Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park

Plan your Arizona road trip with this guide to the best places to stop including mountain towns, day hikes, National Parks, and mountain bike trails.

Last April, I packed up my life in Washington, DC and embarked on a 4-day cross-country road trip to Las Vegas. When I first planned my move, I had all kinds of ideas of the cool places I wanted to stop and see…New Orleans, Austin, it was going to be so fun….but once I hooked up that beast of a U-Haul to the back of my Subaru, my dreams were quickly squashed. I could barely drive that thing in a straight line, let alone park in a busy city.

So I hit the road on a seemingly never-ending jaunt, driving 12 hours a day for the next three days. On day four, I finally entered Arizona and noticed signs for the Petrified Forest National Park. I was intrigued. It was a National Park that I had never heard of, and it appeared to be right off the highway. I figured I deserved to check out SOMETHING cool during this marathon of a drive, so I pulled off to do some exploring.

I was impressed to find uncrowded, colorful landscapes, detailed petroglyphs, historic Pueblo sites, and loads of 200 million year old crystallized logs. What a surprise!

If you are driving on I-40 or looking for a weekend road trip destination, the Petrified Forest National Park is well worth a detour.

Petrified Forest National Park Map

The Petrified Forest National Park is minutes off of I-40 about 50 miles west of the New Mexico border. The road through the Park is 28 miles long and travels north to south. At all of the major landmarks, there are places to pull off and walk around, and you should give yourself 2-3 hours to explore the best sites. When you reach the end of the road, you can either turn around and drive back through the Park or you can exit the Park, taking the 180 North back to I-40.


Petrified Forest National Park Entrance Fee

The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle or free to those who have an America the Beautiful Pass.


Best Things To Do In Petrified Forest National Park

The Painted Desert

The Painted Desert is a desolate, pastel landscape full of rolling hills and rich colors. There are several panoramic vistas dotted along the drive where you can stop to check this desert mural. These include Tiponi Point, Kachina Point, and Chinde Point.


Puerco Pueblo

This is the remains of a sandstone Pueblo village that was occupied around the year 1300. According to the Park Service, this area likely housed about 200 people in a total of 100-125 rooms.


Newspaper Rock

Stop here to view more than 650 petroglyphs that have been inscribed into a series of boulders.


Blue Mesa

This do-not-miss four-mile round trip detour from the main road takes you to these beautiful blue and white badlands. If you have time, hike the 1 mile loop that winds through the layered hills.


Crystal Forest & Giant Logs

These are the areas with the densest and largest petrified logs in the Park. Both have paved loops where you can take a stroll and examine the wood, much of which has turned into solid quartz.


Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

5 comments on “Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park

  1. Your travel blog is very informative and the pictures are great. Thanks ! I see you travel with your dog. I am planning my “dream” trip to the Grand Canyon and all other major points of interest over a 3 to 4 week time span. My research tells me that most of the major parks do not allow pets on the trails. I can understand this, however, I plan on purchasing a dog stroller for my 18 lb dog. In your travel experience, have you seen others using a stroller? I’m also contemplating using a front load backpack but only for very short walks. Do you have any recommendations on seeing the sights and bringing your pet? We will not be camping. Fortunately, most hotels allow dogs (some for a fee). I will be taking this adventure in mid September starting in Atlanta, GA to Arizona/Utah on I40 and Route 66 then return the southern route thru Texas and across the gulf via I10 and home. Thanks for any travel hints.

    1. I have not seen people using a stroller, and to my knowledge that wouldn’t be allowed in trails on the Grand Canyon. When we were near the Grand Canyon, we boarded our dog at a place called Kingsmark Kennels. Charlie had a blast and we got to enjoy the sites without worrying thing not being dog-friendly.

  2. It’s very cool, but the south visitor center is an embarrassment. They have a map of the U.S. with “petrified wood” from each state and probably half of them are actually metamorphic rocks like schist or mylonite. I can see why novices might mistake those for petrified wood but whoever did the display should know better.

  3. Hi there! Is the America the Beautiful pass good for all national parks as well as state parks? We will be heading to Arizona/Utah/Nevada in August and will be hitting up a lot of parks there and then also possibly some parks in Alaska in Nov/Dec…..I just want to make the most use of the pass for the cost 🙂

    1. Hi Janelle, the America the Beautiful pass is good for National Parks and some federal properties but it is not good for State Parks. It is definitely worth the price for the National Parks in those 4 states. Hope that helps!

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