Today, I am finally sharing our visit to the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona and a recipe for a Coconut Margarita inspired by our travels!
Disclaimer: Consume alcoholic beverages at your own risk and liability. This recipe is intended only for those over the age of 21 (in the United States). Please drink responsibly.
At the end of July, we moved from Northern Virginia to Los Angeles. In preparation for the drive, I had originally planned a few stops along the way to help break up the trip and maybe even see the Grand Canyon. Due to some sudden health issues with one of our dogs and deadlines with the movers (we were in a bit of a race to beat the moving truck to Los Angeles to avoid putting our household goods in storage), the trip didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned.
We ended up arriving in Los Angeles two days before the scheduled delivery date, but were actually surprised the following morning with the arrival of the truck. It’s definitely a good thing we didn’t try to fit anything else in.
Petrified Forest National Park
Since we didn’t have time to see the Grand Canyon, we looked over the map of our route to Flagstaff while in Albuquerque and decided to do a last minute drive through the Petrified Forest National Park. It ended up being such a great choice.
With it being the end of July, the weather was incredibly hot outside for most of the drive. Being able to stay in the car with the dogs and all our sentimental items was so much easier than fighting the summer crowds and trying to fit in something that would have involved extra planning.
The Petrified Forest National Park is located near Holbrook, Arizona at 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ. The northern entrance’s Painted Desert Visitor Center can be found off of I-40 at exit 311. Check the seasonal operating hours here. A 7-day pass for one automobile is $20.00 (motorcycles are 15 and bicycles/pedestrians are 10 each).
We started at the northern entrance off of I-40 and drove through the 28-mile (45 km) stretch to the Rainbow Forest Museum and southern entrance at US-180 before continuing on our way to Flagstaff, Arizona.
While we stuck to driving and just pulling over at the designated stops for photos, there are many opportunities for hiking and more. Some trails around Red Basin and the Martha’s Butte have newly opened. Here are some suggested routes. You can also obtain a free backcountry permit to stay overnight in the park. Groups are limited to 8.
We were only able to spend a couple of hours in the park, but it would have been nice to have at least half a day to thoroughly take in the landscape and historical sites.
The Petrified Forest National Park also features the Bark Ranger program! Sign-up is available at any entrance booth or visitor center. Sophie was too sick to venture for long outside, but she did enjoy her treat and being able to watch the landscape from the backseat. Bark Ranger park tags are available for sale at the visitor centers. Remember to always keep pets on a leash and they are allowed on paved roads, trails, and official wilderness areas (not inside buildings unless they are a certified service animal).
The park was first created as the Petrified Forest National Monument on December 8, 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt and designated as a national park on December 9, 1962. It is home to over 50,000 acres of designated Wilderness and holds 221,390 acres within its boundaries.
Many sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and notable spots include the Agate House Pueblo, Petrified Forest Bridge, Painted Desert Inn, Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs Archeological District, Route 66 Alignment, Rainbow Forest, Puerco Pueblo, and more.
The lands are home to hundreds of species including the Pronghorn, Greater Roadrunner, Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, Burrowing Owl, Bobcat, Prairie Rattlesnake, Western Tiger Salamander, Gray Fox, Desert Cottontail, Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, New Mexico Whiptail (a female-only species!), and Golden Eagle. The ravens were in abundance during our visit (or at least the most visible).
The southern portion of the park holds one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. Other spots with large collections can be found in North Dakota, Argentina, and Egypt. Unfortunately, many of the petrified trees have been removed and continue to be stolen.
The nearly a dozen different types of trees (coniferous trees, tree ferns, and some gingkoes) found in the Blue, Jasper, Crystal, and Rainbow Forests were deposited around 218 million years ago.
From the Petrified Forest NPS: “the logs washed into an ancient river system and were buried quick enough and deep enough by massive amounts of sediment and debris also carried in the water, that oxygen was cut off and decay slowed to a process that would now take centuries.” Over the thousands of years since, the wood absorbed the surrounding silica and other minerals which crystalized and created the petrified wood found today. They are almost solid quartz, but impurities from iron, carbon, and manganese create the stunning colors in the wood.
This is also the only national park to contain a segment of the historic Route 66.
Notes to keep in mind:
- The average elevation is 5,800 feet.
- Collection of plants, rocks, petrified wood, fossils, archeological objects or other materials is not allowed.
- Leave no trash behind.
- Keep plenty of water/sunscreen available, especially during the summer and when hiking or backpacking. It can get quite hot during the summer.
- Be sure to use the restroom at the visitor center before continuing on into the park, especially if you have small children.
One of my favorite spots was the Blue Mesa. Approximately 220-225 million years old, these hills were formed with thick deposits of grey, blue, purple, and green mudstones and minor sandstone beds. The photo above just doesn’t do it justice at all. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We were able to drive through the loop off the main road to see this section, but there are also some hiking opportunities.
We finished the drive with a stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum. This was a nice area for the kids to stretch their legs, explore, and take a restroom break. There are even Late-Triassic era fossils from the park on display. From there, we exited onto US-180 to get back onto I-40 towards our stop for the night in Flagstaff.
We got lucky with the beautiful weather, because a thunder/dust storm rolled through not even 20 minutes after we left the park. Thunderstorms are especially common in the afternoons during monsoon season (peaks mid-July to mid-August). If planning your visit during the summer, definitely try to go earlier in the day to avoid storms and the intense heat.
Despite the setbacks, we still managed to hit some great food stops during our trip. Starting in Louisiana, I got into the habit of sneaking out of the hotel early in the morning while Chad and the kids were still asleep to pick up some local pastries.
Getting beignets from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans has always been on my bucket list. We didn’t have time to make the detour during our trip, but I was still able to try some wonderful beignets along with cafe au lait at Coffee Call in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine
Having Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine next to our hotel in Baton Rouge was a nice surprise. It was perfect after a long day of driving.
A follower on Instagram gave the wonderful recommendation for La Panadería during our stop in San Antonio, Texas. All the Pan Dulce we tried was delicious. I think the Conchas will always be my favorite.
Leo’s Mexican Food
Leo’s Mexican Food was next to our hotel in El Paso, Texas. We especially loved the complimentary sopapillas (I almost featured a recipe for these instead of the margarita- maybe next time).
We enjoyed so many spots located right next to our hotel during our drive to Los Angeles. Mariscos Altamar was another in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My favorite margarita of the trip was also found here. I loved the added touch of the toasted coconut flake rim (and applied it to my own version).
Evan’s usual request during our trips is to find a doughnut place. After a little searching, I came across Rebel Donut in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I loved the fun designs and flavors. The use of frozen coffee cubes for the iced coffee was also a nice touch.
Of all the margaritas I tried during the trip, my favorite was the Coconut Margarita from Mariscos Altamar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their version included 1800 Coconut Tequila, fresh lime, triple sec, and toasted coconut rum in a glass lined with toasted coconut flakes.
I have been working on my own version and came up with the following recipe using tequila blanco, triple sec, coconut cream, lime juice, and agave. You can even toss all the ingredients in the blender with ice for a frozen version (a good quality blender is best to achieve that perfect texture).
The measurements are more like guidelines. Adjust as needed to taste. I like to add a little agave nectar for sweetness, but it is optional.
I rimmed the glasses with seasoned toasted coconut flakes. To toast the coconut flakes, preheat an oven to 325˚F. Arrange the flakes in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet. Bake just until toasted, 5-10 minutes (keep an eye on them, because they will quickly go from toasted to burnt).
Coconut Margarita Recipe
Adapted from Hungry Girl por Vida
Toasted Coconut Rim:
- 2 tablespoons toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- Zest from 1/2 lime
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 ounces coconut cream
- 1 1/2 ounces tequila blanco (Silver tequila)
- 1 ounce triple sec
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce agave nectar
- 1 cup ice optional for frozen version or less for filling glass
- 1 lime cut into wedges or slices
To prepare the glass:
- In a small, shallow bowl, combine the toasted coconut flakes, sugar, salt, and lime zest.
- Wet the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and dip into the toasted coconut flake mixture to coat thoroughly. Set aside.
To make the margarita:
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the coconut cream, tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and agave nectar. Shake until smooth (you want the coconut cream well blended) and pour into the coconut-rimmed glass with ice. Serve immediately.
- For a frozen version: combine the coconut cream, tequila, triple sec, lime juice, agave nectar, and 1 cup ice in a blender and blend until smooth with a slush-like texture. Pour into rimmed glass and serve immediately with lime wedges or slices.