Like Death Valley National Park, our favorite national park, Petrified Forest National Park blew us away with its unexpected beauty. From striped rolling hills and rugged rock formations, to multi-hued eroding cliffs and rainbow petrified wood, we were once again in awe of the beautiful desert landscape.
Our first day in the park was only a half day because I needed to host a live Q&A Call via Zoom for my course, Profitable Project Plan, that teaches my client management system to other web designers and developers. It was a cloudy and overcast day, which was good for viewing the petrified wood, and we were able to experience quite a bit of the park, including the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, Giant Logs Trail, Crystal Forest Trail, the Jasper Forest Overlook, Agate Bridge, Newspaper Rock, and the Route 66 Monument and 1932 Studebaker
Our second day in the park was a full day and it started at the Painted Desert Visitor Center in the Painted Desert Community Complex.
At the Painted Desert Visitor Center, near the northern park entrance, you can get park information, watch a movie about the park, learn about historic architecture, and talk to a park ranger. You’ll also find restrooms, a gas station, a restaurant, a bookstore and gift shop with tons of souvenirs, and an outdoor picnic pavilion.
- Visitor information, maps, and free backcountry permits
- A free 20 minute park orientation film that explains the process by which wood becomes fossilized (this is the same film shown at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center.)
- Exhibits on natural and human history, including the process of how petrified wood turned from organic material to stone
- A postal drop box
Also nearby, you’ll find Tawa Trail, which leads 1.2 miles from the entrance station through tranquil grasslands to Tawa Point and connects with the Painted Desert Rim Trail.
Know Before You Go
- The Painted Desert Visitor Center at Petrified Forest National Park is located at 1 Park Road #2217, Petrified Forest, Arizona 86028 in both Apache County.
- Tawa Trail leads 1.2 miles from the entrance station through tranquil grasslands to Tawa Point and connects with the Painted Desert Rim Trail.
- Petrified Forest was designated a National Monument in 1906 and became a National Park in 1962.
- The park’s elevation varies from a low of 5,340 feet along the Puerco River to a high of 6,230 feet at Pilot Rock. The average elevation is about 5,400 feet.
- 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 Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum And Visitor Center are open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm year round, with extended hours as staffing permits.
- The restaurant at the Painted Desert Visitor Center is open from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm MST.
- 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.
- Picnic Shelters are located at Chinde Point, Rainbow Forest, and Painted Desert Visitor Center.
- 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.