Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park VI / 銀杏石化森林州立公園之六

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We took the newbie out on his first hike on Sunday. Then today, we made a quick trip to Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. It’s an excellent novice hike, with desirable calmness this time of the year. Of all six outings, we’ve seen one other hiker.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park above Vantage Bridge
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park above Vantage Bridge

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Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park at a Glance

Access: Rocky Coulee Recreation Area
Round Trip: 4.5 miles
Elevation Range: 580′-1520′
Gear: none
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Backcountry

Rocky Coulee is part of the Ice Age floods overlooking the broad Columbia River. We usually walk the rim after going up the steep slope. Going too far west inland meant missing out on the river view. Plus, by being close to the water, we get to see herds of bighorn sheep.

The term “petrified forest” is slightly misleading. But before I learned details about the park, I expected to see rows of petrified trees as we strolled through the area. But the most we would get are sagebrush, the river, and basalt cliffs.

Columbia River view
Columbia River view

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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center

But the visitor center is where guests see and feel petrified wood. One can also learn about the history of the petrified forest and see the mighty Columbia River. The wealth of tree species here is the most diverse petrified forest in North America.

Then there’s the interpretive trail to marvel at the mineralized ginkgo, walnut, and spruce trees. However, I’ve always had this image of buses full of tourists. So I still haven’t seen the place to this day, but I will try and hike the path next time!

Upstream
Upstream

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Hiking to Sternberg Point

We enjoyed the sight of the Columbia River above the basalt rocks. Roaming would make the walk more interesting, and we were never far from the main path. Views stretched north to Sunland Park and south to Sentinel Mountain, past Vantage Bridge.

Unless we walked to the ridgetop, west views were scarce. Even then, it wouldn’t be high enough to see Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. Terrain variation is slight to want to go higher, so we’ve only taken the ridge on the return.

Downstream
Downstream

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Sternberg Point Views

We usually walked through Point 1438 down to Sternberg Point. The turnaround point south of “Hole in the Wall” gave views to Frenchman Coulee. I might have misspoken before, but we could see Vantage Bridge from here.

Amazingly, it wasn’t windy on this trip. So we stayed a long time as it was so calm. The only sounds were from the hawks overhead. If loud enough, we could also hear noises of semi-truck revving engines across the river.

Downstream
Bighorn sheep

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Outro

As before, we hiked southwest to the ridge at 1600′ and went south on the roadway. Shortly, we left the path at Park Point by the road bend. The sun later made a cameo, and I saw our recent hike to Ryegrass Mountain.

Soon, we went southeast and intersected the main trail back to the car.

Thanks for making a cameo
Thank you for making a cameo

See more trip photos here.