Colorful and beautiful hills in the painted desert, giant petrified trees, and stunning backcountry trails, Petrified Forest National Park is like taking a step back in time!
In this article, we’ll be looking at the best things to do in Petrified Forest National Park, the best time to visit, places to stay, and other valuable tips to make every second of your trip worth it!
Let’s get started.
|Park||Petrified Forest National Park|
|Things to do||Scenic View, Drive and many more|
|Hotels near Petrified Forest National Park||Wigwam Motel, Springhill Suites Gallup and many more|
|Camping Locations||Multiple Locations|
Where Is Petrified Forest National Park?
Petrified Forest National Park is located in Northeastern Arizona, along the historic route 66, which is 50 miles away from the New Mexico border.
The closest airports to the park are in New Mexico, Arizona, Phoenix, and Albuquerque.
There are also several small airports from where you can reach the park, including Gallup, Flagstaff, Arizona, etc.
About Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National is one of the three designated national parks in the United States famous for having giant petrified trees.
It is one of the best places in the world to see fossils from the Late Triassic Period.
It offers a stunning view of fossilized trees, blue-band rick formations, vibrant badlands, and native American sites.
The southern section of the park has the largest concentration of petrified logs, while the northern area has the colorful hills of the Painted Desert.
More than 650,000 visitors come to the park each year to enjoy hiking, sightseeing, backpacking, and camping.
Complete Travel Guide to Petrified Forest National Park
History of Petrified Forest National Park
The petrified trees that give this national park its name date back to 225 million years ago.
The park’s history began in the 1850s when Captain Lorenzo documented the first fossil wood.
With the development of the region, many ranchers, pioneers, sightseers, and companies came to collect the fossil wood.
The land was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt as a national monument in 1906 to protect its unique ecosystem, rich history, and dramatic scenery.
In 1932, more than 53,000 acres of Painted Dessert were added to the monument. Then in 1962, Congress elevated the status of a National Monument to the National Park.
In 1970, over 50,000 acres of the park were designated as wilderness by Congress, making this park as one of the three designated national parks in Arizona, United States.
Best Things to Do in the Park
Here are the top 5 things to do in the park:
Historic Route 66
This Park is the only park in the United States that is home to a section of Old Route 66, the most famous landmark in the park.
It is known as the “Will Rogers Highway,” Main Street of America, and the Mother, Established in 1926.
The 2,400-mile road is marked with traces of weathered phonebooths and an old roadbed that provides the best opportunity to look back in time.
There are many dining and lodging options along the route where you can stretch your legs and sip a hot-cold drink.
If you’re interested in Native American history, “Puerco Pueblo” is the place you just can’t miss in the Park.
The highlight of the ruins of ancestral Puebloan homes was home to more than 200 people in its heyday.
Due to climate change, they left the region leaving behind sandstone bricks, stone tools, potsherds, and other artifacts to tell their tale.
Painted Desert Rim Trail
One of the best ways to experience the Park is by foot. Painted Desert Rim trail is one of the most scenic and most accessible trails in the park that offers spectacular views of the painted desert.
This short one-mile trail follows alongside the road to get some of the best views without any effort.
If you don’t want to walk, you can skip the trail and drive to Tawa Point and Kachina Point to enjoy the equally stunning views.
Blue Mesa Trail
Blue Mesa Trail is one of the visitor’s favorite things to do in this Park.
This gorgeous 1-mile loop trail passes through the Blue Mesa rock formation of the park and takes you through and around the badlands that look like melted ice cream with chunks of petrified wood scattered all along the ground.
The mud and sandstone in the area range from blue-gray to green and even purple, giving this area a distinctive look.
The trail then sucks down in the canyon, where you can enjoy a better view of the canyon floors.
The Tepees are one of the most colorful and unique parts of the park.
These cone-shaped zebra-striped mountains are a part of the Blue Mesa Member in the Chinle Formation deposited over 200 million years ago.
Made of thick deposits of grey, purple, blue, and green mudstones and white minor sandstone beds, the Tepees are one of the most photogenic spots in the park.
Best Time to Visit Petrified Forest National Park
Though this Park is a year-round destination, fall and spring are the best times to visit the park when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold and views throughout the park are stunning.
The month you should avoid is August as it is the rainiest and hottest month of the year.
Map of Petrified Forest National Park
Make sure to download the area and regional maps of this Park, showing the park in detail, including all the main attractions, roads, entry points, and surrounding areas.
Hotels Near Petrified Forest National Park
There are no lodging options within the Park, but you can find some decent hotel options in the closets cities of the park to reach the park quickly:
- Wigwam Motel
- Hampton Inn Gallup-West
- Springhill Suites Gallup
- Courtyard by Marriott Flagstaff
- Best Western Plus Gallup Inn & Suites
There are no designated campgrounds in the the Park, but you don’t need to worry as you can still pitch a tent.
Get a free backcountry camping permit to spend a night in the park at least a mile away from the parking.
If you don’t mind staying outside the park, there are several private campgrounds throughout the Navajo and Apache Counties.
The closest campground to the park s Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA, located just 30-minutes west.
Visit nps.gov for more information and reservations.
Free Camping near Petrified Forest National Park – Campground Review
Weather At Petrified Forest National Park
The Park’s weather tends to change rapidly, making it an ideal destination to visit throughout the year.
The Park is located in a desert so that the winters can be frigid and summers can be blazing hot.
The daytime temperature during summer can range from 52 to 90°F. Winters brings snow and rain from early October till late March.
Daily temperature in winters averages 40 to 50°F with the sunshine warming the area.
Read: Redwood National Park
Entry Pass and Reservations
This park’s fee is $25 per vehicle, $20 per Motorcycle, and $15 per individual permit valid for 7-consultive days.
If you plan to come back multiple times, you can purchase the Annual Pass at $45 and get a free entry in the park with all accompanying passengers in a single vehicle.
A variety of other pass options are available as well. For more information, click here.
Checklist for Packing Essentials
Here’s are some essential items to pack when traveling to this Park:
- Seasonal clothes
- Hiking boots
- Waterproof footwear
- Sunscreen & Sunglasses
- Rain jacket
- First-aid kit
- Water and snacks
- Mask & Sanitizer
- Bug repellent
What makes the Petrified Forest National Park Unique?
The park’s unique feature is its most extensive known collection of petrified trees that lived in the Late Triassic era, about 225 million years ago.
Can I Take a piece of petrified wood from the park?
No, that’s illegal to take a piece of petrified wood without permission. But if you want a souvenir, you can get one from the gift shops in the park.
How long does it take to explore the Petrified Forest National Forest?
The Park is relatively small, so you only need one day to
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