If you are planning a trip through Arizona, stop by Petrified Forest National Park. You can drive the entire length of the park, which is 28 miles, (including stopping at overlooks) in about 2-3 hours. If you just want to drive through, plan on just about an hour. If you plan on doing some hiking, make it an all-day trip!
If you are active duty Military, don’t forget that you can get into National Parks for free.
My husband and I recently completed a 2-week road trip up and down the western states and made a quick stop at Petrified Forest National Park since it was along our route. I had no idea what to expect. I did absolutely no research on this park before we got there, I literally just saw that it was along our route and wanted to make a pitstop! Man, do I wish I would have planned to spend the day here instead!
There are several historical significance through the park (see the fun facts section below), but my favorite was remnants of old route 66 which use to run through the park.
There are hiking trails throughout the park; however, due to time constraints, I was unable to hike any of them. Honestly, I had no idea that there would be hiking trails. This was a definite kick myself in the rear moments for not researching before we made the stop. More information about hiking and backcountry camping is below.
Towards the southern end of the park, you come along Crystal Forest (which is shown in the picture below).
Those petrified logs you see in the picture may look small but they are HUGE. To give you an idea, here is me squatting next to one:
It’s almost hard to imagine that thing is over 200 million years old!
If you are interested in the hiking trails, you can visit the park website. They also issue backcountry permits for overnight backpacking which will allow you to hike in the wilderness zone. Guess what just got added to my bucket list!?
History of Petrified Forest National Park
After a petition in 1895 by the Arizona Territorial legislature to Congress to protect this area to become a national park (which failed), President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 which created Petrified Forest National Monument. The Civilian Conservation Corps Corps built roads, trails, bridges, the Painted Desert Inn, and the Rainbow Forest Museum between 1934-1941 in an effort to improve the park. In 1962 it was transformed into a national park. In 2004 President George W. Bush signed a bill that expanded the boundaries of Petrified Forest National Park.
- An old section of Route 66 runs through the park
- Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park that preserves a section of Route 66
- It is part of a natural travel corridor that has been used for over 10,000 years
- Over 1000 archeological sites have been found in the park
- The highest concentrations of petrified wood are found in the southern end of the park
- It is one of the largest petrified wood deposits in the wold
- The wilderness area encompasses over 50,000 acres in the park
- As funds become available the park will eventually expand to 218,533 acres
Hiking Trails at Petrified Forest National Park
There are 8 designated trails within the park and several off the beaten path hikes (located in the 50,000 acres of Wilderness Area, which requires a permit if you will be camping overnight). The 8 designated trails can all be completed within half a day easily (to include driving to each one). The total length of all 8 trails is only about 9 miles but they are spread throughout the park.
Tawa Trail: 2 miles round trip. Located near the north entrance by the Painted Desert Visitors Center. Showcases grasslands & views.
Painted Desert Rim: 1 mile round trip. Located near the north entrance. Provides views of the Painted Desert below.
Puerco Pueblo: 0.3 mile loop. Located around the center of the park. View Petroglyphs and partial excavation of a 100+ room village that was occupied between 1250-1380 CE.
Blue Mesa: 1 mile loop. Steep path that descends into a colorful badland. Located in the center of the park.
Crystal Forest: 0.75 mile loop that winds through scattered pieces of petrified wood. Located more towards the southern end of the park.
Giant Logs: 0.4 mile loop. Located near the southern entrance behind the Rainbow Forest Museum. It has some of the largest logs in the park. Check out “Old Faithful” which is almost 10 feet around at the base.
Long Longs: 1.6 mile round trip. Located near the southern entrance of the park. The area is covered in long petrified tree trunks and is the site of the Triassic log jam.
Agate House: 2 miles round trip. Located at the southern entrance of the park. The hike leads to a reconstructed seven-room pueblo made of petrified wood.
- You can combine Long Logs and Agate House trails for a total of 2.6 miles
The Devils Playground area in the Wilderness Area is accessible by permit only (otherwise simply hiking in the wilderness area does not require a permit).
Camping at Petrified Forest National Park
There are no designated camping sites located in the park. The only camping permitted is within the Wilderness area which requires a permit that may be obtained at the Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum. Permits are free.
Things to keep in mind
- The wilderness area is over 50,000 acres
- There are no designated trails and all hiking in the wilderness area is cross country (bring a map & compass and know how to use them!)
- Water is only available at the park visitors centers and Petrified Desert Inn. There are no water sources anywhere in the Wilderness area. Plan accordingly!
- The weather varies greatly and changes suddenly. Be prepared to encounter all types of weather.
- The wilderness area borders private property. Be mindful not to trespass and do not cross over fences.
Petrified Forest National Park Information
Park Hours: 8am -5pm. Open daily. Closed December 25th.
Entrance Fees: Visit their website for the most up to date pricing information.
Motorcycle: $20; Bicycle: $15; Vehicle & Passengers: $25 (These are 7-Day passes)