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More than 200 million years ago in modern-day Arizona, logs washed into a river and were buried by debris and left to decay at a very slow rate. This is the site of Petrified Forest National Park, a fascinating natural area made up of solid quartz and glowing in a rainbow of colors. Whether you have an interest in geology or just love hiking through beautiful places, this is definitely a destination to add to your Arizona travel bucket list.
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Come here to off the beaten path and find your own personal adventure. There are some suggested routes to follow, but few designated trails, so feel free wander at your own pace. Some recommended routes are the three-mile Billings Gap Overlook Hike, the 1.5-mile Blue Forest Hike, and the 8.5-mile Red Basin/Clam Beds Hike.
For backpacking, you can obtain a free backcountry permit for the wilderness area at the visitor center or the Rainbow Forest Museum. Biking and horseback riding are also popular activities in the park. The main park road is 28 miles long with lots of viewpoints, so it’s also easy to do a scenic driving tour of the Petrified Forest and just get out of the car for quick stops.
If you’re looking to see some wildflowers at Petrified National Park, the best months to visit are May, July, and August. But for a really unique experience, consider visiting the park in the winter to potentially see snow on the petrified logs and enjoy many of the hiking areas all to yourself.
For travelers in RVs, even ones with tow vehicles, you can park on the roads and parking areas except for Agate Bridge and Pintado Point. However, there is no campground at this park, and overnight camping is not allowed. You can obtain a free permit to backcountry camp in the park though.
This is a favorite park among pet lovers because unlike many national parks, dogs are allowed here as long as they’re on a leash, picked up after, and under control. This national park draws in about 645,000 visitors per year, and the park is open year-around from 8am to 5pm. A seven-day pass for vehicles is $20, and it’s just $10 for motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians who enter the park.
Guided tours are offered throughout the year to help you learn more about how this ancient wood has turned into stone and to stay safe out there on the trails. Always be mindful that weather at Petrified Forest National Park can be both very hot and very cold, so check the forecast before your trip and carry a gallon of water per person each day during the summer.
Petrified Forest National Park Information
Address: 1 Park Road, #2217, Petrified Forest, Arizona 86028