Petrified Forest National Park is one of the treasures of the US Park Service, featuring more than 230 square miles (59,570 hectares) of colorful desert landscape that covers parts of Navajo and Apache counties and features significant deposits of petrified wood from the late Triassic period. The Painted Desert, an area of desert badlands featuring varied shades of sedimentary rock, covers the northern part of the national park. Highlights include Newspaper Rock, covered with ancient petroglyphs, and the Blue Mesa Road Loop.
Hikers, photographers, and nature lovers will want to spend as much time as possible among the Petrified Forest's natural wonders in areas such as the Crystal Forest, the Black Forest, and the Rainbow Forest. The Painted Desert, a national historic landmark, also offers a multitude of trails for visitors to explore the striated mounds of sedimentary rock. Many travelers opt to combine guided tours with visits to other attractions in Arizona, such as the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley.
- Bring layered clothing, as the desert temperature fluctuates wildly throughout the day.
- The Painted Desert Visitor Center and the Rainbow Forest Museum are good places to start for an orientation to the area.
- Seven maintained hiking trails allow pets on leash, but no bicycles (check out the off-the-beaten-path Jasper Forest hike).
- No overnight accommodations are available in the park, but nearby Holbrook has several options.
How to Get There
The park is located about two hours east of Flagstaff. Visitors can reach the park via I-40 by car, motorcycle, or organized tour. Both visitor centers have ample parking and turnouts for large recreational vehicles.When to Get There
Temperatures top out in the 90°s Fahrenheit in the summer days but drop to the 40°s Fahrenheit at night; spring and fall are more popular times to visit. The park is open every day except Christmas, as are the Painted Desert Visitor Center, the Rainbow Forest Museum, and the Painted Desert Inn.The More You Know
A variety of educational programs, led by the park rangers, are offered throughout the year. Activities include a Puerco Pueblo guided walk, a trek along the Giant Logs Trail, a lecture about the Triassic period at the Rainbow Forest Museum, and a Painted Desert Inn tour. Kids can complete a booklet to become a junior park ranger.