Petrified Forest National Park on Arizona Route 66

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links from which we make a commission from your purchases. Please review our full Terms and Conditions for more information. Note that any pricing, operating hours, or other such information provided may have changed since initial publication. Route 66 Road Map is a Participant In The Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, An Affiliate Advertising Program Designed To Provide A Means For Sites To Earn Advertising Fees By Advertising And Linking To Amazon.Com

Imagine a land where ancient trees stand tall, not as vibrant giants reaching for the sun, but as silent sentinels of stone, their once-living forms immortalized in colorful minerals. This is the magic of Petrified Forest National Park, a breathtaking expanse in northeastern Arizona where time has woven a tapestry of stunning geologic wonders and rich human history.

Established in 1962, the park encompasses over 346 square miles of diverse landscapes. The most renowned attraction, of course, is the petrified wood itself. Millions of years ago, towering conifers thrived in this region, their remains eventually buried under layers of sediment. Over time, mineral-rich water replaced the organic matter, transforming the wood into captivating quartz, agate, and jasper, painted in a mesmerizing palette of reds, oranges, purples, and blues.

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book - Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip! By Valerie Bromann

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book

Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip!

Enjoy fun games and challenges to pass the time on your next road trip and have a keepsake to look back on for years to come with this entertaining must-have for your next vacation.

Wander through the Rainbow Forest, the southern section of the park, and marvel at the kaleidoscope of petrified logs scattered across the landscape. Hike the Long Logs Trail to witness the sheer size of these ancient giants, some stretching over 100 feet in length. Or, for a closer look, explore the Crystal Forest Trail, where fallen logs lie fragmented, revealing their intricate internal structures.

But Petrified Forest National Park is much more than just petrified wood. The Painted Desert, encompassing the park’s northern section, paints a mesmerizing picture with its vibrant badlands and rolling mesas. Hike the scenic trails and witness the ever-changing canvas of colors sculpted by wind and water, where layers of sediment unveil a 225-million-year geologic record.

Delve deeper into the park’s past at the Rainbow Forest Museum, where fossils, ancient tools, and captivating exhibits bring to life the story of this land. Learn about the dinosaurs that once roamed here, the ancestral Puebloan people who called it home, and the natural forces that continue to shape this remarkable landscape.

Beyond the geological wonders, Petrified Forest National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for coyotes, foxes, mule deer, and diverse bird species flitting among the cacti and juniper trees. The park also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs adorning rock faces and the remnants of Puerco Pueblo offering a glimpse into the lives of past inhabitants.

Whether you’re a geology buff, history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking a unique and awe-inspiring escape, Petrified Forest National Park has something to offer everyone. So, pack your sense of adventure, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare to be mesmerized by this land where time stands still and ancient giants whisper stories of a world long gone.

What to Do at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Whether you have one hour or one day to explore this Arizona National Park and whether you’re a serious hiker or just want to take in the views, there are plenty of things to do in this natural wonderland.

Petrified Forest National Park in 1-2 Hours

If you have limited time on your Route 66 road trip and just want to pass through this park, it is easily doable in 1-2 hours. Pick a portoin of the park to explore, admire the rest from your car, and make plans to come back with more time the next time.

  • If you’re starting from the north end, stop at a couple of overlooks, walk the painted Desert Rim Trail, and visit the Painted Desert Inn before driving through the rest of the park.
  • If you’re starting at the south end, Visit the Rainbow Forest Museum, walk the Giant Logs and Crystal Forest Trails, and Drive the Blue Mesa Trail before driving through the rest of the park.

Petrified Forest National Park in Half a Day

I only had about half a day to explore Petrified Forest National Park. I was driving from Gallup, New Mexico to Holbrook, Arizona (I had plans to stay in the Wigwam Motel for the night!) on a Route 66 road trip and planned to do this in the morning and explore all the kitchy roadside attractions and rock shops in the afternoon. All in all I was in the park for about four hours, which was a good amount of time to take everything in.

If you only have half in Petrified Forest National Park you can plan to drive through the entire park and stop at most of the attractions. But you won’t have much time for hiking. So enjoy the scenic views!

Here is a suggested half-day itinerary:

  • Stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center
  • Explore the Painted Desert Inn and Painted Desert Overlooks
  • Check Out the Route 66 Alignment
  • Stop at Newspaper Rock, Blue Mesa, and Jasper Forest (but save hiking for next time)
  • Walk through the Crystal Forest
  • Stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Giant Logs Trail

Petrified Forest National Park in One Day or More

If you have a full day, or multiple days, to explore this national park, you can explore all of the highlights, drive through the entire park, take in the longer hikes, do one or more of the more strenuous off-the-beaten-path hikes, aor even camp in the backcountry wilderness area.

Developed Trails

There are many developed trails in Petrified Forest National Park. These are maintained areas that allow you to take short walks to get up close and personal with the landscape of the area.

  • Tawa Trail (2 Miles Round Trip): Grasslands and views better the Painted Desert Visitor Center Entrance Station and Tawa Point.
  • Painted Desert Rim (1 Mile Round Trip): Walk Between Tawa Point and Painted Desert Inn.
  • Puerco Pueblo (.3 Mile Loop): Walk around the partial excavation of a 100+ room village that was occupied between 1250 and 1380 CE.
  • Blue Mesa (1 Mile Loop): Wander the blue, purple, and gray badlands covered in petrified wood.
  • Crystal Forest (.75 Mile Loop): Walk among a beautiful collection of petrified logs.
  • Giant Logs (.4 Mile Loop): Visit some of the largest and most colorful logs in Petrified Forest National Park, including the ten-foot around “Old Faithful.”
  • Log Logs (1.6 Mile Loop): Find Triassic log jams and long petrified tree trunks.
  • Agate House (2 Miles Round Trip): Walk to a reconstructed seven-room pueblo.

Harder Hikes

For those with more experience and wanting a bit more of a challenging hike, these off-the-beaten-path trails are for you. These are not as maintained so they might require route-finding skills. Stop at one of the visitor centers to pick up guides and get more information. DOn’t forget to bring a bottle of water!

  • Onyx Bridge (4 Miles Round Trip): Hike to a Petrified Wood “Bridge.”
  • Wilderness Loop (7 Miles Round Trip): Hike the North Painted Desert Wilderness.
  • Deadwash Overlook (4 Miles Round Trip): A moderately challenging hike that includes scrambling and steep elevations.
  • Historic Blue Forest Trail (3 Miles Round Trip): Hike along an unmaintained CCC trail.
  • Billings Gap (3 Miles Round Trip): Hike atop the Blue Mesa.
  • Red Basin Clam Beds (8.5 Miles Round Trip): Hike atop the Blue Mesa.
  • Jasper Forest (2.5 Miles Round Trip): Hike on an old road among petrified wood.
  • First Forest (2.1 Miles Round Trip): Hike on an old road among petrified logs.

Things to See at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

There are so many things to see at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Here are some of the highlights. Add as many or as few of these attractions to your national park itinerary.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Visitor Center

Painted Desert Visitor Center

Stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to get more information on your visit to the Petrified Forest National Park. Ask the knowledgeable staff all your questions, take a bathroom break before your hike, get a souvenir at the gift shop and bookstore, or gas up your car at the on-site gas station.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

The Painted Desert Inn began its life in the early 1920s. Created by Herbert David Lore, the building was originally made of petrified wood and operated as the Stone Tree House. Visitors to the tourist attraction could get a bite to eat, purchase Native American arts and crafts, drink in the taptoom, or spend the night in one of six small rooms.

In 1936, the National Park Service bought the original inn, but with little usuale do to structural damage, ended up rebuilding it completely in a popular-to-the-time Pueblo Revival Style that featured stuccoed masonry, thick walls, earth tones, flat roofs, and projecting roof beams (vigas). For a time in the 1940s the inn was even operated under the renowned Fred Harvey Company.

Currently the Painted Desert Inn serves as a museum, and no longer takes guests for overnight stays.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Overlooks

Painted Desert Overlooks

There are plenty of things to see in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona but most come for the incredible views. Pull over at one or all of the Painted Desert Overlooks for spectacular views of the National Park.

Stretching across the park’s northern region, the Painted Desert is a mesmerizing expanse of colorful badlands. The name perfectly encapsulates the landscape’s beauty—a canvas of pastel hues that shift with the sun’s angle, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The best views can be found at various overlooks along the park’s roads, with each offering a unique perspective of this natural masterpiece.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment

Route 66 Alignment

Route 66 was commissioned in 1926, creating a road that took travelers all the way from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. As the journey traversed northeastern Arizona it wound right through what is now Petrified Forest National Park. Route 66 here was closed down in 1958 and was decommissioned altogether in 1985. The Petrified Forest was named a national park in 1962.

In 2006 a new pull-out and monument was added to the park to celebrate this area’s claim to fame of being the only National Park to contain an actual stretch of Route 66 (The Grand Canyon and Gateway Arch are both popular stops on a Route 66 road trip, though neither is directly on Route 66).

The highlight of this pit stop is the 1932 Studebaker that stands purposefully abandoned on the side of the road. It was donated to the National Park Service by Frank and Rhonda Dobell of the Arizona Automotive Service of Holbrook, Arizona. You will also find a chrome car-themed bench, an informational sign, and a row of historic telephone poles that mark the original Route 66 alignment.

Puerco Pueblo

Explore the ruins of a large Indian pueblo and petroglyphs on a .3-mile loop trail around Puerco Pueblo. As the largest archaeological site in Petrified Forest National Park, this site features the ruins of an ancient Puebloan village that was built by the Anasazi over 600 years ago and over 800 petroglyphs. Along the way you’ll discover informative panels that tell the history of your surroundings.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock is an archeological site with more than 650 petroglyphs that were created by ancestral Puebloan people between 650 and 2,000 years ago.

What is a petroglyph? Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by pecking the dark outer layer of rock away to reveal lighter rock below. The “desert varnish” on the surface of the rocks occurs in naturally arid regins when clay materials, oxideds, hydroxides of manganese and iron, and other particles create a thin red or black “varnish” across the rocks.

While you can’t get up close to Newspaper Rock to explore, you can admire it from the viewpoint, where telescopes and binoculars are available to give visitors a closer look.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa

The Blue Mesa Trail takes you to the top of the mesa where you’ll find gorgeous scenic overlooks of the blue, purple, gray, and peach landscape. Along the way you’ll find bentonite clay, petrified wood, and plant and animal fossils

Agate Bridge

Agate Bridge (originalyl called Natural Bridge) is a 110-foot long petrified log that spans a gully at Agate Mesa to form a bridge.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest

Jasper Forest

The Jasper Forest offers breathtaking views of the landscape of petrified wood. Take to the scenic overview and observation platform to take it in. More serious hikers can take a 2.5 mile off-trail hike on an old abandoned 1930s road.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest

Crystal Forest

Crystal Forest is one of the most popular areas of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. The easy .75-mile trail offers one of the best opportunities in the park to get up close to the petrified wood deposits. Walk among the remains of an ancient forest where millions of years of natural forces buried trees in mud and volcanic ash, leaving behind the fossilized remains you can see today. The Crystal Forest offers one of the best opportunities to see a concentrated collection of petrified wood deposits in one place. The fossilized trees and petrified wood in the area boast an unusually high concentration of quartz and amethyst crystals. In fact, the name “Crystal Forest” same from the sparkling quartz and purple amethyst crystals that developed on the logs as the trees petrified.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Rainbow Forest Museum

Rainbow Forest Museum

The Rainbow Forest Museum serves as a visitor’s center, museum, and gift shop. It offers information about the park along with an informative film, paleontology exhibits, fossils and artifacts on display, and souvenirs. The .4-mile Giant Logs Trail also starts here.

Long Logs and Agate House

Together the Long Logs and Agate House trails make a 2.6-mile round-trip hike full of petrified tree trunks and wood, badlands formations, and even a house made of petrified wood. The Long Logs Trail is a 1.6-mile loop that goes through a Triassic-period log jam and petrified wood that reaches up to 100-feet long. The Agate House Trail leads to a multi-room pueblo made of petrified wood that dates back around 700 years.

More Photos of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Inn
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Overlooks
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Painted Desert Overlooks
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Route 66 Alignment
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Newspaper Rock
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Newspaper Rock
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Newspaper Rock
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Newspaper Rock
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Blue Mesa
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Jasper Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Crystal Forest
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona - Rainbow Forest Museum

Plan Your Visit to Petrified Forest National Park

Plan your visit to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Here are some things to know before you go, directions, places to stay, and more things to see on your road trip!

Things to Know Before You Go

Planning a visit to Petrified Forest National Park? Here are some things to know before you go:

  • All items in the park are protected. Collecting items and objects other than photographs and things sold in the gift show is prohibited. This includes petrified wood, fossils, rocks, soil, plants, pottery shards, arrowheads, petroglyphs, feathers, and grass. If you witness resource theft in the park please call 928-524-6025 and provide a description.
  • There is a gas station at the Painted Desert Visitor Center if you need to fuel up before driving through the park.
  • Painted Desert Diner is open 8am-3pm daily for meals. Grab-and-go options are available at the Rainbow Forest Museum.
  • Bicycles are permitted on paved roads.
  • Pets are welcome. Do not leave them unattended in the car. Pets are allowed on trails as long as they are leashed and picked up after.
  • Don’t forget to use sunblock and stay hydrated.

How to Get to Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is located between Interstate 40 and Highway 180. There are two entrances and exits with visitors centers: The Painted Desert Visitor Center at the north entrance and the Rainbow Forest Museum at the south entrance. Here’s how to get to Petrified Forest National Park:

  • Westbound I-40: take exit 311, drive 28 miles through the park. Make a right turn at HWY-180 intersection for 18 miles to return to I-40 via Holbrook.
  • Eastbound I-40: take exit 285 into Holbrook. Follow signs through town to HWY-180. Travel 18 miles east on HWY-180 then turn left at the park’s southern entrance. Drive 28 miles north through the park to return to I-40.
  • Northbound: follow the eastbound route to reach HWY-191 North.
  • Southbound HWY-77: enter either side to return to Holbrook before heading south.

Where to Stay Near Petrified Forest National Park

There are no hotels, motels, or RV setups inside the Petrified Forest National Park so you most likely will need to book a room in a neighboring town, like Holbrook, Arizona; Winslow, Arizona; or Gallup, New Mexico. Check out some of our favorite Route 66 motels:

Vintage Cars at Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona - Route 66 Motel - Wigwam Village Motel #6

Wigwam Motel

“Have you slept in a Wigwam lately?” This iconic Route 66 motel has been attracting travelers from the road with its unusual architecture since 1950. Spend the night at the Wigwam Motel. Also known as Wigwam Village No. 6.

Located about 20 miles away in Holbrook, Arizona

La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona

La Posada Hotel

La Posada Hotel stands as a testament to a bygone era of train travel and artistic ingenuity. Its walls whisper tales of a visionary trio — Fred Harvey, the restaurateur who tamed the wild west with fine dining, Mary Colter, the architect who breathed life into Southwestern landscapes, and La Posada itself, the “resting place” that embodied their dreams.

Located about 60 miles away in Winslow, Arizona.

Historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico - Route 66 Hotel

Historic El Rancho Hotel

“Charm of Yesterday, Convenience of Tomorrow.” Experience both when you book a room in a classic Route 66 motel that has been attracting travelers, and celebrities, since the 1930s: El Rancho Hotel.

Located about 74 miles away in Gallup, New Mexico.

Camping inside the park in limited to the Wilderness Area. There are no designated camping sites and you must obtain a camping permit at the Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum.

Book Your Road Trip

Whether you’re traveling from out of town specifically to explore the Petrified Forest National Park, road-tripping Arizona, or taking a cross-country Route 66 adventure, you’ll want to do some planning ahead. Here are some ways to plan your road trip to the Petrified Forest National Park:

Attractions Near Petrified Forest National Park

If you’re taking a Route 66 road trip through Arizona or just looking for something to do after visiting Petrified Forest National Park, there are plenty of fun things in the area to explore! Here are some recommendations on what to do next:

Petrified Forest National Park

Address: Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028
Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm MST (Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings)
Fees: $25 (Private Vehicle), $15 (Per Person), $20 (Motorcycle)
Annual Park Pass or America The Beautiful Pass accepted.

Pin this Arizona attraction to save for your road trip itinerary:

Imagine a land where ancient trees stand tall, not as vibrant giants reaching for the sun, but as silent sentinels of stone, their once-living forms immortalized in colorful minerals. This is the magic of Petrified Forest National Park, a breathtaking expanse in northeastern Arizona where time has woven a tapestry of stunning geologic wonders. Plan your visit to Petrified Forest National Park on Arizona Route 66. #NationalPark #PetrifiedForestNationalPark #RoadTrip #Arizona #ArizonaRoadTrip
Imagine a land where ancient trees stand tall, not as vibrant giants reaching for the sun, but as silent sentinels of stone, their once-living forms immortalized in colorful minerals. This is the magic of Petrified Forest National Park, a breathtaking expanse in northeastern Arizona where time has woven a tapestry of stunning geologic wonders. Plan your visit to Petrified Forest National Park on Arizona Route 66. #NationalPark #PetrifiedForestNationalPark #RoadTrip #Arizona #ArizonaRoadTrip

Valerie Bromann

Founder & ROad Trip Expert

Valerie Bromann is a a website manager, content creator, and writer from Chicago, Illinois (currently living in Dallas, Texas). As an avid road tripper who has visited hundreds of roadside attractions, Val always pull over for a world’s largest thing. Founder of Silly America and author of The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book, she visits, photographs, and writes about all the weird tourist destinations she visits and offers road trip planning advice and inspiration based on her own travels so you can hit the road for yourself.

World's Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois roadside attraction

Follow Valerie & Silly America

Plan Your Road Trip

Last modified: January 30, 2024
Category: , , ,

Share this Post ⤵

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book - Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip! By Valerie Bromann

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book

Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip!

BY Valerie Bromann

Enjoy fun games and challenges to pass the time on your next road trip and have a keepsake to look back on for years to come with this entertaining must-have for your next vacation.

The road trip you’ve been dreaming of starts here! Journal about your stops and get to know your fellow passengers with activities and exercises designed to pass the time and bring you closer together. Instead of “Are we there yet?” you’ll find yourself asking, “We’re there already?”. Complete with prompts you can turn to while driving between locations, this journal will one day be a memento of your life-changing trip.