Lithodendron Overnight Archaeology Tour
Exploration and Camping in Petrified Forest National Park’s Painted Desert Wilderness
September 30 @ 9:00 am – October 1 @ 4:00 pm MST
Instructor: Jon Hardes
Known for its world-class Triassic paleontology and vast, photogenic landscapes, Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most outstanding destinations in the world. What is sometimes overlooked, however, is its rich archaeological record, spanning some 13,000 years of human presence in the area! Evidence of people in the Petrified Forest includes stunning rock art galleries, the remains of 1,000-year-old pueblo structures, artifacts representing the origins of farming and ceramics production in the desert southwest, spear points that were used to hunt now-extinct megafauna, and much more.
Join Petrified Forest National Park’s Lead Archaeologist Jon Hardes for this one-of-a-kind guided archaeological experience. We will backpack through the northern Painted Desert wilderness, stopping to interpret a number of unique and seldom-visited archaeological sites along the way. We’ll spend ample time at each site while taking in the fantastic surroundings before making our way to our stellar mesa-top campsite. After setting up our camp (please see Traveling and Camping in a Wilderness Area below), we will be treated to the best sunsets Arizona has to offer, followed by unparalleled night skies! The following day, we will continue our looping route back to the trailhead, with more archaeological stops along the way.
We will meet at the Painted Desert Visitor Center parking lot (Interstate 40, exit 311) at the north end of the park for introductions, a gear check, and a brief overview of the trip. From here, we will get in a park vehicle to travel to the trailhead. We will hike between 4-5 miles on our first day before reaching our unique wilderness camping location. Our return trip the following day will also see us hiking approximately 4-5 miles.
- Meeting time: 9 am (Arizona/MST time) Please bring your lunch so that we can eat on the trail (Note: you are responsible for bringing your own food for the entirety of the trip)
- Trip length: Anywhere from 8 to 10 miles, with negligible elevation change.
- Difficulty: Moderate; there are some steep and scrambly areas, and there is no actual trail for the entirety of the route. Participants need to be in good physical shape, with the ability to do some scrambling and to carry at least 25 pounds.
You will need to provide:
- Backpack that fits (don’t borrow your six-foot-tall husband’s pack if you are 5’3″)
- Sleeping bag (summer bag may be okay, depending on the weather)
- Sleeping pad
- Ground cloth
- Tent (optional depending on the weather. Ground cloth can be rigged with cord for shelter instead). Make sure your tent has stakes!
- Three to four liters of water capacity. You can bring a bladder, but it is also nice to have at least one bottle for use in camp. Make sure that whatever you bring can be accessible during the day for drinking and can translate easily to your daypack.
- Cookstove (share per two or three people)
- Lightweight cook pot and utensils
- Stove fuel/fuel canister and lighter
- Minor first aid (“ouch pouch”), your instructor will have a large kit
- Walking sticks
- Liner socks to avoid blisters
- Camp shoes
- Long-sleeved shirt, long pants (sun and rock protection)
- Make sure you have a hat
- Light cold weather jacket and pants
- Rain top and pants if the weather calls for it (check beforehand – rain jacket is good for wind protection)
- Pocket knife
- Toilet paper (partial roll)
- Ziplock plastic bag or two for small items
- Soap/hand sanitizer (there will be no water out there, so this is only for washing hands)
- Camera and binoculars
- Headlamp (better than a flashlight, so that you can have your hands free)
- You are responsible for all your own food. If you don’t want to cook dinner and breakfast because you don’t want to bring a stove, that’s fine. You can bring whatever you like for your food; just make sure that it gives you enough energy to go exploring!
- Water will be cached near where we will camp before the trip, so you will not need to carry all the water you’ll need for two days. You should, however, be able to carry at least four liters in your pack so that we have plenty to work with.
- Late September is a beautiful time of year in the desert, but it can be chilly at night, and we could get an early fall storm. To make sure that you bring the right clothing and gear, please check the weather reports a day or two before the trip.
Traveling and Camping in a Wilderness Area
No wood, charcoal, or open flame stoves are permitted in the wilderness. Butane burners, white gas stoves, or solar stoves are allowed in the wilderness. 36 CFR 2.13 (a)(2). There are no water sources in the wilderness, so plan to take at least one gallon per person per day. Practice all Leave No Trace principles: 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare; 2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces; 3. Dispose of Waste Properly; 4. Leave What You Find; 5. No Campfires; 6. Respect Wildlife; 7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Collecting or removing any objects is prohibited. This includes natural, cultural, paleontological, or archaeological resources. This includes but is not limited to: fossils, artifacts, antlers, rocks, plants, wood, and animals. 36 CFR 2.1 (a)(1)(iii). Direct physical contact with rock art, which includes petroglyphs and pictographs, is prohibited. Direct contact includes, but is not limited to touching, making rubbings, molding, tracing, painting, brushing, outlining with chalk, or using air or gas compression. 36 CFR 2.1 (a)(5) & 36 CFR 2.1 (a)(6).
Download Archaeological Site Etiquette Guide
(PDF – 1.13 MBs)
- $245 – Non-Member
- $210 – Member *Learn more at PFMA site
Maximum number of participants: 8
Age restriction: Adults only (over 15, unless with special permission)