Planning your Southwestern road trip? Check out this Petrified Forest Travel Guide before you go!
Planning your road trip through the American Southwest? From the jaw dropping gorges of the Grand Canyon to the epic red rock wonderland of Moab, or even the forested mountain town of Flagstaff, this corner of the US has so much to offer!
However, while all of these places are great in their own right, they tend to be packed with tourists. Something which ultimately takes away from the experience of visiting! Luckily, there are many other amazing places in the Southwest which fly under the tourist radar.
One of these places is the Petrified Forest National Park. Hidden away in an isolated and windy corner of Northern Arizona, this lovely park is a hidden gem waiting for you to discover it! If multicolored petrified logs sprinkled about the arid, colorful Painted Desert are calling your name, then you should start planning your visit!
Now, this Petrified Forest Travel Guide will show you the very best viewpoints and hikes to do in the park. In addition, you’ll find answers to common questions people like you have asked before visiting, plus some tips to make your visit awesome!
So, are you ready to explore this national park? Keep reading to find out more…
Petrified Forest Travel Guide
Is the Petrified Forest Worth Visiting?
You may be wondering if the Petrified Forest is worth the visit. To which I say, “Absolutely!”
Just imagine wandering around the windy, arid high desert bluffs of Arizona, dotted with an abundance of ancient multicolor petrified logs. Weirdly it’s also not a very popular park, as its overshadowed by the Grand Canyon and Moab. So you won’t have to deal with the crowds. 😉
How Long do You Need at the Petrified Forest?
You only need a few hours to see all of the highlights. For example, let’s say you’re planning a road trip, and one day you’ll drive from Albuquerque in New Mexico to Flagstaff in Arizona. A drive which is usually five hours, give or take. You could easily swing through the Petrified Forest on a 3-5 hour detour, taking in all of the viewpoints and short hikes along the way!
Can You Drive Thru the Petrified Forest?
All of the Petrified Forest’s attractions lie along the Petrified Forest Road, which runs 28 miles from US Route 180 to the South to I-40 to the North. Below, the epic hikes and sweeping viewpoints are listed from south to north.
#1: Long Logs and Agate House (2.6 miles)
This loop trail will take you past an ancient pueblo-style dwelling, as well as a small ‘grove’ of petrified wood. What makes these ruins unique is that they’re actually build out of petrified wood!
The Agate House is built in the ‘Pueblo Style’, which basically means it was an attached, multilevel home complex. These kinds of ruins are scattered all over this region, with an excellent example being the Casa Grande Ruins near Phoenix.
#2: Giant Logs Trail
As you probably guessed by the name of this trail, the giant logs trail takes you near some truly ginormous petrified logs! The largest of which, aptly named ‘Old Faithful’ is 35 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter at the base. The trailhead starts right by the visitor center before winding through the large-proportioned grove.
#3: Crystal Forest
Crystal Forest was by far my favorite hike in the Petrified Forest. You’ll be rewarded by seeing the rainbow colored petrified logs up close, as well as have the opportunity to hike through some epic wind-swept Painted Desert bluffs.
#4: Jasper Forest
The Jasper Forest overlook has sweeping views over one the biggest ‘forests’ of petrified wood in the park. In addition, you’ll be able to see for miles around, as you’ll be at the top of a bluff!
You can even still see the old dirt road that used to go through the forest in the photo below.
#5: Agate Bridge
When you pair a delicate mix of wind and rain beating against sandstone, eventually, you’ll get an arch, or natural bridge. This is very common in the Southwest with constantly shifting weather patters. However, it’s not every day you see a natural bridge… make of petrified wood! With a span of 110 feet, Agate Bridge is really one of the greatest feats of nature showcased in the park.
#6: Blue Mesa Trail
This 0.9-mile loop trail takes you right through the spectacular bluffs of the painted desert! You can see the wide array of colors in the dirt from up close, making this easy trail very interesting. It’s also a great way to learn about the unique landscape of the painted desert firsthand.
#7: Puerco Pueblo
This historic pueblo-style dwelling shouldn’t be missed on a visit to the Petrified Forest! Right off the main road, you can see the remains of what was a 100-room pueblo dwelling which reached its peak in 1300.
#8: Painted Desert Rim Trail
This 1 mile trail runs between Kachina Point and Tawa Point, in the northern end of the Petrified Forest. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views over the vast painted desert. Overall, it’s a nice last stop (or first stop) on your visit to the park.
Petrified Forest National Park – Nearby Destinations:
Experience a wave of nostalgia as you drive through this former Route 66 town. Be sure to stop at Gillespie Park to see the model dinosaurs, as well as the Wigwam Motel – the unique teepee motel that at one point was a big chain across the US! While once a chain of motels across the US, the location in Holbrook is the only remaining location open to this day.
Flagstaff Area (Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Wupatki National Monuments)
Less than 2 hours down I-40 from Petrified Forest, you’ll find Flagstaff, a beautiful mountain town with 3 epic national monuments nearby: Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon.
Start out by visiting Walnut Canyon, a park is home to cliff dwellings that can be reached by a 1 mile, 180 ft elevation change trail. Along the way, you’ll pass by about 20 or so cliff dwellings.
The trails are paved, but be sure to bring water as the climb out and up the stairs is a bit steep.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Next, you’ll drive through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. With a scenic drive that passes several cinder cone volcanoes this is seriously a unique place that shouldn’t be missed!
Since Sunset Crater Volcano borders Wupatki, there’s no entrance fee between the parks. Wupatki is home to a handful of historic pueblos dotting the painted desert landscape. The two best ones to visit are Wukoki Pueblo, one you can walk inside, and Wupatki Pueblo, a huge 100 room pueblo you can walk around!
Wukoki Pueblo – Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki Pueblo – Wupatki National Monument
Grand Canyon National Park
To put it simply, the Grand Canyon is breathtaking! There’s no other place that compares to its vastness. Seeing the Grand Canyon is a bucket list destination itself, so adding it to your Petrified Forest trip is the best of all worlds.
For information on what to see and do in the Grand Canyon, check out my comprehensive Arizona Grand Canyon Travel Tips post.
What to Bring to the Petrified Forest:
Okay, now to the essentials! If you’re going to do any hiking whatsoever, you’ll need to bring some sturdy hiking shoes. Also, the Petrified Forest’s relatively high elevation means the weather changes fast – so stay warm with a fleece and dry from the thunderstorms with a rain jacket.
The sun can be pretty intense during the summer months, so don’t forget a pair of sunglasses. Don’t forget – a hiking daypack is your best friend while hiking. In it you’ll carry your camera, fleece, rain jacket, and other belongings.
Petrified Forest Visitor Guide: Entrance + Things to Know
Entrance is $25, and good for 7 days. You can also buy the “America the Beautiful Pass” at the entrance gate, which is $80 and covers all US national parks for 1 year. If you’re doing a road trip around the Southwest from Las Vegas and visiting other national parks along the way, you’ll definitely need this!
The north end of the Petrified Forest is approximately 1 3/4 hours from Flagstaff, 3 hours from Albuquerque, and 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix. Before driving, always double check with google maps and the local radio station for any accidents and road closures.
Now that you’ve seen this Petrified Forest Travel Guide, go check out even more travel tips below…
Now that you’ve seen these tips to visit the Petrified Forest, don’t miss out on anything else! Follow along with Never Ending Journeys for more fun Travel Inspiration and brilliant ideas!
Have YOU ever been to the Petrified Forest?? What are YOUR favorite things to do there?
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