Hit the Trail with Landmark: A Day at Petrified Forest National Park

A Day at Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is a geological and archeological wonder located in Arizona's Painted Desert. Filled with hundreds of fossils from the late Triassic Period and the most extensive collection of petrified wood in the world, this unique national park can be done in a day. So the next time you pass through Arizona, hit the trail with our guide to one day at Petrified Forest National Park.

Entrance and Parking

The park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you aren’t an annual pass holder, the entrance fee is $15 per person or $25 per vehicle. Dogs can join you in the park so long as they’re leashed.

We recommend entering the park on the north side at the Painted Desert Visitor Center and following their map, which outlines the driveable loop. You can drive the length of this national park in an hour, but we recommend staying longer, stopping at each viewpoint, hiking a few of the trails, and checking out the museums.

Walk Along the Blue Mesa Trail

Once you’ve stopped at a couple of viewpoints, we recommend walking the Blue Mesa Trail. This easy one-mile loop is steep but paved, and the scenery is stunning.

As you likely guessed, the trail passes through a portion of the Badlands, with amazing views of the mesas and striated rock formations. You’ll also pass petrified logs. In the morning light, the petrified wood— made up mostly of quartz— glistens like crystal.

If you visit in the spring or late summer, the ground will be colorful with wildflowers. These bright blooms against the rising mesas and seemingly endless horizon make for incredible views (and photos!) So don’t rush through this easy trail. It’s worth it to stop, read the signs, and enjoy the desert beauty.

Hike the Historic Blue Forest Trail

If you want to get off the beaten path, we recommend Blue Forest Trail. This moderately challenging hike is a 2.4-mile loop and takes about an hour to complete. Blue Forest Trail is unlike the other trails in the park. It takes you up the Badlands formations, and every turn reveals unique rock formations.

Since the Blue Mesa Trail and the Historic Forest Trail are side-by-side, combining them for a single 3.4-mile hike is easy. If you decide to do that, pack plenty of water and snacks, especially during the scorching summer months.

When you go, make sure there hasn’t been recent rainfall. This area gets very muddy, and rainfall makes the steep areas difficult or impossible to pass.

Visit the Painted Desert Inn

After hiking in the Arizona sun, take a break at the Painted Desert Inn. This historic inn and national historic landmark has been converted into a museum and pays tribute to the area's history—from Route 66 to the ancient petroglyphs found within the park.

Explore the Puerco Pueblo Ruins

Near the park's south side, you’ll pass mile marker 11 and the Puerco Pueblo Ruins, the only ancestral Puebloan village readily accessible to the public. We recommend stopping, walking the loop, and spending some time in the museum. You can also search for ancient petroglyphs hidden in the rocks surrounding the trail.

A trip to Petrified Forest National Park is like stepping back in time. Whether you’re hiking the ancient Badland rock formations or in awe of petrified wood so smooth it looks like glass, you’ll love exploring this corner of Arizona!

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Petrified Forest National Park Poster

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