After spending the morning checking out some roadside attractions in Holbrook like the Rainbow Rock Shop, The Wigwam Motel, Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company, and the Navajo County Historical Society Museum, and hosting a live Q&A call from the parking lot of our hotel for my course Profitable Project Plan, we finally headed over to Petrified Forest National Park.
We kicked off our visit with a picnic lunch at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center and hiked the short Giant Logs Trail, while oohing and ahhing the whole way at the amazing coloring in the huge chunks of petrified wood. Next we headed over to the Crystal Forest Trail, which has some of the most gorgeous specimens of Arizona rainbow petrified wood in the park.
Crystal Forest is an easy, paved, 0.75 mile, loop trail through a badland landscape with many intact petrified logs whose quartz crystals sparkle in the sun.
Walking The Crystal Forest Trail
From the Crystal Forest parking area the trail leads to a single sun shelter, offering a little shade and an incredible panoramic view of Crystal Forest. From here the trail splits:
- Traveling right puts you in contact with the rainbow petrified wood chunks and colorful logs faster.
- Traveling left first traverses the rolling grasslands and badland formations with glimpses of the Blue Mesa formation, which gives some hills a slightly blue-purple color.
The Crystal Forest Trail provides one of the best opportunities to see a huge collection of stunning petrified wood deposits all in one place. Plus, the fossilized trees and crystalized wood in this area have an unusually high concentration of additional quartz and amethyst crystals inside the trees!
The Petrified Forest ranger told us that the best times of day to hike Crystal Forest is in the morning or later afternoon. Not only is the sun at just the right place to get amazing photographs of the rainbow petrified wood, it is also not as hot! We walked the trail around 3:00 pm and were in awe of the beauty that surrounded us.
Why The Name Crystal Forest?
The name Crystal Forest come from the fact that the trees of Crystal Forest were once covered in sparkling quartz and purple amethyst crystals that developed in the hollows of the logs as the trees petrified. Unfortunately, in the late 1800s, before the establishment of Petrified Forest National Monument, many ancient logs were dynamited by those seeking the semi-precious gems. Massive petrified trees were blasted into the small chips you can still see scattered about alongside the trail.
Concern over the plundering of these crystals was one of the factors that led to the protection of the petrified forest and it’s original designation as a national monument.
Know Before You Go
- Crystal Forest at Petrified Forest National Park is located north of the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center on Park Road in Arizona’s Apache County.
- Crystal Forest is an easy, paved, 0.75 mile, loop trail through a badland landscape with many intact petrified logs whose quartz crystals sparkle in the sun.
- Download the Petrified Forest National Park Map.
- Petrified Forest National Park actually closes! The park is open daily year-round from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. When staff permits, extended hours go into effect from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm — and they’re not kidding. The park gates actually close and rangers drive the main park road around 4:30 telling you to wrap it up and start heading out of the park.
- The Petrified Forest landscape is an extremely dry, high altitude desert so pack lots of water, even for short day hikes, to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Restrooms are located at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, Rainbow Forest Curio Shop, Painted Desert Visitor Center, Painted Desert Inn, Chinde Point, and the Puerco Pueblo.
- Petrified Forest is one of the most animal friendly national parks. You can bring your leashed pet any place you are allowed to go except into the buildings.
- Removal of petrified wood or other materials is against the law. Do not collect or take home pieces of the wood from the National Park.