The Petrified Forest National Park was once a swampy forest, but is now a scrubland desert with quartz-wrapped logs from 225 million years ago.
Visiting Petrified Forest National Park is like taking a step back in time, you won’t believe the stunning natural beauty that awaits at this park. You will be treated to the uniquely gorgeous hill of Painted Desert and the fascinating petrified trees that date back hundreds of millions of years. Believe it or not, these trees fell and became petrified or mineralized before the dinosaurs roamed the earth!
What Is Petrified Wood?
One of the things that makes Petrified Forest National Park truly unique is that these petrified trees are 225 million years old. This area, that now encompasses the National Park, was part of the massive supercontinent of Pangea. After these massive trees fell they were buried in a river channel.
So how do trees become petrified? Well, the river water mineralizes slowly from crystal quartz. After tectonic movement nearly 60 million years ago, the petrified trees were unearthed. Take a close look at the trees and you will notice beautifully colorful quartz crystals within.
It’s important that visitors to the park do not disturb the petrified wood. Do not try to take petrified wood from the park, it’s illegal! If you want to take some home with you after visiting the National Park check out the local wood shops in Holbrook. This petrified wood is taken from private land and is therefore legal to purchase.
Places to Stay When Visiting Petrified Forest
There are no campgrounds or lodging inside the park. In fact, you must be out of the park by 5pm if you don’t have a backcountry camping permit.
We think Holbrook, NM is the best spot to spend the night, but Winslow is a decent option as well. If you didn’t want to spend the night here, you can always visit the park, then go farther west to Flagstaff, which has much more hotels, Airbnbs, and restaurants. Here are some distances from nearby cities to the main visitor center in the park:
- Chambers, AZ (23 miles)
- Holbrook, AZ (26 miles)
- Houck, AZ (37 miles)
- St Johns, AZ (67 miles)
- Flagstaff, AZ (116 miles)
VISIT Petrified Forest National Park:
Petrified Forest National Park was established on December 8, 1906, and has a total area of 221,416 acres (346 square miles, or 896 square kilometers).
|Address||1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ, 86028|
|Hours||Park hours are 8am to 5pm, daily. You must leave the park by 5pm.|
|Entrance Fee||$25 per vehicle; Valid for 7 days|
|Learn More||Official Website|
When to Visit: Weather vs. Peak Visitation
Petrified Forest National Park is the 116th most visited park in the country.
We crunched 30 years of historical weather and/or park service data to find the best months to visit Petrified Forest National Park. We looked for the optimal temperatures, the least amount of snow and rain, and stayed away from peak visitation months if we could help it. All this data then helped us paint a picture as to what the absolute best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park is.
Our data shows the best months to visit Petrified Forest National Park are October, April, May & June.
Petrified Forest National Park Road Trips
Many family vacations consist of stringing one or more national parks together during a week-long trip. Creating these types of trips is our specialty! Here are the road trips we've created where Petrified Forest National Park is visited.
|Trip Name||Trip Miles||Trip Days|
|Route 66 National Park Road Trip||2,300||13|
|Organ Pipe, Saguaro, Gila, Petrified Forest to Sedona||905||8|
Other Nearby National Park Sites
From national monuments, to historic sites to seashores and more, here are the other parks closest to Petrified Forest National Park.
|Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site||46 mi|
|Canyon De Chelly National Monument||76 mi|
|El Morro National Monument||82 mi|
|Wupatki National Monument||95 mi|
|Walnut Canyon National Monument||96 mi|
|Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument||98 mi|
|El Malpais National Monument||100 mi|
|Navajo National Monument||117 mi|
|Montezuma Castle National Monument||120 mi|
|Chaco Culture National Historical Park||123 mi|
Nearby Campsites & RV Parks
If you are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV at a campsite near Petrified Forest National Park, here is a list of the closest campsites in the surrounding area. They all have slightly different amenitites, so its best to check them all out instead of just chosing the first on the list.
Nearest Ski Resorts
For those of you who are the diehard outdoors type, visiting a national park on a ski trip can be quite the adventure. Here are the ski resorts within 100 miles of Petrified Forest National Park:
|Sunrise Park||Greer, AZ||11,100 ft||44%||75 mi|
When visiting a National park, many people are faced with either a very long drive across country, or a much shorter flight. For those of you looking to fly into Petrified Forest National Park, we've listed the closest airports in the area.
A large airport has scheduled major airline service with millions of passengers per year. This type of airport always accepts international flights. Here are the closest large airports to Petrified Forest National Park.
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport||PHX||Phoenix, AZ||170 mi|
|Lake Havasu City International Airport||LHS||Lake Havasu City, AZ||254 mi|
|Harry Reid International Airport||LAS||Las Vegas, NV||308 mi|
|Salt Lake City International Airport||SLC||Salt Lake City, UT||411 mi|
|Denver International Airport||DEN||Denver, CO||433 mi|
A medium-sized airport has scheduled regional airline service. This type of airport may or may not accept international flights. Here are the closest medium-sized airports to Petrified Forest National Park.
|Flagstaff Pulliam International Airport||FLG||Flagstaff, AZ||105 mi|
|Grand Canyon National Park Airport||GCN||Grand Canyon - Tusayan, AZ||144 mi|
|Prescott International Airport - Ernest A. Love Field||PRC||Prescott, AZ||151 mi|
|Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport||AZA||Mesa, AZ||162 mi|
|Albuquerque International Sunport||ABQ||Albuquerque, NM||181 mi|
|Durango-La Plata County Airport||DRO||Durango, CO||183 mi|
|Tuscon International Airport||TUS||Tuscon, AZ||215 mi|
Credits: Campground data provided by USCampgrounds.info. Map shapes from CartographyVectors. Weather data from NOAA. Airport data from OurAirports.com. Images from Unsplash, Flickr and Parks&Trips. All data has also been updated and augmented by Parks&Trips.