Somewhere along the Park Drive north of Jasper Forest, one sort of slides from the Petrified Forest into the Painted Desert. "Painted Desert" is the poetic (but accurate) name given to a huge sweep of Chinle Group rocks that show a wide variety of colors from different minerals in the rock. I could give you a lot of dry commentary about the geology, but really I don't think the photos require any additions from me:
These technicolor badlands, a paradise for rockhounds and fossil-hunters, sweep away to the north and west in a huge crescent that ends on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon nearly a hundred miles away. The sheer scale of the Painted Desert boggles the mind almost as much as the Grand Canyon itself does.
On the way back from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, I took an hour and stopped at Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. Meteor Crater is a gigantic hole in the ground, five hundred feet deep and half a mile across. It was made by a meteorite that hit here around fifty thousand years ago. The meteorite was vaporized in the explosion generated by the impact; today, all that's left of it is thousands of tiny fragments scattered across the land. I literally did not have a lens that was wide enough to get the whole crater in view, so I had to settle for a few photos that showed how the rocks at the crater rim had been deformed by the explosion.
If you're ever out that way, Meteor Crater is well worth a look. Besides the crater itself, which is very impressive, there's a small 'space museum' that includes displays on the meteorite, the space program, and the Apollo astronauts who trained here briefly because NASA thought the landscape was much like what they'd encounter on the Moon.
After leaving Meteor Crater I headed back to my hotel. Next day's plans included Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument.