1 Day in Petrified Forest National Park

On our winter road trip through the desert southwest, Teddy and I visited Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. I had been to the park once prior back in 2019 on a solo trip through Arizona and Colorado over the course of a week. You can read about that trip here.

When visiting in 2022, we were able to spend more time exploring the park than I had the first time. We entered from the south side of the park coming from the Gila National Forest area. We actually entered the park around 12:30 PM and left around 4:30 PM. So while this post is how to spend a day in the park, you could spend only a few hours here and still get to see most of it. My favorite things to do in the park are listed below.

Scenic Drive

This road is the only one that runs through the park so you don’t really have a choice to not do it, but it is still worth mentioning because you can truly see so much beauty of the park right from your car. This road is 28 miles long and takes about an hour to travel. Even though I highly recommend spending more time in the park, if all you have is an hour, it’s enough to still get a sense of the beauty of the park.

Crystal Forest Trail

  • 0.75 Mile Loop
  • Crystal Forest parking area near the south side of the park
  • There are so many various wood deposits in this area. The trail meanders up and down some small hills and around various petrified wood all while getting great views of the park.

Blue Mesa Trail

  • 1 mile loop
  • Parking lot on top of Blue Mesa
  • This trail descends very quickly into the badlands but it is all paved. It gives you an incredible glimpse of the beautiful badlands of the park and their coloring. This is my favorite of all the trails in the park.

Giant Logs Trail

  • 0.4 Mile Loop
  • Begins behind the Rainbow Forest Museum at the south entrance
  • This is a quick way to see some of the petrified logs in the park

Tips:

  • One incredibly unique thing about this park is that it’s dog friendly. That is incredibly rare in National Parks, so this is great for anyone traveling with pets.
  • If you chose to walk every maintained trail in the park, it would be about 9.5 miles total. There’s quite a few smaller and easy trails, so if you’re up for an adventure, stop at every stop along the way and take a hike.
  • If you’re interested in an off the beaten path hike or two, check out some of these suggestions here.
  • There is a gas station as well as a small restaurant with a few food options at the Visitor Center in the northern side of the park.
  • It’s $25 to get into the park without a pass. I would highly recommend the America the Beautiful Pass if you plan to visit any other National Parks or state parks or recreation sites that accept the pass. I’ve purchased one every year for the last 3 years and wow has it paid off.
  • If you want to extend your trip in the area a bit further, check out things to do in Sedona or Flagstaff in Arizona. They’re about 1.5-2.5 hours from the northern side of the park.

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