Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona. What once was a swampy forest is now a vast dry land flooded with petrified wood, some 225 million years old. The history, geology, and unexpected beauty within this national park really impressed me. With so much to see & explore, Petrified Forest is definitely worth a full day’s visit!
We entered through the park’s North Side: The Painted Desert. Here we stopped at the visitor’s center, then drove the park road for some colorful views of the painted desert. We stopped at the Painted Desert Inn, which is a historic inn turned museum that offered fun exhibits and memorabilia.
Past the inn, we continued down the road towards the rusted 1932 Studebaker, which sits alone off the side of the road. This car symbolizes where the famed Route 66 once cut through the park.
Our next stop was the Puerco Pueblo, where you can view ancestral Puebloan homes and petroglyphs. This was originally a 100+ room village that was occupied from 1250-1380 CE.
Newspaper Rock was our next stop, where you can look down from an overlook to see over 650 petroglyphs, some as old as 2,000 years!
After Newspaper rock, we passed some red and gray rock formations, named “The Teepees.” We may or may not have thought we were looking for literal teepees at first, but then realized it was actually these immaculate rock formations. My sister took some fantastic pictures– just beautiful!
Blue Mesa was probably one of our favorite parts of the park. We walked the 1-mile RT trail down and around the blue bentonite clay cliffs. These badlands were vibrant of blue, purple, and gray colors. It was on this trail where we got our first glimpse of the petrified wood as well. After hiking back up, we also drove the 4-mile loop road for more views of the Blue Mesas.
We skipped the Agate Bridge (110 ft petrified log spanning a gully) & Jasper Forest, and instead headed straight for the Crystal Forest. No regrets. The Crystal Forest had a paved, 0.75-mile loop hike with hundreds of petrified logs and their quartz crystals right off the trail.
Our last stop was at the Rainbow Forest visitor’s center and museum. Right outside the museum is the Giant Logs Trail, which was an easy 0.5-mile trail viewing the park’s largest petrified trees. “Old Faithful” is the showcase log, and is almost ten feet around at the base.
If you have a full day, I would definitely recommend making all the stops we did. However, if you just have a half day or only a few hours, pick one side of the park to explore. The highest concentrations of petrified wood are found in the southern end of the park, while the northern end highlights the human story and painted desert. Enjoy exploring this hidden gem!