Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park Overview Overview
Visiting Petrified Forest National Park is like taking a step back in time, you won’t believe the stunning natural beauty that awaits at this park. You will be treated to the uniquely gorgeous hill of Painted Desert and the fascinating petrified trees that date back hundreds of millions of years. Believe it or not, these trees fell and became petrified or mineralized before the dinosaurs roamed the earth! Use this guide to Petrified Forest National Park to plan your trip to this unique park.
Petrified Forest National Park is a hidden gem that you will find less crowded than most National Parks. Do yourself a favor, don’t skip this amazingly unique park on your next trip to Arizona!
What is Petrified Wood
One of the things that make Petrified Forest National Park truly unique is that these petrified trees are 225 million years old. This area, which now encompasses the National Park, was part of the massive supercontinent of Pangea. After these massive trees fell they were buried in a river channel.
So how do trees become petrified? Well, the river water mineralizes slowly from crystal quartz. After the tectonic movement nearly 60 million years ago, the petrified trees were unearthed. Take a close look at the trees and you will notice beautifully colorful quartz crystals within.
It’s important that visitors to the park do not disturb the petrified wood. Do not try to take petrified wood from the park, it’s illegal! If you want to take some home with you after visiting the National Park check out the local wood shops in Holbrook. This petrified wood is taken from private land and is therefore legal to purchase.
1 Park Road, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028
How to Get to Petrified Forest National Park
There are several options for flying into Arizona to visit Petrified Forest National Park. The Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is the closest option at approximately 120 miles or 1 hour and 46 minutes from the park. However, being a smaller airport, flying into FLG may be more expensive.
Another great option is flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) which is roughly 206 miles or 3 hours and 30 minutes from Petrified Forest National Park. While this airport is further away, it will also be more budget-friendly. You will need a rental car to explore Petrified Forest National Park.
If you enter the park through the Painted Desert Entrance it will take about 15 miles for you to see petrified wood.
Unlike most National Parks, Petrified Forest is not open 24 hours a day, instead, the park keeps hours from 8 am to 5 pm.
Park hours do change depending on the time of year so make sure to check before visiting.
Also, keep in mind that Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. From March to November the park will be one hour behind New Mexico and Navajo Time.
Cost: Park entrance valid for 7 consecutive days
- Vehicles – $25
- Motorcycles – $20
- Bicycles/Pedestrians – $15 per person
Best Time of Year to Visit Petrified Forest National Park
Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit Petrified Forest National Park. Daytime temperatures remain warm and mild and there is very little rainfall during these seasons.
Winter is another great time to visit Petrified Forest, however, daytime temperatures only reach the mid-50s. That makes winter a great time to hike in the park!
The summer months are the worst time to visit Petrified Forest National Park. Daily high temperatures soar to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more in June through August. The months of July through September typically bring the monsoon season, where violent thunderstorms drop huge amounts of rain at once.
- Painted Desert Visitor Center – 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028: The Painted Desert Visitor Center provides backcountry permits, visitor information, and educational exhibits. There is also a bookstore, gift shop, and gas station at this visitor center. This is a great introduction to the park and has fantastic information about the area.
- Painted Desert Inn National Historical Landmark – 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028: This historical inn once served as a respite for weary travelers driving Route 66. Now you can visit this museum and gallery to find out more about the history of the inn. You’ll be treated to sweeping desert vistas and access to the Painted Desert Rim Trail.
- Rainbow Forest Museum – 6618 Petrified Forest Road, Holbrook, AZ 86025: This historic building is located near the south entrance of the park and gives you a glimpse into the past with a paleontology exhibit. You can also get visitor information, backcountry permits, and use public restrooms here. Visit the bookstore or gift shop or have lunch at the picnic pavilion.
Places to Stay
There are no accommodations inside Petrified Forest National Park, but you can camp inside the park. The closest town to the park is Holbrook, which thrived during Route 66’s heyday.
- Brad’s Desert Inn – 301 W Hopi Drive, Holbrook, AZ 86025: If you’re looking for a kitschy budget-friendly hotel, then Brad’s Desert Inn is perfect for you. This modest inn is just a mile from Route 66 and 19 miles from Petrified Forest National Park. Previous guests rave about the friendly service and amazing homemade donuts.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites – 2705 Navajo Blvd, Holbrook, AZ 86025: This relaxed hotel provides all the comforts of home with the addition of an indoor pool and full fitness center. At just 25 miles from Petrified Forest National Park, this is a great base while visiting the park.
- Lexington Inn Holbrook – 1308 Navajo Blvd, Holbrook, AZ 86025: The Lexington Inn is a great place to stay while visiting Petrified Forest National Park. At only 25 miles or 24 minutes from the park, the indoor and outdoor pools are perfect for relaxing after long days in the park. You can book a room at the Lexington Inn here.
Things to Do
Hiking at Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park has some great hiking options, whether you are looking for a challenge or an easy family-friendly walk, these are some of the most popular hikes in the park…
Painted Desert Rim Trail
- Distance: 1.2 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 49 ft
The easy loop trail features one of the most famous relics in the entire park, a massive 10-foot wide petrified log known as Old Faithful. This trail is both kid and dog friendly and is great for all skill levels.
Long Logs and Agate House Loop Trail
- Distance: 2.6 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 98 ft
On this easy 2.6-mile trail you’ll find the park’s largest concentration of fossilized logs. The Agate House trail leads to a fascinating 8-room pueblo construction of petrified wood. This trail is both kid and dog friendly, it’s even stroller friendly!
Blue Mesa Trail
- Distance: 1 mile
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 111 ft
The Blue Mesa Trail is one of the most scenic spots in Petrified Forest National Park. The bentonite clay here is tinged blue, purple, and gray and makes for a truly spectacular sight. This kid and dog-friendly trail are partially paved and great for all skill levels.
Puerco Pueblo Trail
- Distance: 0.3 mile
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 13 ft
This very short .3-mile hike provides access to the knee-high remains of an impressive pueblo 100-plus room home. The trail is both kid and dog friendly and is great for all skill levels.
It’s easy to experience Petrified Forest National Park by car, in fact, there is a 28-mile stretch of road that runs from one end of the park to the other. There are a total of 8 overlooks that provide stunning views of the painted desert and petrified forest. You’ll see the stunningly colorful buttes, mesas, and badlands that make Petrified Forest National Park unique. On the north side of the park make sure not to miss the 1932 Studebaker, it’s a remnant of where Route 66 used to run through the park.
While driving to the south end of Petrified Forest National Park you’ll be treated to an overlook where you can see nearly 600 petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock. Those who love history and anthropology will appreciate that some of these petroglyphs are 2,000 years old. Another can’t miss a stop on the south side of the park is the Tepees Overlook where you can take in the incredible teepee-shaped rock formations.
There are no established campgrounds inside the park, but backcountry camping is permitted with a permit. The permits are completely free and can be picked up at the park’s visitors centers (listed above). Camping groups can have a maximum of 8 people and fires are strictly prohibited in the backcountry.
Petrified Forest National Park is incredibly dog friendly, so if you are looking to take your pup to a National Park, this is a great option. The only place where pets are not allowed in the park is official buildings.