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Explore / nature / high country

Petrified Forest

2 Cool Lizards travel guide

Petrified Forest National Park is located on the north and south sides of I-40 east of Holbrook, Arizona. The Painted Desert is a wondrous work of nature, and can be seen from Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified wood is actually stone, made from a natural process that has replaced wood with mineral. It is beautiful and unique.

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Puerco Ruin Petrified Forest
From I-40, take exit 311 and go north to the Visitor's Center to pay fee and collect maps and information. The Visitor's Center also provides a 20 minute movie about the history and geology of the area. The north end of the park provides excellent views of the Painted Desert, which runs from just east of the Grand Canyon southeast to St. Johns, Arizona1. The Crystal Forest, withing the Petrified Forest, contains beautiful pieces of petrified wood.

Fallen logs were buried in silt and volcanic ash and cut off from oxygen; decay was delayed. Silica from ground water seeped into the logs and slowly replaced the wood with silica deposits. Over time the silica crystalized into quartz, forever preserving the logs as petrified wood. The vivid colors of the crystal patterns found in petrified wood are caused by minerals in the silica saturated water 1.

The 28 mile park road loops around to the south and continues on through the park into the petrified forest area and eventually ends at Hwy 180.

The Rainbow Forest Museum is located on the south end of the park and contains exhibits and information on geology, history and paleontology. Rainbow Museum is a "must stop". A 20 minute slide show covers history and geology of the area. View exhibits of fossils including those of dinosaurs. The Rainbow Forest Curios and Fountain offers delicious fountain drinks, ice cream and gifts. A piece of advice: don't order two scoops for your cone unless you are very hungry!

While driving throughout the Petrified Forest park, don't miss the several archeological sites containing remains of old homesteads. People have inhabited the Petrified Forest area for over 13,000 years 1. Petroglyphs can still be seen on rocks (see photos below).

The park offers several picnic areas and hiking trails. To encourage visitors to more thoroughly enjoy the area, new back country trails are available.

For maps and information on hiking and exploring the area, go to:

Puerco Pueblo, located on the park road on the south side of I 40, housed approximately 1,200 people 600-800 years ago1. Take the self guided tour via the short paved trail to view the pueblo remains and petroglyphs. Do not touch the petroglyphs; oils from hands can damage them.

Below: Petroglyphs at Puerco Pueblo. People have inhabited the area for thousands of years; learn about their history and cultures by visiting the visitor's center.

To read the fascinating history of how this area was formed, and the people who have made this area their home, go to:

Looking at the present day terrain it is difficult to imagine that this was once a flood plain, providing a wet environment for conifer trees and animals.

Petrified wood in Crystal Forest. These very colorful petrified pieces once held amethyst and quartz crystals, but the crystals were taken before the area became protected as a national park.

Puerco Ruin. A paved trail winds through the Puerco Ruin and provides views of the surrounding terrain. Petroglyphs can be seen on stones near the pueblo. For more information on the Puerco Ruin, go to:

As in all Arizona travel, take plenty of water and sunscreen. There is not a lot of shade on these trails; so take a wide brimmed hat and a good pair of sun glasses. Respect the area. Don't collect anything and don't leave anything behind.

Information Source
1.  "Petrified Forest." National Park Service: US Department of the Interior

Blue Mesa Petrified Forest
Blue Mesa (left) contains a 1 mile hike down to the floor of the basin, allowing a very close view of petrified wood. This is a strenuous hike on a good trail.

A raven posed for me at the top of the trail so I could take his picture. I took this to be a good omen (photo below center).

Fabulous Reviews Of Nearby Places:
Grand Canyon
Sunset Crater National Monument
Lava River Cave
Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings
Meteor Crater

Rainbow Forest Museum Petrified Forest
Rainbow Museum
Raven Petrified Forest
petroglyphs Petrified Forest


Located east of Flagstaff along Interstate 40. Continue east past Holbrook. Take exit 311 and go north to the Visitor's Center to pay fee and collect maps and information. The south end of the park connects to Hwy 180.


Petrified Forest National Park: maps and information about park activities, fees, etc.

phone: 928-524-6228; website:

accessible travel

accessible trail Painted Desert Inn
Spectacular views can be seen from the road by car both in the Painted Desert area of the park and in the petrified forest area. Puerco Pueblo can be accessed by a paved, accessible trail. Crystal Forest contains a paved, accessible path that allows close access to petrified wood.

The restroom at the visitor's center has a large, wheelchair accessible stall, as do the Painted Desert Inn and Rainbow Forest Museum. There are no family style (private) restrooms.

Fully-trained service animals are permitted in all park facilities, along park trails, and in the wilderness area. A free, braille guide book is available. A new, accessible ramp is being built into the Rainbow Forest Museum (October 2014). For full information on accessibility, go to: .

Left: Painted Desert Inn accessible trail

Visit accessible travel for more information.

travel with children

Petrified Forest
The entire park contains a wealth of information on geology; history of inhabitants and their cultures, and the science behind the unique land. Please - STAY ON TRAILS. For the safety of your children and the environment, keep your children on the paths. Do not allow children to climb on historic rocks containing petroglyphs. In many areas, steep drops along cliff edges are not blocked by barriers - keep children away from the edges. Caution: lightning, high winds and flash floods can occur in summer months.

Restrooms, phones and picnic areas are located throughout the park, such as the Painted Desert Visitor Center, Rainbow Forest Museum, and Painted Desert Inn National History Landmark.

Visit travel with children for more information.

travel with pets

Petrified Forest
NEVER leave a pet unattended in a vehicle - temperatures can be extreme in Arizona. Storms can roll in at any time. ALWAYS clean up after your pet. Take water and food for your pet.

Pets must be leashed at all times and are allowed ONLY on paved park roads. Watch pets carefully; cliff edges without safety barriers exist in many areas.

Per the park website (October 2014) fully-trained service animals are permitted in all park facilities, along park trails, and in the wilderness area. Animals must be leashed and physically restrained at all times.

Visit travel with pets for more information.

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