After a picnic lunch at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, wandering through the museum, chatting with rangers, watching the park movie, and walking the Giant Logs Trail and Crystal Forest Trail, we headed over to the Jasper Forest Overlook, just one of the many wondrous scenic overlooks in Petrified Forest National Park.
Jasper Forest Overlook provides a breathtaking panoramic view of desert terrain covered in a high concentration of rainbow petrified wood.
Jasper Forest was the first petrified forest discovered by western settlers and a short, accessible path leads from the parking area right to the scenic viewpoint and observation platform where you can look out over the valley strewn with petrified wood.
We actually spent a lot of time at this Petrified Forest vista point because it was our first real glimpse of the fascinating desert. Besides the petrified wood, the area is packed with so many different colors and textures, striped hills and interesting rock formations!
What I learned at the visitor center was that as with Crystal Forest, Jasper Forest was plundered by treasure hunters and commercial collectors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1882, the completion of the rail line gave even more travelers access to Jasper Forest and many petrified wood pieces were hauled away in rail cars. Outrage over Jasper Forest’s devastation contributed to the establishment of Petrified Forest as a National Monument in 1906.
The Jasper Forest Trail
The Jasper Forest Trail is a 2.5 mile, out and back hike that follows what’s left of an old abandoned road built in the 1930s. Today the road has mostly disappeared, so only attempt this hike if you’re comfortable hiking off trail.
There are signs at the Jasper Forest trailhead. To find the trail, walk to the area where the road begins to widen at the parking lot entrance and look for a small path between the hills.
Along this trail, you’ll traverse the desert valley, sandy bluffs, wide creek beds, and large boulder. You’ll also see large chunks of richly-colored, vibrant petrified wood and some pedestal logs, as well as small petrified wood chips littering the ground.
With only a 1.5 days in the park, we skipped the Jasper Forest Hike. Between Giant Logs Trail, Crystal Forest, Long Logs Trail, and Agate House Trail, we had more than enough opportunities to view the spectacular Arizona rainbow petrified wood.
Know Before You Go
- Jasper 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.
- The Jasper Forest Overlook provides a breathtaking panoramic view of desert terrain covered in a high concentration of rainbow petrified wood.
- A short, accessible path leads from the parking area to the scenic viewpoint and observation platform where you can look out over the valley strewn with petrified wood.
- The Jasper Forest Trail is a 2.5 mile, out and back hike that follows what’s left of an old abandoned road built in the 1930s.
- 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.
- 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.