Arizona Opens 15,000 New Acres of Backcountry

Petrified Forest National Park just got bigger.

Backcountry lovers just got a little bit more room to roam in Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park. The park has acquired nearly 15,000 additional acres thanks to a land transfer from the Bureau of Land Management and purchases from private landowners.

The newly added territory is notable for its rugged terrain and easier access to a 200-million-year-old rock formation known as Devil's Playground. Per National Parks Traveler, the entire area is rich in geological history:

The paleontological story at Petrified Forest is from 205 to 227 million years ago; the archeological story includes the entire 13,000 years human beings have been in North America.

The newest lands to be opened include an area called Billings Gap, which is a route between mesas where the fossil remains of approximately 220-million-year-old clam beds can be seen and interesting paleontological finds have already been made by park staff. This area can be accessed on foot, like the rest of the park's backcountry. There are no established trails in this wide open terrain but route information and maps are available on the park's website or at the park's visitor centers.

Located about 3 hours northeast of Phoenix, Petrified Forest became a national monument under the terms of the 1906 Antiquities Act. The park's newest acreage is expected to open to the public in 2015.

Read more: National Parks Traveler