The lonely highway that leads from the town of Winslow, Arizona, on I-40 north to the three mesas of the Hopi Reservation is largely flat and unremarkable. Hidden away just off the road (and unmarked by any road sign) is a gem of a scenic overlook abandoned by the county that made it a park.
Turning into Painted Desert Rim Drive from the highway, there isn't much to see except a few picnic tables and a graffiti-covered concrete building. As the short road reaches the rim, the full beauty of this fanciful land opens up. To the south the land flattens out as it falls toward Homolovi State Park. To the west and north, the multi-colored hills rise and undulate in mesmerizing folds. At the rim the cliffs are red and orange and the mesas of the Hopi land peek out above them.
Funding for this county park has dried up, and what maintenance is done here is left in the hands of local volunteers. The picnic tables and shade ramadas are still in good shape, but the bathroom is closed and is now a canvas for spray can art. There are a few turnouts on the dirt road that follows the rim that offer slightly different views of the painted hills below. This is a particularly great spot at sunset, when the warm light brings out the reds, greens and browns of the landscape and the texture of the hills stands out sharply.
There are no formal trails leading down into the desert, but it can be explored on foot. There are no guideposts, the landscape can be very disorienting, the area is not patrolled or frequently-visited, and it gets very hot here in summer, so extreme caution is advised.