Even though we originally entered the park through the southern entrance near Holbrook, Arizona, and parked right next to the trailhead for the Long Logs Trail and Agate House Trail, hiking those trails was actually the very last thing we did on our visit to Petrified Forest National Park.
The park ranger at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center told us on on our first day in the park that the these trails are most beautiful in the late afternoon. Our second day in the park was sunny and beautiful, we hiked the trails in the late afternoon, and it was a spectacular experience.
We combined the Long Logs Trail and the Agate House Trail for single a 2.6 mile round trip hike. This way we got to see the best of everything — giant petrified tree trunks, rainbow petrified wood chunks, colorful badland formations, and a building made from petrified wood!
Plus, it was great to bookend our Petrified Forest and Painted Desert adventure with the Giant Logs Trail at the beginning and the Long Logs and Agate House Trails at the end.
Long Logs Trail
Long Logs Trail is a 1.6 mile lollipop loop trail that leads through the site of a Triassic-period log jam, where some petrified log specimens measure over 100 feet long.
The trail’s first half-mile is paved, but once you reach the loop portion of the trail it turns to dirt and takes you through badland formations, small desert brush, and one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park.
You can follow the loop in either direction — we ventured left to follow the loop clockwise, which brought us into an open field scattered with petrified logs, many of which measure over 100 feet long!
Many of the longs in this section of the park lie haphazardly across one another, the result of massive log jams in the ancient riverbeds and floodplain. Additional flooding, erosion, and volcanic activity caused sediments and ash to flow downstream and settle over the fallen trees. Over time, silica and minerals seeped into the tree trunks, replacing the organic matter, and eventually petrifying the trees.
Agate House Trail
Agate House Trail is a 2.0 mile round trip trail that leads to a reconstructed multi-room pueblo made of petrified wood.
Ancestral Puebloan people used petrified wood to make tools like projectile points, knives, and scrapers. They also used it for building material as seen at Agate House. The eight-room pueblo was built and occupied for a short time around 700 years ago.
Agate House was originally constructed using medium to large pieces of petrified wood held in place by mud mortar and chinked with small pieces of petrified wood. As with other Puebloan buildings, the entrance was by ladder through the roof. The size and time needed to build and maintain it suggests it was a year-round residence for a single family or a meeting place for the community.
Today Agate House stands alone atop of a small hill in Rainbow Forest. The remains of the Puebloan building you see today are partially reconstructed and not entirely accurate.
Between 1933 and 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps excavated and reconstructed portions of the petrified wood building under the guidance of archeologist Cornelius B. Cosgrove, Jr. from the Laboratory of Anthropology at the Museum of New Mexico. Since its excavation in the 1930s, hundreds of similar petrified wood structures have been discovered in the park, several dating back to the same time period as Agate House.
About The Arizona Petrified Wood
Petrified Forest National Park is known for its fossils and petrified fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic period of the Mesozoic era, about 225 million years ago.
During this time, downed trees accumulated in the river channels and were buried periodically by sediment containing volcanic ash. Groundwater dissolved silica from the ash and carried it into the logs, where it formed quartz crystals that gradually replaced the organic matter and petrified the trees. Minor minerals, such as iron, manganese, chromium, and carbon combined with the silica are what create the beautiful rainbow colors in the petrified wood.
This means that the “forests” of Petrified Forest National Park — Black Forest, Crystal Forest, Rainbow Forest, and Jasper Forest — are actually ancient log jams!
- Petrified logs have no branches because they were broken off while being pushed downstream.
- The knots on a petrified log are where there used to be branches, so lots of knots means the tree had lots of branches.
- Some long petrified logs look like they were cut into perfect slices. While a normal log doesn’t break into slices, a petrified log does because it is made primarily of silica and silica naturally breaks on a clean angle.
In Petrified Forest National Park, at least nine species of fossil trees have been identified in the park and all are extinct.
Know Before You Go
- The Long Logs and Agate House Trailheads are at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center at Petrified Forest National Park. The parking area is located near the south park entrance at 6618 Petrified Forest Road, Holbrook, Arizona 86025 in Navajo County.
- Long Logs Trail boasts one of the highest concentrations of rainbow petrified wood in Petrified Forest National Park.
- Agate House was added to the National Register Of Historic Places in 1975. Do not sit, stand, lean, or climb in the structure.
- The Trailhead for the Long Logs Trail and the Agate House Trail is at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center parking area. Leave the parking area from the opposite end as the visitor center and follow the sidewalk across the bridge over Jim Camp Wash. Both trails officially begin at the marked cement gateway on the right.
- A shade cover stands where Long Logs Trail and Agate House Trail meet. It was the perfect place to take a break, enjoy the desert views, and get a big drink of water.
- 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.