Escalante Petrified Forest State Park has a name similar to other parks in the Southwest, but this small area is a separate holding within the Utah State Parks system. It has a nice campground, self-guided nature trail, and a lake with fishing and boat access. Located on the route between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, it makes a convenient overnight stop near the town of Escalante.
The park is notable for its collection of petrified wood and dinosaur fossils. Some are displayed in the small visitor center, and others are visible on the 1-mile nature trail loop. Grab a brochure from the visitor center for a self-guided tour of the trail's numbered points of interest.
The lake is Wide Hollow Reservoir, and it is available for day use with an $8 fee. During the summer you can rent kayaks and paddleboards or bring your own. There is also a group pavilion with tables and a large grill that is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The campground is right next to the lake. It is full of shady cottonwood trees, and most sites have a picnic shelter, so even the heat of summer is good camping weather. Tent sites are $19 per night, and RV sites with water and hookups are $25. Each site has a grill and fire ring. There are restrooms with showers, and drinking water is available at spigots. On the lakeshore is one group site that accommodates 50 people.
The area's fossils are remnants of the late Jurassic Period, when muddy rivers flowed and dinosaurs walked on this land. Floods would cover trees and animals, and when the mud turned to stone over eons of transformation, the mineralized wood and bones were left behind. Signs in the park and the nature trail brochure do a good job of explaining the complex geology of this place. Fossils are irreplaceable treasures, and removing them is punishable by law. Simply view the fossils where they are and leave them for others to enjoy.