For visitors who are interested in seeing an ancient landscape, it’s worth the 3-hour drive from Grand Canyon National Park to visit Petrified Forest National Park. Home to fossils older than 200 million years, and some of the largest and most beautiful concentrations of petrified wood, “painted desert” badlands, archeological sites and historic structures, Petrified Forest National Park is a very unique national park.
Touring the park by car without stopping will take about 45 minutes. Plan at least an hour to adequately take in the sights of the ancient forests and sites. If possible, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Also plan on taking in the sights at Kachina Point, drive the Blue Mesa Road and stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum.
If you have more time and want to experience this unique park at a deeper level, go on a hike. The Puerco Pueblo Trail is paved and goes to the remains of a 100-room pueblo. Giant Logs Trail is another favorite to see petrified wood. Be sure to spend a little time at the Painted Desert Inn Museum as well.
What is Special About the Petrified Forest?
At Petrified Forest National Park, you’ll discover two things you may not find at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: solitude and a warm welcome for your dog.
You can bring your dog anywhere, except the park’s buildings, making it one of the most animal-friendly locations in the park system. Rangers like to point out that even the park’s name begins with the word “Pet.”
It’s also one of the least crowded national parks. And with the new addition of backcountry hiking areas like Martha’s Butte (no one recalls who Martha actually was) and Red Basin, you can route-find on your own or go on a guided ranger hike. The 2-mile out-and-back Martha’s Butte hike leads you to a stunning solar-marker petroglyph that gets covered exactly in half by shadow during the summer solstice. At Red Basin, you’ll find petrified wood, petroglyphs and vibrant badlands formations.
Can You Take Rocks from Petrified Forest?
You are not supposed to remove (or even move) rocks, petrified wood or other natural elements from the national park. In some locations, you may touch the wood but leave it lie where it’s been resting for over 200 million years. Many have regretted a lapse in judgement and returned stolen rocks to the park where they end up in the “conscience pile.” If you really want a fossil or piece of petrified wood, there are legal gift shops outside of the park where such treasures cost just a few dollars.
Getting to Petrified Forest National Park from the Grand Canyon
It’s a three-hour drive to the park from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Take Hwy. 180 to Flagstaff, a fun university town. Then travel I-40 east with stops at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center and Winslow, made famous by the Eagles song Take It Easy, to Exit 303, Adamana Road.
For more information about Petrified Forest National Park, visit www.nps.gov/pefo/.