Prowling the Painted Desert

Layers of color

Layers of color

It was time to move the RV west, to start seeing all those natural wonders and National Parks we had heard so much about. Santa Fe had fed our stomachs well and and we had enjoyed the beauty of the area, including Taos. Now we moved on to Gallup, New Mexico, near the Arizona border so we could get an early start exploring our next stop, the Painted Desert.  As we head west the terrain changes, we see more buttes and mesas and desert-like terrain. We spend only one night in Gallup, not even unhitching the car, they had a BBQ dinner and a country singer to entertain us. We found out Arizona has its own time zone, they don’t follow daylight savings time so we will lose another hour, at least until we hit Utah.

The Teepees

The Teepees

This area of the Painted Desert was formed by shifts in the earth’s crust brought about by erupting volcanoes and earthquakes, alternating with flooding by fresh and sea waters alike, and added elements like continuous erosion have all helped shape this stark landscape.  Colorful sediments of clay and sandstone, stacked in artful layers, feed off the Arizona sun in an ever-changing display of color.

Remnants of past occupants

Remnants of past occupants

Wind and water shaped the landscape

Wind and water shaped the landscape

It took millions upon millions of years for nature to create this natural canvas of unimaginable beauty that some describe  as a “multi-colored layered cake.”  The Photos don’t do enough justice to the rainbow of colors: shades of grey merge into lavender,  vibrant reds, oranges and pinks thread their way through this huge expanse of barren, but majestic landscape. It is huge, 94,000 acres stretching over 100 miles west to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon and north to the Four Corners. Only a small piece of it is in the National Park. Driving through the park, standing on the overlooks, hiking the trails we were humbled by its expansiveness and beauty.  We head to another section of the park to explore our next stop, the Petrified Forest.

The Desert stretches as far as the eye can see

The Desert stretches as far as the eye can see

About JudithC99

Wanderer. Writer. Artist. Photographer. Learner. Traveler of the Red Roads


  1. LaVagabonde

    Great photos. The Painted Desert is one of my favorite places in America.

  2. Beautiful photos! Be well and safe travels, Ann and Jerry

  3. Wow beautiful photos. This is a definite place to see and be in our next go round to AZ next year.

  4. Now there’s a place I’d love to schlep our van to!!! You’re very lucky ^_^

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  8. This reminds me of our trip to the Richtersveld – it is nowhere near as big but the arid climate and few plants leaves the underlying rock exposed with all its wonderful colours.

    • Hi, yes the Painted desert is a favorite spot. I find real beauty in the starkness. We leave in early May for a five month trip back to the west and north to the Canadian Rockies. Hope to find some equally spectacular new places.

  9. What a wonderful place to travel through!! Traveling through America in a RV is on my to do list, I do hope to explore this country with its wonderful Parks and reserve one day!!

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