimes be found on the surface, especially in places where erosion or weathering has brought them closer to the surface.

Other Great Places To Find Utah Petrified Wood

Stunning landscape of the Vermillion Cliffs where you can find petrified wood

After we recommending the best places to look for petrified wood in the state, we’ll give you more locations and other options to find these specimens in Utah. We put them in order by county to make things more convenient for you.

County Location
Garfield Circle Cliffs
Grand Arches National Monument
Kane Vermillion Cliffs
San Juan Abajo Mountains
San Juan Dead Horse Point State Park
Washington Beaver Dam Wash
Wayne Capitol Reef National Park
Wayne Rabbit Valley

General Areas You Should Try

A nice piece of petrified wood slab

Because Utah is a big state, we want to make sure your search works. Pay more attention to places where petrified wood is often found.

Desert regions

Petrified wood collectors are drawn to the desert because it is a great place to find interesting fossilized treasures. These arid landscapes, which are dry and have little vegetation, are perfect for keeping petrified wood in place and letting it dry out.

Geological formations in deserts can be very big and date back millions of years. Sedimentary rock layers are a common place to find petrified wood, and the desert has a lot of them.

Rivers and riverbanks

Petrified wood collectors love rivers and the riverbanks next to them because there are so many chances to find interesting fossilized treasures. These waterways are great places to find fossils because they play a key role in the deposition, erosion, and exposure of petrified wood.

Changes in water levels and currents can bring new materials downstream or uncover petrified wood that had been buried. Collectors who explore rivers and their banks can take advantage of this ongoing process, which makes it more likely that they will find pieces of petrified wood.

Streams and creeks

Streams and creeks are great places for people who collect petrified wood to go because they are good places to find interesting fossilized treasures. These moving bodies of water are great places to find fossils because they play a big role in moving, depositing, and exposing petrified wood.

Compared to rivers, streams and creeks are easier to get to and explore because they are smaller. Their smaller channels and shallower depths make it easier for collectors to look for pieces of petrified wood.

Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In Utah

A big and gorgeous petrified wood log with a rough surface

It’s important to know the answers to the following questions about petrified wood in Utah.

How old is petrified wood in Utah?

The age of petrified wood in Utah varies depending on the specific location and geological formation. It can range in age from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years old.

Other regions in Utah, such as the Morrison Formation, contain petrified wood that is around 150 million years old, originating from the Late Jurassic period. These fossilized remains provide insights into ancient ecosystems and the diverse flora that existed during that time.

Can you find petrified palm wood in Utah?

Yes, you can find petrified palm wood in Utah. Petrified palm wood is the fossilized remains of ancient palm trees that went through the process of petrification, in which the organic material was replaced by minerals over millions of years.

The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In Utah

The Escalante Rock Shop in Utah where you can find and buy petrified wood specimens

Not everyone likes to spend all day looking for petrified wood outside. Sometimes, all you need is one piece to display or add to your collection. Here’s a list of rock shops where you can buy petrified wood:

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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