The Best Hikes in Petrified Forest National Park

173 Triplog Reviews in the Petrified Forest National Park
Most recent of 39 deeper Triplog Reviews
4.83 mi • 487 ft aeg
john and i thought it would be fun to combine this hike with an overnight backpack along the way
got our permit at the visitor center, where they informed us that we had to be on our way by four
what? :o we decided 4:45 would be close enough
currently the park closes at five due to budget constraints, and they want you out of the painted desert inn parking area by then
i found nothing in the park information stating this, only that you had to get your permit an hour before the visitor center closed
didn't spend as much time as we wanted on our first two little hikes, but got up to painted desert inn and had some dinner in the parking lot
rangers came around and checked our permit and we set out soon after
once a mile away from the inn, we dropped our packs and continued to onyx bridge
easy walking in washes and along a pretty well defined trail much of the way
even a cairn to mark the wash exit
took a couple of wrong turns while not watching the track, but those drainages were well worth exploring
found the big log and wandered around a bit
pretty terrain with plenty of larger petrified wood stumps scattered around
a fun destination
eventually went back to our campsite and set up
nice night although quite windy for a couple hours
almost like a nighttime cooling/downslope effect
brilliant star viewing even with a quarter moon
hiked out in the morning and had coffee and breakfast on the painted desert inn patio
there were a few other parties camping, some clearly not a mile away - the rangers must not check
fun experience and a nice hike
glad we did it that way
never hurts to practice backpacking :)

3.3 mi • 314 ft aeg
Petrified Forest National Park
john and i headed for pefo when i got off work saturday morning
stopped at the rainbow forest visitor center to get a permit (more on that later)
had to be at painted desert inn by five, so we did a quick out and back to martha's butte, the one mile blue mesa loop and a brief stop at agate bridge
two very different hikes with unique scenery, petrified wood, petroglyphs and badlands
it would have been nice to have more time for these
my first visit; will have to go back
2.55 mi • 233 ft aeg
Blue Mesa Crystal Forest
After my Onyx Bridge hike, I opted for a few more Petrified Forest "hikes". I did the complete Crystal Forest loop, which is perhaps the least interesting of the designated park stops. I had also considered an exploration of Jasper Forest, but wasn't particularly intrigued by what I saw at the viewpoint.

Blue Mesa on the other hand -- wowsers! Simply one of the most incredible geologic sites I have ever experienced. There's a paved trail that leads through some of the basics here, but like elsewhere in PeFo, you are mostly free to explore off-trail and I made a larger extended loop away from the few tourists who ventured away from their cars. The colors here are incredible, and likely change with the weather and time of day.

This place is worth the price of admission!
7.14 mi • 805 ft aeg
Another new one for me! I hit up Petrified Forest National Park for the first time and decided to venture into the wilderness. I really like that this park has no trails and actually encourages wilderness hikers to explore wherever they want. I had marked a couple of spots on the map and connected the dots while just meandering from one scenic spot to another. The day started cloudy, which made the temperature pleasant, but the colors a little bit flat. Eventually the sun came out adding the contrast of blue sky to the landscape, but also a little bit of heat to the hike. I appreciated that no other visitors venture off the paved trail here. I was constantly in awe at the surreal, unearthly sights and geologic marvels around every corner.
7.3 mi • 426 ft aeg
After reading the various trip logs and picture sets describing this hike, I decided to give it a try as a quick over-nighter. I basically just followed the official route, with some forays into various gullies and such, taking in the scenery and the great January weather. It has been historically dry this year, and I timed it just right with regard to the first and only big precipitation event of the season (so far), returning to Flagstaff just in time to catch a few miles of snowshoeing. Contrary to PaleoRob's description, dogs are allowed into the back country in Petrified Forest NP, and I took mine along. This is a rarity in national parks and monuments so, if you decide to take your dogs, please follow the rules and keep the option available for future use. I found the Onyx Bridge easily by following the route/directions given, and also found the other one as indicated by my Garmin GPS, which is apparently not even a bridge -- but an impressive chunk of petrified wood in it's own right. Didn't spend much time looking for rock art, but with such a diversity of places to explore, expect to see some on future trips. I did, however, find an interesting gully containing a stacked rock feature that I speculated may have been a dam of some sort. Incidentally, I was able to score a rare permit into The Devil's Playground for the previous night, and would recommend that hike as well. It is truly an otherworldly landscape, and being limited to 3 permits per week, on a first come first served basis, doesn't see nearly as much human impact as other areas in the park. I really look forward to spending more time in PEFO, and thanks to the previous trip logs for convincing me to give it a try.

Wildflowers
There were a few dried out flowers on the rabbit brush, otherwise nada.
1 mi • 210 ft aeg
This is another paved loop in Petrified Forest NP. There's a steep descent near the start that you need to ascend at the end too. There were some trail workers building a stone wall to help prevent erosion at the steep section of the path. We really liked the walk through the loop. Seeing and learning about "bad lands" was fun and informative. We had fun looking for "pipes" formed from rain draining through the soft and steep slopes.
6 mi • 0 ft aeg
Marthas Butte and beyond - PFNP
I love to go to the Petrified Forest and I promised my wife we'd stay in Holbrook's finest motel if she came along.
Sedona Loop Hike
Sedona Loop Hike

We planned the walk to hit PFNP's only "remote public" petroglyph site and then to explore beyond that. A few years ago the Park Service decided to proactively push the PFNP back country and the cross country walk to Martha's Butte is posted on their website and a flyer is available at the Visitor's Center. nps.gov/pefo/upload ... .pdf

We drove about 3mi past the South Visitor Center and parked at the pull off just short of the small Dry Wash bridge. From there we walked up the wash a few hundred yards before cutting cross country. Soon we could see the "Bell shaped" Butte past the edge of the low mesa on our left, and just continued. There is no trail but some tracks were visible - I suspect every rain resettles disturbed ground which is sort of nice.

It's only about a mile to the Butte and the base is surrounded by some nice rock art. Most of the major petroglyphs in PFNP (and I assume these) are thought to date from the latest major occupation period (1300-1450); the habitation sites were at least several miles away (Pueblo Puerco, further up the road, is one) so the extensive decoration implies this location had some significance. There are a couple impressive examples of petrified logs near the Butte, but then again it's practically everywhere you look out here. Anyway the hike to the Butte and back would be an excellent gentle introduction to walking in this park.

We continued on looking for more ancient signs...I wont give details, it ruins the fun...and had very good luck. Lots of very impressive glyphs, decorated pottery pieces, flaked rock, and even a fossil or two. It's just a great place to walk around and be entertained by the Painted Desert scenery, petrified wood, unique erosion features, etc.

So the Econo-Lodge it was (that is Holbrook's finest and not half bad) and back to PFNP on Sunday.
Photos:
Martha Butte [ photoset ]
Beyond Martha's Butte [ photoset ]
10.27 mi • 906 ft aeg
Gorgeous day/night backpacking in PeFo wilderness with April. After spending the day cruising through the park we left from Painted Desert Inn in the late afternoon. Followed the wash around to the large flat where we dropped our bags, then headed up the ravine to watch the sunset over Onyx bridge. Camped about a quarter mile away. Probably got down to around freezing overnight, but we brought all the warm clothes we could carry. Next morning we just dayhiked from there, ending up at a really huge petrified log and an interesting white-capped hill that may or may not have been labeled "the Monument" on the trailhead map. Saw a pronghorn? way off in the distance. Then we turned around, picked up our stuff, and walked straight towards the always-visible PDI. This place is absolutely crazy. Moonscaped desert, weird logs, complete solitude. Love it.
2.6 mi • 60 ft aeg
My sister and I have been planning to visit PFNP for a few years now, and on this visit we made it happen. This was our first hike in the park since it basically starts from the visitor's center and was recommended by the park rangers. I had an idea of what to expect from the park, but was surprised by the amount of fallen logs. It truly is a "forest." The color detail is pretty incredible too.
18.5 mi • 1,500 ft aeg
Second time at the PFNP and the place just keeps getting better. First time attempting to make it to Pilot Rock was a bust, not this time around! Cold and dry weather makes this hike an absolute pleasure. Headed towards Onyx Bridge and kept going towards the Chinle Mesa in search of the Model T but werent able to find it, ended up logging 11.3 miles for the day after summiting and getting back to camp. The last person to sign the summit register was in April of 2016, this place doesnt get very many people. Being at that summit makes you feel you are in the middle of nowhere but with the convinience of having mobile signal. Would do it over again, or check out another area of the park.
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