Whether you are just passing through or want to spend a few hours in Petrified Forest National Park, here are some things you can do if you have one day to visit the park.
About Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park has one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. All of this petrified wood is composed mostly of quartz and comes from trees that were destroyed by volcanic lava more than 200 million years ago.
Another highlight of the park is the colorful natural landscape of the Painted Desert which was created after a series of natural events over the years, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The colorful features of the Painted Desert are stunning and a remarkable sight, and seeing it alone is worth a visit to Petrified Forest.
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Getting to Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona between I-40 and Highway 180. There are two entrances to the park: the north entrance is directly off of I-40 and the south entrance is just off of Highway 180. So, depending on your direction of travel, you can enter and exit the park in two different ways.
And if you are not close by, the nearest major airports to the park are located in Phoenix, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Additionally, if you are on a Southwest road trip, here are the main distances to/from Petrified Forest National Park:
- Albuquerque, NM: 210 miles
- Phoenix, AZ: 210 miles
- Las Vegas, NV: 370 miles
- Grand Canyon National Park: 210 miles
- Horseshoe Bend, AZ: 230 miles
- Flagstaff, AZ: 120 miles
The entrance fee to Petrified Forest National Park is US$ 25 per vehicle, US$ 15 per person, and US$ 20 per motorcycle and is valid for 7 consecutive days.
In addition, if you are planning on visiting other national parks in Arizona or in the United States, you should consider purchasing the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. This pass costs US$ 80 and allows you to visit all of the national parks you want during a 12-month period (starting from the date of purchase).
Restaurants near the park
Once in the park, you can find the Painted Desert Diner in the north part of the park as well as a small shop for grab-and-go options at the gift shop at the Rainbow Forest Museum.
Places to stay near Petrified Forest National Park
For most people, one day is enough to see the main attractions of the park, but should you wish to stay longer, the best hotels near Petrified Forest National Park are:
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Holbrook Petrified Forest
- Howard Johnson by Wyndham Holbrook
- Days Inn by Wyndham Holbrook
Things to do to have the perfect day in Petrified Forest National Park
The best way to see Petrified Forest is to travel the 28-miles Scenic Drive which allows you to see most of the park from the comfort of your car. From here you can stop at its many viewpoints to soak in the splendid landscape, as well as enjoy beautiful short hikes.
The major spots to stop along the scenic drive at Petrified Forest are Painted Desert, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, and Jasper Forest.
See the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark
The historical Painted Desert Inn, which once served as a perfect stop for travelers along the famous Route 66, was turned into a museum and now displays many exhibits.
On the scenic drive, make a quick stop here to admire this majestic pinkish structure and be amazed by the wide desert views behind it.
Hike to Blue Mesa
The Blue Mesa hike is a 1-mile loop that is easy to enjoy and requires little effort. You can gaze and walk amongst the badlands with tones of purple and blue and walk near the colorful petrified wood.
Walking the Blue Mesa area is so unique and interesting, and it’s hands down one of my favorite things to do in Petrified Forest National Park.
And if you don’t want to walk the 1-mile path, you can still have spectacular views from the viewpoint at the beginning of the trail.
Crystal Forest Hike
Another great thing to do in Petrified Forest is to walk the Crystal Forest hike, a 0.8-mile loop that takes you up close to the stunning colorful crystals that can be found in the petrified logs.
Walk around the Crystal Forest are to see the beautiful crystals, but don’t forget that the removal of petrified wood or other materials in the park is illegal.
Jasper Forest Hike
Jasper Forest has a great collection of petrified logs in Petrified Forest and is part of the Off The Beaten Path section of the park. So, here you can either enjoy the stunning views from the overlook or take the 2.5-mile Jasper Forest Trail (round trip) for a nice stroll alongside an amazing petrified wood garden.
Painted Desert Rim Trail
The Painted Desert is one of the greatest views of Petrified Forest. You can stop at either of the viewpoints (Tawa and Kachina) and be amazed by the infinite vista, or take an easy, incredible 1-mile hike (round trip) through an unpaved trail.
The trail for the Painted Desert hike starts either at Tawa Point or Kachina Point.
Long Logs and Agate House Trail
The Agate House is an 8-room house made of petrified wood that archeologists believe was occupied more than 700 years ago. A curious fact about the house is that the entrance was through the ceiling.
Near Agate House you’ll find Long Logs, an area that displays one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in Petrified Forest National Park.
And because they are so close to each other, you can visit both the Agate House and Long Longs in a loop of 2.6 miles (round trip).
Puerco Pueblo, Giant Logs, and explore Off the Beaten Path trails are just a few other things you can do in Petrified Forest National Park.
How to Spend One Day in Petrified Forest National Park
If you have just a few hours: drive through the park and stop at the viewpoints.
In case you have half a day: include Blue Mesa Trail and Painted Desert Trail.
If you have a full day: you can check pretty much the entire park, including the best activities mentioned above, and add Puerco Pueblo and Giant Logs.
With more than one day: you can check out the Off the Beaten Path hikes, such as the 7-miles Wilderness Loop, 4-miles Onyx Bridge Hike, and the 3-mile Billings Gap.
Moreover, before heading to the park, be sure to check the conditions on their website and stop at the visitor center as soon as you arrive for the current situation of the hikes and the park itself.
MORE DESTINATIONS IN ARIZONA:
Monument Valley: The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley
Horseshoe Bend: All You Need to Visit Horseshoe Bend
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:
Canyonlands National Park: The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day itinerary to the park
Bryce Canyon National Park: The Complete Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah Itinerary: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary