A trip to the Petrified Forest National Park was a last minute decision for us. We knew it was going to be about a 2.5-3 hour ride each way from Cottonwood Arizona but we figured with an early start we could have plenty of time at the park. This park had not been high on our “must see list”. We had seen a “petrified tree” when we were at Yellowstone National Park a few years ago and it was less than remarkable. We did not have high expectations for this park because of this.
We were up early and on our way. We had one side trip along the way we wanted to take. We planned on pulling off of I-40 in Winslow, Arizona for a picture at “the corner”. A spot made famous by the Eagles. This is a very easy side trip from I-40. The corner has a statue of a man standing on the corner and a Flatbed Ford truck on the side of the street. In addition to this there is a mural painted to look like a reflection in a store window. The mural is of a girl driving by in a flatbed ford. The corner is on route 66 in a very quaint town. This is also a great place to stock up on food before reaching the national park.
We found the best way to see the park is to take the first east bound exit for the Petrified Forest. This brings you to the road that leads through the park and you end up further east on I-40 at the other end of the park. This way you do not repeat any of the park and you can hop back on I-40 very easily.
The beginning of the park (southern end) is where the majority of the petrified wood is. I expected to see a few pieces of petrified wood. I was absolutely amazed at how much and how widely scattered the petrified wood is. It was a very impressive site. The other great thing about this park is it’s dog friendly. They say they even have the word “pet” in their name. Gizmo was able to hike all the trails with us. There are several great small hikes in the park that are paved, and you can rack up quite a few miles if you explore them all. We took the “Long Logs”, “Giant Logs” and “Crystal Forest” trails to see the petrified wood. I would recommend all of these. The Crystal forest trail has great views of the surrounding area as well as some of the prettiest pieces of petrified wood.
The highlight of the park for me was the Blue Mesa area and the trail that leads down into the Blue Mesa. I had no idea that the land surrounding the Petrified Forest would be so picturesque. The trail at Blue Mesa is just a 1-mile loop trail, but for me it ranked up there with one of the most scenic national park trails I have ever taken. The trail leads you very quickly/steeply down into the Blue Mesa and then winds you through the area before leading back up. The blue in the mesa is very unusual and I found it very striking.
The final ride out of the park leads you to some scenic overlooks that have widespread views. The whole day took us about 6-hours including pulling into all the scenic overlooks and taking the hikes mentioned. I think a 6-8 hour day is what is needed to get a good overview of this park.
We were both really glad that we had decided to make this trip. It ended up being one of my favorite days of the 6-month journey. It is definitely a place I would return to if I were in the area.