Petrified Forest National Park – The Painted Desert and Crystal Forest Trail
If you’re looking for a scenic, rustic destination to explore, Petrified Forest National Park is a great option. The Painted Desert and Crystal Forest Trail are two of the most popular trails in the park. Both trails wind through colorful rock formations and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscape.
About Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeast Arizona. The park is home to over 346 sq miles of designated wilderness, making it a great place to explore and appreciate nature. Within the park, there is the Crystal Forest Trail, which is a popular trail among visitors. The Petrified Forest National Park also offers sweeping views of the Painted Desert.
Petrified Forest National Park has a long and rich history. The focus on nature in the park has led to the preservation of many archaeological sites and architectural treasures. The Painted Desert Inn, for example, is a National Historic Landmark that was built in the 1920s and updated by different architects over the years. The inn is known for its murals painted by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The Painted Desert Visitor Center, designed by Richard Alexander and Richard Neutra in 1958, is another example of the park’s commitment to preserving historical landmarks.
History of the park
Geology of the park
- Petrified Forest National Park is located in Arizona and is known for its petrified trees. The trees date back to the Late Triassic Epoch and the area was near the equator at that time. The climate was humid and sub-tropical.
- The dominant rock type in the park is the Chinle Formation, which is up to 800 feet thick in some places. This formation is rich in fossils of plants and animals that died millions of years ago. The Chinle Formation was uplifted by tectonic movements about 60 million years ago, making it susceptible to weathering.
- The Petrified Forest National Park also contains maars, a flat-bottomed, circular volcanic crater which are volcanic landforms that were exposed when the overlying Bidahochi formation eroded away.
- The park has a range of geological features which can be seen in its landscape, including dunes that are stabilized by vegetation.
Weather and Seasons in Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park experiences different weather patterns throughout the year. Spring is a good time to visit because the temperatures are pleasant and there are few crowds. Summer can be busy, but it’s usually possible to have trails to yourself. The park experiences less rain in the fall, making it the best time to visit. Winter is the least busy time of year, so you’ll have the park all to yourself. However, temperatures can be below freezing in winter.
Wildlife of the park
The park includes animals such as amphibians, birds, insects, spiders, mammals, and reptiles. Nocturnal animals include kangaroo rats, woodrats, and most other small desert rodents which can be found in the park. Animals that can be seen during the day include pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, porcupines, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits, squirrels and hawks. Golden eagles can also be found in the park.
Hiking in Petrified Forest National Park
There are a variety of hiking trails in Petrified Forest National Park that offer visitors the opportunity to explore different areas of the park. While hiking on your own is allowed, it is best done on designated trails in order to avoid damaging sensitive areas and to ensure your safety. There are a number of great trails for all levels of hikers, so be sure to check out the map and find the right one for you.
Pets are allowed on the trails, but must be kept on a leash. It is important to clean up after your pet and be sure to get your BARK Ranger certificate. Most trails are paved and barrier free, but there are a few that have ADA-required grades.
The best hiking trails in Petrified Forest National Park are great for all levels of hikers. The park has a free hiking checklist to help you stay organized while hiking. The best hiking trails in Petrified Forest National Park are listed below.
The Blue Mesa Trail
The Blue Mesa Trail is a great trail for those who love nature and want to explore. The trail is 0.9 miles long and takes about two hours to complete. The trail is easy to follow and has great scenery.
The trailhead is at the Rainbow Forest Museum, which has exhibits on natural history and archaeology. Along the way, you’ll see the Giant Logs, some of the park’s largest petrified trees.
You’ll also pass by the Agate House, originally constructed using medium to large pieces of petrified wood, which were presumably carried to the top of the knoll. The petrified wood was held in place by mud mortar and chinked with smaller pieces of petrified wood.
The trail ends at Perco Pueblo, a small Puebloan city. Be sure to visit Puerco Pueblo on the way back!
The Crystal Forest Loop Trail
The Crystal Forest Loop Trail is great trail for those who want to explore the park. The trail is 0.9 miles long and takes about an hour to complete.
Crystal Forest Loop Trail is a spectacular geologically-unique area that offers one of the best opportunities to experience the petrified wood deposits as it loops through rolling hills. The area is named for the presence of beautiful crystals that can be found in the petrified logs.
It’s important that we preserve sights like the petrified wood for later generations to enjoy. Report any removal of petrified wood or other materials to the park staff.
The Rainbow Forest Loop Trail
The Rainbow Forest Loop Trail is a great trail for those who want to see the petrified wood up close. The trail is 4.4 miles long and takes about an hour and a half to complete. The trail is very good for families, as it is short and has limited elevation gain.
The Rainbow Forest Loop Trail begins at the Rainbow Forest Museum parking lot. From the parking lot, take the paved trail to the right, which leads behind the museum. The trail will head up a series of stairs and come out into an open area with interpretive signs explaining petrified wood.
The Tawa Trail
As a contrast to the bustling city, enjoy the tranquility of the park as you follow the paved trail to Tawa Point. The 1.2-mile one way Tawa Trail is a perfect place to stretch your legs after a long drive.
In Hopi ideology, Tawa refers to the Sun Spirit, the creator of the World. The Hopi is one of several modern-day Native American groups who are connected to the rich and varied history of Petrified Forest.
You will have views of the shortgrass prairie (particularly nice during wildflower season) and the red part of the Painted Desert.
Petrified Forest National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, badgers, kangaroo rats, ringtails, jackrabbits, cottontails, coyotes, and bobcats. The best way to see wildlife in the park is to simply drive around and stop at points of interest. The Junior Ranger Program lets kids learn about the wildlife at Petrified Forest National Park.
- Newspaper Rock is a great place to see wildlife. The best place to view wildlife in Petrified Forest National Park is likely the ravens! The Tipis are a popular sight in Petrified Forest National Park. You can see the Tipis from the viewing platforms along Petrified Forest Road. There are a number of great overlooks to view the Tipis from.
- The Agate Bridge can be seen at Agate Bridge Point. Jasper Forest offers amazing views of the park’s wildlife. The best place to view wildlife in Petrified Forest National Park is at Jasper Forest overlook. The Petrified forest National Park contains a large collection of petrified wood. Views of wildlife can be seen from high up in the park.
- The best place to view wildlife is from high up in the park, where you can see the whole forest at once. Blue Mesa Trail is also a good place to view wildlife in Petrified Forest National Park. The best time to see wildlife in Petrified Forest National Park is during the morning or early afternoon.
There is no RV, car, or front country camping in the park. There is no boondocking, dispersed or primitive camping, or just pulling off into a parking area. There are private campgrounds throughout Navajo and Apache Counties, in and around Holbrook, Sun Valley, St. Johns, Joseph City, and other communities.
A backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays. Permits are limited. Overnight camping is available along the trail at Rainbow Bridge Camp. Camping is also available at Harlequin Camp, located near the Stehekin Valley Road between the two trailheads of the Rainbow Loop.
The backpacking wilderness permit is free. You may obtain it in person from either visitor centers on the day that you want to backpack. Each vehicle must have a permit. The permits are available until 4:30 pm.
Number of Sites: 317 sites
Fee: Varies by site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, full and partial hookups available
Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $35-$59/night depending on site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, hookups available
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Number of Sites: 118 sites
Fee: $29-$88/night depending on site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
There are no designated picnic spots inside of Petrified Forest National Park, but there are plenty of beautiful places to have a picnic just outside the park. Campgrounds can be found nearby at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and Blue Water State Park. Holbrook is the nearest town and has a variety of options for budget-conscious campers. Petrified Forest National Park does not have many restaurants, but there are a few good ones. There are no high-end restaurants in Holbrook, but there are some simple places to eat.
Top Tips for Visiting Petrified Forest National Park
Check the Weather Before You Go
Checking the weather is important before visiting Petrified Forest National Park as conditions can change rapidly and it can be dangerous to visit if the weather is bad. The main route through the park is 28 miles long, so make sure to check it out both ways and bring water with you. Arizona does not observe daylight savings time, so be prepared for lightning during storms. Be prepared for the sun by bringing sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, and proper clothing.
Wear the Right Shoes
Boots or hiking shoes are a good idea for hiking in Petrified Forest National Park. They will protect your toes if you accidentally step on rocks. Hiking socks are also important to prevent blisters. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, Chapstick, snacks, and a camera!
Bring a Camera
Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to hike and explore. The terrain is rugged, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and socks to prevent blisters. It is also important to bring sunscreen, Chapstick, snacks, water, and sunglasses. A first aid kit is also essential in case of any injuries.
If you plan on hiking, be sure to wear a breathable shirt, mid-layer, sports bra, and jacket. You may also want to bring a tripod for taking pictures at the perfect moment.
Don’t forget to buy a National Park Pass before your visit! This will give you access to all the benefits of the park. Lastly, be sure to bring a map and compass so you can navigate the area easily.
Pack a Picnic Lunch
When packing a picnic lunch to enjoy in Petrified Forest National Park, it is important to remember that alcoholic beverages are not allowed anywhere in the park except in designated picnic areas or concession food service facilities. Water and other drinks can be obtained near the Rainbow Forest Museum or Painted Desert Visitor Center. Otherwise, visitors are advised to bring their own drinks and snacks to enjoy during their time in the park.
There are plenty of places to stay near the park, both chain and independently owned. The park is close to Holbrook, which has a range of shops and restaurants.
The three options for lodging near Petrified Forest National Park are the Crystal Forest Gift Shop and Campground, Days Inn by Wyndham Holbrook, and Greentree Inn Holbrook. All the lodgings have free to-go breakfast, laundry facilities, and in-room Wi-Fi. The Crystal Forest Gift Shop and Campground is only a few feet from the park’s southern entrance. Howard Johnson, by Wyndham Holbrook offers continental breakfast, laundry facilities, and a gym. Best Western Arizonian Inn offers free full breakfast and a business center. Quality Inn Holbrook offers a restaurant, snack bar/deli, and free Wi-Fi in public areas.
Petrified Forest National Park has free in-room Wi-Fi for guests who bring their own laptops or other devices.
How to beat the crowds in Petrified Forest National Park?
The best way to avoid the crowds at Petrified Forest National Park is to visit during the off-season. The busiest time of year is summer, though “crowds” would be a generous term even when visitation is at its peak. If you want to avoid people, try hiking the less popular trails or spending the night in the backcountry (permit required).
Getting to the Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is located in Arizona and is easily accessible from other attractions in the area. The best way to get to the park is by car. There are a few different routes you can take, but the most direct route is via Interstate 40.
Once you’re on I-40, take exit 311 for Petrified Forest National Park. This will put you on Historic Route 66. From there, follow the signs to the park entrance.
Hours of Operation for Parks near Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day. The park has different opening hours during different seasons. Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so clocks in the state are one hour off from standard time.
The park is located in Petrified Forest National Park, which is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day. The park closes at night. Check the time to ensure you don’t accidentally get locked in at night.
Amenities offered at Parks near Petrified Forest National Park
If you’re looking for things to do near Petrified Forest National Park, there are plenty of options. The park offers hiking, biking, fishing and camping, so there’s something for everyone. The park has been around for a long time and remains popular today, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Petrified Forest National Park is a must-see for any nature lover. With its unique landscapes and abundance of wildlife, it’s sure to be a memorable experience. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!