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. For visitors who are interested in seeing an ancient landscape, it's worth the 3-hour drive from Grand Canyon National Park.
To tour the park by car, it 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, walk the Giant Logs Trail, the Puerco Pueblo Trail and spend a little time at the Painted Desert Inn Museum.
Petrified Forest's Two Secrets
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 pet.
You can bring your pet 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.
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 through Winslow, made famous by the Eagles song Take It Easy, to Exit 303, Adamana Road.