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Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Large chunks of colorful petrified wood decorate this unique park, which offers hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. There's wildlife to watch, trails to hike, and a 30-acre reservoir for boating, fishing, and somewhat chilly swimming. It's open all year, but spring through fall are the best times to visit. Hikers should be prepared for hot summer days and carry plenty of water.

Essentials

Getting There -- The park is 48 miles from Bryce Canyon. It's located about 2 miles southwest of Escalante on Utah 12 at Wide Hollow Road.

Information/Visitor Center -- Contact Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, 710 N. Reservoir Rd., Escalante, UT 84726 (tel. 435/826-4466; http://stateparks.utah.gov). The visitor center, open daily, displays petrified wood, dinosaur bones, and fossils, plus an exhibit explaining how petrified wood is formed.

Fees & Regulations -- Entry costs $5 per vehicle. As at most parks, regulations are generally based on common sense and courtesy: Don't damage anything, drive slowly on park roads, and observe quiet hours between 10pm and 7am. In addition, you're asked to resist the temptation to carry off samples of petrified wood. Pets are welcome, even on trails, but must be on leashes no more than 6 feet long.

Outdoor Pursuits

Fishing & Boating -- Wide Hollow Reservoir, located partially inside the park, has a boat ramp (sorry, no rentals are available) and is a popular fishing hole for rainbow trout and bluegill, plus ice-fishing in winter.

Hiking -- The 1-mile loop Petrified Forest Trail is a moderately strenuous hike among colorful rocks, through a forest of stunted juniper and piñon pine, past a painted desert, to a field of colorful petrified wood. The hike also offers panoramic vistas of the town of Escalante and surrounding stair-step plateaus. A free brochure is available at the visitor center. Allow about 45 minutes. An optional three-quarter-mile loop off the main trail -- called Trail of Sleeping Rainbows -- leads through a large mount of petrified wood, but is considerably steeper than the main trail.

Wildlife Watching -- This is one of the best spots in the region to see wildlife. The reservoir is home to ducks, geese, and coots. Chukar partridges wander throughout the park, and you're also likely to see eagles, hawks, lizards, ground squirrels, and both cottontails and jackrabbits. Binoculars are helpful.

Camping

The 22-unit RV and tent campground, within easy walking distance of the park's hiking trails and reservoir, is open year-round. Facilities include hot showers, modern restrooms, and drinking water, but no RV hookups. Camping costs $15 per night. Reservations are available at tel. 800/322-3770; http://stateparks.utah.gov; a $7 nonrefundable fee will be charged.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.