New Mexico Petrified Wood Locations

New Mexico Petrified Wood Locations

New Mexico has a rich diversity of landscaped and an array of fossils, including petrified wood. If you are planning a trip, we will discuss some of the best New Mexico petrified wood locations you must check out.

Petrified wood, formed through the process of permineralization, offers a glimpse into ancient ecosystems and the geological history of the region. If you’re an avid fossil enthusiast or just curious about the natural wonders of New Mexico, you’re in for a treat.

So, let’s delve into the details and take a look at areas in New Mexico where you can find petrified wood.

What is Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is a unique form of fossilization that occurs when wood undergoes a transformative process, turning into stone while retaining its original organic structure.

This geological phenomenon begins when a fallen tree or a piece of wood becomes buried in sediment, often due to volcanic ash, river deposits, or other natural events.

Over time, groundwater rich in dissolved minerals permeates the wood’s cellular structure, replacing the organic material with minerals such as silica, quartz, and calcite.

The resulting petrified wood can display an array of colors, patterns, and mineral compositions, making each specimen a unique and valuable piece of Earth’s natural artistry.

Also, look at our gem mining spots in Kentucky and the best spots to find geodes in Missouri

Types of Petrified Wood Found in New Mexico

Rainbow Petrified Wood

rainbow petrified wood

One of the most visually striking types of petrified wood is the Rainbow Petrified Wood. It features a vibrant and diverse color spectrum, ranging from deep reds and oranges to brilliant yellows and purples.

The vivid hues are a result of the minerals present during the petrification process, with iron, manganese, and other trace elements contributing to the breathtaking array of colors.

Fossilized Palm Wood

As the name suggests, this type of petrified wood originates from ancient palm trees that once thrived in diverse landscapes across the globe. This unique type of petrified wood exhibits distinctive grain patterns and often showcases the intricate textures of palm fronds.

The warm, earthy tones and intricate details of Fossilized Palm Wood make it a prized addition to any collection.

Spotted Petrified Wood

Spotted Petrified Wood, characterized by its distinctive patterns of contrasting colors and spots, adds a touch of intrigue to the world of petrified wood.

The spots, often formed by mineral inclusions or irregularities during the petrification process, create a visually appealing mosaic within the wood. The color variations in Spotted Petrified Wood can range from subtle earth tones to more vibrant and contrasting hues.

Coniferous Petrified Wood

Coniferous Petrified Wood originates from ancient conifer trees, such as pines and spruces. It often retains the characteristic grain patterns and textures of conifer trees, with the growth rings and knots of the original wood still discernible.

The earthy tones and intricate details of Coniferous Petrified Wood make it a popular choice for both scientific study and aesthetic appreciation.

Best Spots in New Mexico to Find Petrified Wood

1. Fossil Forest in San Juan Basin

Fossil Forest

The San Juan Basin, situated in the northwest part of the state, is renowned for its vast deposits of petrified wood. The Fossil Forest within the basin is a particular hotspot for fossil enthusiasts.

This site is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and it allows visitors to witness the remnants of an ancient forest that existed over 200 million years ago.

The petrified logs, scattered across the landscape, provide a unique opportunity to study the ancient flora of the region. To access the Fossil Forest, you can follow designated trails, ensuring both an educational and enjoyable experience.

2. Fra Cristobal Range

Located in central New Mexico, the Fra Cristobal Range is another notable destination for petrified wood enthusiasts. The range, characterized by its rugged terrain and diverse geological formations, harbors petrified wood from the Late Triassic period.

The fossilized logs, once part of an ancient forest, are strewn across the hillsides and canyons of the range. Petrified wood is mostly found in remote and challenging areas across the range, so make sure to gear up for an adventure.

3. Ojo Alamo Formation

Ojo Alamo Formation

The Ojo Alamo Formation, situated in the northwest part of the state, is a geological treasure trove containing not only petrified wood but also a diverse range of fossils from the Late Cretaceous period.

This formation is approximately 70 million years old and preserves a snapshot of ancient ecosystems. Petrified wood in the Ojo Alamo Formation is often found in the form of logs, stumps, and fragments.

However, it is important to note that in order to collect at this spot, you may require permission, as some of the areas are located on private land.

4. Mud Springs Mountain

Mud Springs Mountain

For those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience, Mud Springs Mountain in central New Mexico offers a unique opportunity to discover petrified wood in a less-explored setting.

The mountain, known for its scenic beauty and geological diversity, hosts petrified logs embedded in the rugged landscape. You can find petrified wood scattered across the slopes of the mountain or buried in the soil.

5. Zuni Mountain

Zuni Mountain

Zuni Mountain is located in the western part of the state. It is another promising area where you can find petrified wood. The mountain’s diverse geological formations, including sedimentary rocks and shale, contribute to the preservation of petrified logs dating back millions of years.

You will find plenty of petrified wood in its natural setting across the mountain, making it a must-visit destination for anyone passionate about finding fossils.

Important Tools You Need to Find Petrified Wood in New Mexico

Before making the journey, make sure you have the following essential tools to collect petrified wood:

  • Work Gloves: Wear sturdy gloves to shield your hands from sharp edges and rough surfaces.
  • Rock Hammer: A rock hammer with a flat face and a pointed tip is essential for breaking apart rocks and extracting petrified wood from its matrix.
  • Chisels: You need both flat and pointed chisels. A flat chisel is required for separating the layers around the petrified wood, and a pointed chisel is useful for getting into tight spaces.
  • Sledgehammer: A heavier sledgehammer can be useful for larger rocks or stubborn matrices that require more force to break.
  • Trowel or Shovel: Use a trowel or shovel to excavate and uncover petrified wood buried in the ground. A folding shovel is convenient for transport.
  • Backpack: You need a sturdy backpack or field bag to store your tools, water, snacks, and any collected specimens.
  • Safety Boots: Wear sturdy, closed-toe boots with ankle support to protect your feet from rough terrain and potential hazards.
  • First Aid Kit: Keep a basic first aid kit handy in case of minor injuries or accidents.
  • GPS or Compass: Ensure you have a reliable navigation tool to help you find your way, especially if you’re exploring unfamiliar areas.
  • Permission and Permits: Check local regulations and land ownership rules. Some areas may require permits or landowner permission for fossil collecting.


New Mexico’s diverse landscapes hold a wealth of treasures for fossil enthusiasts, and petrified wood is a prominent feature of the state’s geological heritage. Whether you choose to explore the Fossil Forest in the San Juan Basin or the picturesque Zuni Mountain, each destination offers a unique glimpse into the prehistoric world.

Before making the journey, make sure to check the local regulations, and obtain necessary permits if required.

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