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Little Painted Desert

Geological Places

The Little Painted Desert is a captivating geological feature located about 15 miles northeast of Winslow Arizona. It is a smaller but equally striking counterpart to the larger and more famous Painted Desert in the Petrified Forest National Park. The area is a county park, though the county has apparently abandoned it.

Geological Formation

The Little Painted Desert, like its larger counterpart, is formed from the Chinle Formation, which is a sequence of sedimentary rocks that date back to the Late Triassic period. These rock layers consist of various types of sediment, including clay, silt, sandstone, and shale.

The distinct coloration patterns of the Little Painted Desert are primarily a result of erosion and weathering processes that have sculpted the exposed rock layers over millions of years. The varying colors indicate different mineral compositions and sediment types.

Mineral Content

The vibrant red, orange, and pink colors of the Little Painted Desert are mostly a result of iron compounds, such as iron oxide. Other minerals can create shades of purple, gray, and brown.

Erosion Patterns

Erosion by wind and water has shaped the landscape, creating intricate patterns and formations across the Little Painted Desert. This erosion has exposed the layers of sedimentary rock and highlighted their unique characteristics.

The eroded landscape features small canyons, gullies, and valleys that contribute to the overall topography. These features are the result of the uneven erosion of the sedimentary layers, creating a visually striking and textured landscape.


The Little Painted Desert offers visitors a scenic and serene setting to appreciate the wonders of natural erosion and geological processes. The contrasts between the vivid colors, the sky, and the desert vegetation create a visually captivating experience. The area is accessible to visitors, mainly through an unmaintained overlook on Painted Desert Rim Dr, just off Highway 87. There is no guarantee there will be a sign.