Petrified Forest National Park is known for its prehistoric tree trunks, which time and chemistry have transformed into quartz. But petrified wood isn't the only draw. The national park is a wilderness of red sandstone domes and valleys. Spot Triassic-era fossils, Puebloan ruins, dunes of volcanic ash, and unique rock formations in this otherworldly desert playground.
Petrified Forest National Park is in eastern Arizona, about two hours east of Flagstaff by car. There's no shuttle system or public transportation into the park, so you will need a vehicle or a bicycle to get around. Bikes are allowed only on paved roads, with a few exceptions.
There are no campgrounds within the national park, but you can backcountry camp a mile or more from parking lots and roads as long as you secure a free backcountry permit first. There are several private campgrounds in the area, like the KOA in nearby Holbrook, Arizona.
Hiking Off-trail hiking is permitted throughout much of the Petrified Forest National Park, as long as you hike on durable surfaces like rock. (Avoid stepping on vegetation or fragile desert soils.) Walk through purple-tinted badlands on and near the Blue Forest Trail, or head to the Red Basin to wander through hoodoos and rock formations carved with petroglyphs.
The park also contains a number of great designated trails. One of the most popular: the 2.2-mile linkup of the Long Logs and Agate House Trails. The out-and-back takes you through both a forest of petrified logs and past a Puebloan dwelling made of petrified wood.
When to Go
The national park is open year-round, but the arid, high elevation environment is conducive to extreme temperatures. Winter nights can drop below freezing, and summer days can top 100°F. Come in fall or spring for the most moderate conditions.
You'll need either a day pass, a Petrified Forest annual pass, or a nationwide America the Beautiful parks pass to access the park. Pricing is available on the national park website.
Backpacking permits are free, and can be obtained from the visitor center or the Rainbow Forest Museum.