Petrified Forest National Park in One Day
Petrified Forest National Park is a unique park that you can easily visit in one day. Located along the historic route 66, it is a great park to add to your trip if you are already planning to visit the southwest. Petrified Forest National Park landscape was shaped by wind and water, leading to all the natural wonders that we see today. This national park has the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. You can see some of the largest petrified logs in the park along the Giant Logs Trail. This itinerary will guide you through the best things to do in Petrified Forest National Park in one day.
About Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Wood is the remaining of a prehistoric forest. Petrified wood was formed when the trees died or were knocked down and were carried downstream and buried by layers of sediment. Then the wood soaked up water and silica and crystallized into quartz over time. The colors of the petrified wood is due to different minerals. There are also many fossils found here of species of plants and animals that are used to understand what the world was like during the Late Triassic Period. Back 225 million years ago, this area was tropical with a lot of vegetation. Over time the continents moved and climate changed, and all was buried under layers of sediment. Continued erosion caused by wind and water have brought the quartz logs back to the surface.
Entrance Fees and Hours
The entrance fees are $20 per vehicle for 7 days or you can purchase the America the Beautiful pass for $80 at the park entrance. The America the Beautiful pass is an yearly pass that allows you to enter more than 2,000 federal recreation sites which includes national parks. National parks are normally $20-$30 so if you plan on visiting 3 or more in the next year the pass will be worth it.
The park road hours vary throughout the year. Most of the summer the park is open 7 am to 7 pm or 7:30 pm. In the fall and winter the park is open 8 am to 5 pm or 6 pm. To get the most updated park hours, access the national park service website. Note that Arizona does not observe daylight savings, so the time here matches PST in the summer and MST in the winter.
When to Visit Petrified Forest National Park
It can get up to the 90s in the summer here and 30s during the day and even colder at night in the winter. Therefore the best time to visit would be in the Spring or Fall, when the weather is nice both here and in nearby places in Arizona.
How to Get to Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is located near the small city of Holbrook along route 66 in eastern Arizona. The closest airports are Flagstaff airport which is about 2 hours drive, and Phoenix and Albuquerque which are both about 3 hours away. Spend one day in Petrified Forest National Park during your southwest trip. I don’t recommend staying the night nearby as there are not many restaurants or comfortable accommodation options. At the end of your day at Petrified Forest National Park you can continue closer to your next destination or drive back home.
Best Things to Do in Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park has many great hikes, viewpoints, and exhibits that you can visit in one day. There is a 28-mile road that takes you through the park from north entrance at the Painted Desert down to to the Rainbow Forest Museum. This Petrified Forest National Park One Day Itinerary will guide you through the top sights in the park starting from the north at the Painted Desert down to the south gate.
Painted Desert Viewpoints and Rim Trail
The painted desert was the highlight of our day at Petrified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert is made up of desert badlands with layers of colorful sediment. Here you can hike and explore the miles and miles of badlands and petrified wood deposits. There are viewpoints such as Tawa Point, Chinde Point, Pintado Point, Nizhoni Point, where you can enjoy views of the Painted Desert without walking too far from the parking lot. At Tawa Point you can find the trailhead for the Painted Desert Rim Trail which is one mile roundtrip. If you have limited time I recommend skipping this rim trail and hiking down into the Painted Desert instead, as described in the next section.
Hike into the Painted Desert
I highly recommend hiking down into the Painted Desert during your one day at Petrified Forest National Park. You can find a trail down starting behind the Painted Desert Inn. You can backcountry hike here for as long as you have time for, just be careful not to get lost! It is an amazing experience to hike through the Painted Desert, and it felt almost like we were on a different planet. It is so vast and beautiful and there are barely any people here which makes it even more special. Access the national park service website for off the beaten path hike ideas.
Blue Mesa Road and Trail
Blue Mesa area has a 3.5 mile loop road drive and a 1 mile trail that takes you through the colorful badlands that are scattered with petrified wood. The trail is paved and takes you through hills of sediment with layers of blue colors. This will be one of the best landscapes you will see during your day in Petrified Forest National Park.
Agate Bridge, Jasper Forest, and Crystal Forest
These are three quick stops along the park road that are close to each other. First stop at Agate Bridge, a 110 foot long petrified log bridge. Next continue to Jasper Forest for a view of an area with a lot of petrified wood. Finally, complete the short 0.75 mile loop trail at Crystal Forest where there are many petrified logs surrounded by badlands.
Long Logs Trail
The Long Logs Trail is where you will see the longest logs during your day in Petrified Forest National Park. This 1.6 mile loop has some of the longest logs in the park, including some over 180 feet long. The logs here have a range of colors due to the different minerals.
Giant Logs Trail
The Giant Logs Trail is a 0.4 mile loop starting from the Rainbow Forest Museum where you can find some of the largest petrified logs in the park. One of the famous logs called Old Faithful is located here, which has a base close to 10 feet.
Rainbow Forest Museum
This museum has information regarding petrified wood, the evolution of this area, a park film, fossil exhibits, and more. Finish your one day in Petrified Forest National Park learning about the park’s history.
If you have time..
A couple more stops along the road include Puerco Pueblo, Newspaper Rock, and Agate House. Puerco Pueblo is made up of Puebloan homes that were lived in during 1250-1380 CE. Newspaper Rock has more than 650 petroglyphs with some being over 2,000 years old. Agate House Trail is a two mile round trip hike that takes you to a pueblo that was reconstructed of petrified wood and has seven rooms.
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