The wonder of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in Arizona

Il Petrified Forest National Park (Petrified Forest National Park) is a park in Arizona, located in the central-eastern part of the state. It is located about 32 kilometers east of the city of Holbrook, close to the border with the New Mexico.

This is a very interesting park, even if it does not top the list of the most famous parks in America. The park of the Petrified Forest incorporates a potpourri of disparate elements, and in just 45 km of travel allows you to admire a singular scenery.

The northern part of the park is formed by the Painted Desert, Painted Desert, which offers spectacular views. In addition, the park houses remains of the Route 66, an archaeological site with ruins dating back to prehistoric times and finally the petrified remains of giant trees, dating back several million years. In other words, visiting the park is a journey back in time.

What to see in the Petrified Forest National Park

A 28-mile long road runs through Petrified Forest National Park, from Exit 311 of I-40 in the north to US 180 in the south. The surroundings are mostly grasslands, and the nearest town is Holbrook, 26 miles west. The visitor center is at the north end and there is a small museum at the south entrance.

The northern part of the park - the Painted Desert

In the north, the first miles of the road wind along the edge of a mesa overlooking the Painted Desert, with over 8 viewpoints from which to admire its wavy and multicolored landscape. If you choose to start from the north entrance, your first stop will be the Painted Desert Visitor Center.

Here you will find a restaurant, a gas station (very important), a gift shop and a mini market to stock up on bottled water, sunscreen, etc. Then you simply have to follow the park road which is 28 miles long, plus a 3,5 mile ride that will take you to Blue Mesa.


The observation points that allow you to admire the northern part of the park, which overlooks the painted desert, are Tiponi, Tawa, Kachina, Chinde, Pintado, Nizhoni, Whipple and Lacey Points.

It is in Katchina Point that is the Painted Desert Inn, now a museum, but at the time it was a hostel that welcomed travelers who walked the legendary Route 66. The hostel offers a fantastic view of the Painted Desert.

The park boundaries have been expanded twice to include a large desert area to the north, and while there are no maintained trails in this area, off-piste and back-country hikes are allowed.

The main destination to reach with excursions is the Black Forest, which has large amounts of petrified wood, darker in color than other places, and features many complete trunks, along with gullies and beautiful rock formations.

Another accessible destination (free permit required) is the Devils playground, an area of ​​badlands and hoodoos (pinnacles of rock) near the western edge of the park, accessible from I-40, exit 303, and can be explored on a partial 7-mile hike.

Petrified Forest National Park - Southern Part

After the last view of the Painted Desert (Lacey point), the park road turns south and crosses Interstate 40. The first point of interest in this area is an Indian ruin: Puerco Pueblo, which can be visited via a 0,3-mile loop trail, and is just one of more than 500 archaeological sites within the park.

Another interesting point of the park is the Newspaper Rock, a sandstone spur bearing hundreds of petroglyphs created by ancestral peoples who lived along the Puerco River between 650 and 2.000 years ago.

There are other petroglyphs along a short side section near the south edge of the park, but the main places to see in this part of the park are the petrified trees. Pieces of petrified trees, exposed to the elements, have slipped along the walls of the Blue Mesa, which offers an almost lunar landscape and which can be explored along a path of just over 2 km.

Sediment deposits, lava from the surrounding volcanoes and erosion have formed this unique scenario, now located at an altitude of 1500m. Gray, blue, mauve: the layers of the Blue Mesa owe their striking colors to iron, carbon, manganese and other minerals exposed to erosion.


Another place worth a detour is Jasper Forest, is the largest accumulation of petrified wood in the park. As erosion swept the hills around the valley, the logs fell and piled up. Crystal Forest, Long Logs, Agate House e Giant Logs are hiking trails that will make you discover fabulous landscapes. Allow 2 to 4 hours for a fairly comprehensive visit.

Unusually for a national park, there are no extensive routes in the area, only short routes close to the road which make the visit much easier.

How to get to the Petrified Forest?

Il Petrified Forest National Park has 2 entrances: one to the north (north entrance) on Interstate 40 and the other to the south on Highway 180. Visitors can enter the park through one entrance and exit through the other. The closest city to the park is Holbrook. This is where the hotels to stay for visiting the park are located. The site is 170 km east of Flagstaff (Arizona).

The road through the park is 45 kilometers long, and it is possible to add about another 6 kilometers of the Blue Mesa circular route. The visit of the park generally lasts from 2 to 4 hours. Along the way, you can take several paths to admire the rock and geological formations of the park.

Arrive by car

Coming from Phoenix, you can take 2 ways. Take Interstate 17 North and 40 East through Flagstaff (417 km). Or, take Highway 87 North to Payson, Highway 260 East to Heber, Highway 377 North to Holbrook, and Highway 180 South to the park (346 km). Coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico, take Interstate 40 West to Exit 311 (328 km).

Arrive by plane

The nearest airports are Phoenix (Arizona) e Albuquerque (New Mexico).

Other useful information

Schedule: The park is open all year from 8:00 to 17:00. It is closed on Christmas Day.

tickets: The entrance ticket is valid for 7 days and costs $ 20,00 per vehicle, $ 10,00 per person for visitors without a vehicle (on foot or by bicycle) and $ 15,00 for those entering by motorbike.

Where to sleep near the Petrified Forest

The park has no hotels, campsites or other types of accommodation to stay overnight. You can find a place to stay in one of the towns near the park.

Where sleeping in Holbrook
Where to sleep in Flagstaff

campground - Partly to protect natural resources, there are no campsites developed in the Petrified Forest National Park; the only camping allowed inside the park is for backpackers in the wilderness of the Painted Desert / Black Forest, north of the Interstate.

Climate of the Petrified Forest National Park

The climate of the Petrified Forest National Park is desert, but remains highly variable throughout the year. The summer they are hot with several thunderstorms between July and September. Average maximum temperatures are above 32 ° C between June and August.

Due to the altitude (over 1.500 meters above sea level), the winters they can be quite cold and sometimes snowy. Average minimum temperatures are negative between November and March.

The intermediate seasons, spring and autumn, they can be hot or cold, with sudden changes in the weather throughout the day. Average annual rainfall is slightly above 200 mm.

The wonder of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in Arizona
The Petrified Forest National Park - The Painted Desert -
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