Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Shaka Guide's Petrified National Forest Itinerary


Petrified Forest National Park is deceptive. You drive through hours of flat, featureless desert to get there expecting to find nothing but petrified wood, but end up discovering so much more.

Maybe this is why Petrified Forest is one of the best under-the-radar national parks in the country, a real hidden gem.

In one small park, you’ll find:

  • Painted Desert vistas
  • Ancestral Puebloan ruins and petroglyphs
  • Route 66 history
  • badlands that look like another planet
  • and of course fossilized tree trunks from over 200 million years ago.

petrified forest national park tour map

The park is straightforward, with a north and a south entrance and one road connecting the two.

We’ve got 19 stops on our tour.

Expect to spend 3-4 hours exploring, unless you plan on doing several hikes, in which case you could spend most of the day here.

A full day is a pretty comprehensive exploration of Petrified Forest.

The tour begins in Holbrook, AZ. We’ll guide you through the park and back with stories along the way. 

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1. Route 66 Gift Shops

outside of the road

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Get in the Route 66 mindset with these two old-fashioned gift shops with local handiworks, petrified wood souvenirs, and tacky dinosaur statues greeting customers out front.

Painted Desert Indian Center specializes in crafts from local artists while Stewart’s Petrified Wood shop specializes in petrified wood products.

Any relevant entry fees/requirements: N/A

2. Painted Desert Visitor Center

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Ask rangers questions about the park, grab detailed maps for ‘off the beaten path’ trails, and browse the gift shop at the park’s northern entrance visitor center.

Grab lunch at the Painted Desert Diner, the only place to eat a meal in the park.

The adjacent gas station is the only gas available in the park.

3. Tiponi Point

pianted desert overlook

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

This overlook is your first glimpse of the Painted Desert coming in from the north, with the colorful hills below you and a vast horizon beyond facing the east.

Any relevant entry fees/requirements: Tiponi Point is the first stop after the north entrance booth for Petrified Forest National Park.

The entrance fee for the park is $25 per vehicle, which is good for seven days.

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4. Tawa Point

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Stand nearly surrounded by the Painted Desert below from this overlook point.

The easy Painted Desert Rim trail leaves from the overlook and takes you to the next overlook: Kachina Point.

The hike is one mile, round trip. If you hike the trail, expect to spend a total of about 30 minutes here.

5. Kachina Point/Painted Desert Inn

painted desert at sunset

Approximate Time: 30-60 minutes

Another fabulous view of the Painted Desert, this stop is also home to the Painted Desert Inn, a Route 66 hotel featuring interior design work by Mary Jane Colter and murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

You can also take the easy Painted Desert Rim Trail from the parking lot to the nearby Tawa Point. The hike is one mile, round trip.

6. Chinde Point Picnic Area

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

This lookout faces the Painted Desert to the north for an expansive, unobstructed view. A semi-circle of covered picnic tables is the only picnic area outside of the visitor centers.

7. Pintado Point

painted desert overlook

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Now you’re facing the Painted Desert to the west! From this overlook on a clear day, you can see over 100 miles away including the San Francisco Peaks by Flagstaff, AZ.

8. Nizhoni/ Whipple/ Lacey Points

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

These three overlooks are close to each other and offer another expansive view of the Painted Desert, though you may find the previous lookouts more colorful.

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9. Route 66 Marker

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Petrified Forest is the only national park along Route 66. A 1932 Studebaker marks the spot where the road once crossed through the park. 

10. Puerco Pueblo

old brick house

Approximate Time:15-30 minutes

The Ancestral Puebloans built this pueblo with more than 100 rooms over 700 years ago.

The ruins are accessible along an easy paved path, which also passes some easily spotted petroglyphs left by the original inhabitants. 

11. Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Generation after generation of Ancestral Puebloans left over 650 petroglyphs on these giant boulders.

The petroglyphs are a little far away, visible from an overlook and a set of binoculars, but visible without assistance.

12. The Tepees

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

The terrain in Petrified Forest transitions to an alien landscape of gray and blue badlands.

Within this landscape are The Tepees, a set of conical, banded hills that resemble tepees.

The south pullout for The Tepees is the trailhead for the Blue Forest Trail, moderately difficult and 3 miles out and back through stunningly spartan badlands.

This is one of the park’s unmaintained ‘off the beaten path’ trails.

Make sure to grab a map with pictures from the visitor center!

If you decide to hike, then expect to spend more than an hour here.

There are some narrow sections and steep drop-offs as you climb higher, and the trail may be slippery when wet.

13. Blue Mesa Pull-offs

white mountains

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

The Blue Mesa is one of the most beautiful parts of the park, with more opportunities to discover the strange, eroded badlands.

Atop the Blue Mesa, the road splits and becomes a one-way loop.

Stop at the first pull-offs for a glimpse of the badlands, and the first petrified wood deposit you see coming from the north.

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14. Blue Mesa Trailhead

Approximate Time: 30-60 minutes

The 1-mile Blue Mesa trail is the most accessible way to immerse yourself in the otherworldly badlands of the Blue Mesa.

There is a steep descent, but the trail is paved and mostly flat once you reach the bottom.

An additional lookout about 1,000 feet further down the road from the trailhead allows visitors who aren’t up for a hike to gaze into the Blue Mesa and the petrified wood deposit below.

15. Agate Bridge

old log bridge

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

This 100-ft-long petrified log sits on top of a small chasm, forming a bridge.

When the park opened, visitors could stand on top of it!

Today, the log is off-limits and supported by concrete, but this is a quick, easy stop for an impressively long piece of petrified wood. 

16. Jasper Forest

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

An overlook sits over a desert plain with a dense petrified wood deposit below.

Want a closer look? Another ‘off the beaten path’ trail leads from the right of the parking lot down to the deposit following a well-worn path to the wash.

Then it’s just you and the petrified wood–a truly astonishing and bizarre landscape. 

17. Crystal Forest

petrified log on daylight

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

This paved loop is under a mile long, making this one of the most accessible places to walk among petrified wood in the park.

The path is wheelchair and stroller-friendly, though there are some minor ups and downs as you go.

18. Rainbow Forest Museum & the Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails

Approximate Time: 60-90 minutes

The Rainbow Forest Museum highlights the park’s fossil discoveries from the Triassic Period.

You can also shop for petrified wood and other gifts at the shop across the street.

Behind the Rainbow Forest Museum is the entrance to the Giant Logs Trail, a half-mile unpaved loop that passes some of the largest petrified wood in the park.

Across the bridge from all of this is the trailhead to the Long Logs and Agate House trails, a combined 2.6 miles round trip.

Long Logs takes hikers to another petrified wood deposit with a dramatic badlands backdrop.

Agate House leads to a reconstruction of a pueblo built with petrified wood. 

Any relevant entry fees/requirements: This is the first stop after the south entrance booth for Petrified Forest National Park. The entrance fee for the park is $25 per vehicle, which is good for seven days.

19. Petrified Wood Gift Shops

petrified forest log

Approximate Time: Under 15 minutes

Just south of the park’s borders are two gift shops: Petrified Forest Gift Shop and Crystal Forest Museum and Gifts.

These private stores focus on last-minute petrified wood souvenirs that you put off within the park.

They also feature Route 66-style dinosaur statues out front.

Final Thoughts

These stops will give you the full Petrified Forest experience, but future travelers depend on you to keep it that way.

Removing petrified wood from the park is not only a federal offense, it devalues the park’s scenic beauty and scientific merit.

Let’s leave petrified wood where we find it, and save the souvenirs for the gift shop.

Protecting the environment, preserving special places for future generations, and supporting local businesses, that’s how we travel responsibly–the Shaka Guide way!

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Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Petrified Forest National Park Tour!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Ready to explore the Petrified Forest National Park with Shaka Guide? Check out everything you need to know before you go here! 


The Ultimate Petrified Forest National Park Travel Guide

Top 8 Hikes in Petrified Forest National Park

8 Can't Miss Things to Do in Petrified Forest National Park

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