Don’t let a rushed schedule keep you from visiting Petrified Forest National Park. You can see most of the park’s main attractions in a day or less, with the bulk of them located off of the 28-mile main road. Plan a secondary destination along the way to help pad out the day. Meteor Crater is about an hour west of the park and makes for an interesting side trip.
The NPS prohibits any petrified wood from being taken from the park, but I saw a couple of people surreptitiously slip pieces into their pockets. Please don’t do this. If you’re desperate to have a petrified souvenir, you can buy harvested pieces from surrounding private land at the various gift shops.
None of the main hikes are more than 1 to 2 miles long, with several being a short stroll from the parking lot. Most are paved, making them easy to traverse. The half-mile Giant Logs and 1.6-mile Long Logs loops at the southern entrance to the park are great introductions to the park. The petrified wood is remnant of when the harsh landscape was a lush rainforest millions of years ago.
The 1-mile Blue Mesa trail has a similar landscape to the Dakota Badlands, surrounded by multicolored sandstone. There’s a somewhat steep section heading down to the loop trail, but most walkers should be able to manage it with no issues.
Newspaper Rock is covered in hundreds of petroglyphs, some believed to be more than 2,000 years old. The Puerco Pueblo Trail takes visitors around the remnants of homes ancient Puebloans built and occupied from 1250 to 1380.
How to Get There By RV
State Route 180 runs along the southern entrance of the park, while U.S. Route 40 passes by the north entrance. The park is perfect for large RVs, with no tight areas or tunnels.
Where to Stay
Petrified National Park is, for the most part, for day-use only, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s no RV camping in the park, but you can find plenty of options within a short drive. The closest is the Crystal Forest Gift Shop and Campground, which offers free dry camping—you can also get an electric hookup for a small fee. Each site has a picnic table, and several have ramadas.
If you need full hookups, the Holbrook Petrified Forest KOA will likely be your best bet. Expect the standard amenities in this clean, albeit dated, campground.