Visiting The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
Our family took off on our first RV adventure in 2020 (prior to the COVID outbreak) and explored so many beautiful gems in Arizona. This has to be one of the most underrated states in the US. We originally set off on our adventure in hopes of seeing the two destinations that were on our wish-list—The Grand Canyon and the Antelope Canyons. We managed to see them both but on our way home someone suggested to us that we should check out the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. This was the perfect place to visit with an RV packed with kids and our pet dog Lily!
The word forest is completely misleading–this is not a forest, it’s a beautiful park in the middle of a desert. The reason for being called a petrified forest is the trees (millions of years old) that have turned into stone. It’s really something to see. Many visitors come to admire the petrified wood but leave completely mesmerized by the badlands of the Painted Desert. This National Park is packed full of natural wonders!
How to Get There
You should know that there are two entrances to the park: a North Entrance off Interstate 40 and a South Entrance off Highway 180. You’ll enter through one end of the park and exit from the other. There are two main sections to the park; the south entrance has the largest concentrations of the colorful petrified wood and the north entrance is home to the stunning badlands of the Painted Desert.
If you are traveling west on I-40, exit into the park. When leaving the south end of the park, the road joins US 180. Follow US 180 for 19 miles to Holbrook and back to I-40. If you are traveling east on I-40, take the US 180 exit in Holbrook. The south entrance is 19 miles farther. After driving through the park, leave via I-40. Source: (nationalgeographic.com)
Tip: It’s a great National Park to visit when traveling by RV. We had no issues exploring the park roads in an RV.
How To Plan For Your Visit
Visit the National Parks website prior to visiting and check for any alerts that will impact your visit and ask about these alerts when visiting the Visitor Center. Be sure to grab a map at the Visitor Center. There is so much to see inside of the park and a map will help you ensure that you’re not missing anything.
It takes about 25-30 to drive straight through the park without stopping. Allow enough time to stop and enough the stunning views and hiking trails. We stayed in the park for about 4 hours but we could have easily stayed longer.
They do allow dogs inside the park. We were able to take our pup down the trails and it was a much-needed break from our long trip!
The Petrified Forest National Park is open 364 days a year (every day except Christmas, December 25).
List of Must-Sees Inside the Park
Here is a checklist for your visit to the Petrified Forest in Arizona.
- Puerco Pueblo – this very short trail will lead you petroglyphs and ancestral Puebloan homes.
- Newspaper Rock – this display of more than 650 petroglyphs (some which are over 2,000 years old) is really something to see.
- Blue Mesa – this 3.5-mile loop trail takes you through the vibrant badlands where you’ll also find more petrified wood.
- Agate Bridge – unbelievable views from a 110-foot long petrified log bridge.
- Jasper Forest – this is where you’ll find a high concentration of petrified wood.
- Crystal Forst – another short loop trail through the badlands with intact petrified wood logs.
- Giant Logs Trail – this short loop trail will take you to “Old Faithful” which is a petrified log that’s almost 10-feet across.
- Long Log Trail / Agate House Trail – these trails which are located at the same spot are worth the combined 2.6-mile round trip hike. You will find a seven-room pueblo constructed of petrified wood on the Agate House trail.
Please do not remove any of the petrified wood from the park, it’s illegal as the area was designated a national monument in 1906. We want to take care of and protect this natural treasure.
If You’re Visiting With Kids
This is such a great National Park to visit with kids. Most of the trails are short and easy to hike, both kids and pets will have no issue exploring this breathtaking park.
Take the kids the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, they’ll enjoy the park films and fossil exhibits. The Painted Desert Inn is another fun place for kids, this National Historic Landmark is now a museum with fascinating exhibits.
There are also multiple restroom stops throughout the park but be sure to grab a map and locate those stops ahead of time. That was one of the benefits of traveling in an RV–we had a restroom everywhere we went!
Fun Facts About the Petrified Forest National Park
- Rain is heaviest from July through September when 41 percent of the park’s annual average precipitation falls during short, violent thunderstorms. (en.wikipedia.org)
- Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park site that contains a segment of the Historic Route 66 alignment. (nationalgeographic.com)
- You can go geocaching inside of the park–learn more here.
- Scientific studies show that the ancient trees found within the park were there 211 to 218 million years ago.
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