Visit Petrified Forest National Park – and Painted Desert – it means to go through hills and valleys with boundless color shades, drive trails with a disarmingly beauty and visit ancient archeological sites. And then find oneself walking through the oldest forest on the planet!
The Petrified Forest is 225 million years old in fact.
It extends over almost 400 square km in the Western Arizona, in the red land of the Native Apache and Navajo, and it includes a surprising variety of fossil logs dating back to late Triassic in an exceptional state of preservation and other fossils related to ferns, giant reptiles, large amphibians and early dinosaurs.
The park divides into two well distinctive parts: the Painted Desert to the north – the result of the Chinle Formation geological stratification with its amazing color shades because of the concentration of manganese and iron in the rocks – and Petrified Forest to the south – together with some important archeological sites and petroglyphs related to the Natives settled here almost 10.000 years ago.
The two areas are linked by a passage studded with breathtaking viewpoints and crossed in its narrowest point by the original trail of the Route 66, in the stretch between Lupton and Holbrook.
Arizona National Parks: visit Petrified Forest National Park, the stages
“Nowhere on this planet is the desert as fascinating as it is in Arizona.”
You can visit Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert driving and stopping at the several viewpoints and trails along the Petrified Forest Road, an asphalted road of about 45km crossing the entire park, from the North Entrance – Exit 311 to Painted Desert Visitor Center, from Interstate 40 – as far as the South Entrance on the US 180, Exit towards Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center.
Find down here the stages and the lookouts which cannot be missed, according to me, leaving from the North Entrance of the Painted Desert.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Painted Desert Visitor Center
The ideal leaving point to discover the park.
It’s possible to watch a movie of 20 minutes about dedicated to the story and the particular geological conformation of this area, receive detailed maps and info about the trails.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Painted Desert Inn & Overlook
A Pueblo Revival style historic hotel dating back to the 1920s, awarded as National Historic Landmark in 1974, today museum about the local history and architecture.
From here you can enjoy an amazing view of the Painted Desert and its boundless pink, red, yellow and ochre shades, which recall a lot the Painted Hills ones in Oregon.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Tawa Trail, Tawa Point and Painted Desert Rim Trail
Two trails of almost 2km each which depend on the Tawa Point.
Amazing views of the Painted Desert.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: crossroads with the original trail of the Route 66
The point where the historic trails of the Route 66 – dating back to 1932 – crosses the park.
An engrave on the road, informative charts and an old car of the 1940s mark the precise point of the crossroads.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Puerco Pueblo
A short path of about 500meters to discover one among the most ancient archaeological sites in the state, manufactured goods, foundations and petroglyphs of the Native Pueblo.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Newspaper Rock
Hills covered by over 650 petroglyphs, many of them date back to 2000 years ago about.
Viewpoints of the neighboring area.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Blue Mesa
A loop of about 6km allowing then to go on a trail of little over one kilometer to admire the erosion of the bluish rocks and several petrified logs.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Jasper Forest and Agate Bridge
Panoramic views of an amazing trait of the Petrified Forest, and a short path leading to the Agate Bridge, a fossil logs lying “as a bridge” over a water source.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Crystal Forest
The so-called Crystal Forest – once really rich in fossils and then prey of unscrupulous hunters – provides for a short trail through petrified stumps and logs.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park: Rainbow Forest (Museum and Visitor Center), Giant Logs Trail, Long Logs trail ad Agate House Trail
The Visitor Center, which marks also the South Entrance of the park, opens up on what many people define the downright Petrified Forest, considering the stunning number of logs and fossils present.
The area includes a museum and the entrance to three suggestive trails: the Giant Logs Trail – which includes the view of the Old Faithful, one of the biggest logs – the Long Logs Trail with suggestive viewpoints of hundreds of petrified wooden fossils – and the Agate House Trail – a circular path of almost 2km leading to a house built by the Pueblo around 1300 exclusively using petrified logs.
Arizona National Parks: visit Petrified Forest National Park, info and tips
Petrified Forest National Park can be visited all over the year – but on Christmas Day, December 25 – from 7am to 6pm. Both the Visitor Centers – North and South – follow the same opening hours.
$20 admittance tickets for cars (passengers included), $10 for person on foot or by bicycle, $15 for motorbike. Valid 7days.
Admittance is included in the National Pass PARK USA and it is free in some days dedicated to particular celebrations and USA holidays:
- Martin Luther King Day in January
- 1st day of the National Park Week in April
- National Public Lands Day on September 22
- Veterans Day on November 11
Visit Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert requires at least a half day, or a whole day if you want to go along the several path calmly, the Painted Desert Rim Trail, the Blue Mesa Trail and the Long Logs Trail included. All the trails are easily reachable and they are not particularly difficult.
It is strictly forbidden to take away with you fossils of any kind, shape or size.
You can look up the official website for further info about the park at the moment of your visit. Click here.
The best place to stay overnight near Petrified Forest is certainly Holbrook, whether you come from the North Exit and the South one.