Day Trip From Phoenix
June 18th, 2020
Dog Friendly: Yes, but must be leashed.
Fee: Yes. $25 per car. Good for one week.
Restrooms at trailhead: Not all of them, but there is restrooms at the visitors centers.
THINGS TO DO AT PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK:
Petrified Forest National Park is only a 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix. The drive wasn’t bad at all. We took the Beeline Highway and went up through Payson. The Beeline Highway was near the Bush Fire so we could see the aftermath that the fire left. It was sad to see the mountains so burnt and even the guard rails were warped because of the heat from the fire. It went to one lane for 13 miles because the guardrail isn’t together anymore.
The Painted Desert Inn:
The park itself is huge. Once you get off the exit for the park you drive down the road and you will come across the Petrified Forest National Park sign. We stopped and took a picture with it. Once you drive past the sign you will come across the visitors center. We stopped here to go to the restroom and because we wanted to explore the visitors center. I like to send my family post cards from all of my trips, so I grabbed some post cards and then we had a ranger explain what we can do throughout the park. We started at the North end of the park, which has the painted desert. The ranger recommended us to stop at a look out, but to not stop at every single one of them even though it is tempting to (it was). We stopped at Tawa Point first. We got out of the car and snapped some photos and then continued North because we knew we wanted to stop at the Painted Desert Inn National History Landmark (the actual inn was closed due to COVID-19) because the ranger told us we could hike down into the desert from there. We went to Kachina Point first and we could see the switchbacks that take you down into the desert. We continued over to the trail to hike down. This trailhead is called Tawa Trail but it is actually called the Onyx Bridge that takes you down into the desert. You can hike all the way to the Onyx Bridge. It it 4 miles roundtrip, but we didn’t do that. If we had more time we would of, but we had so much more of the park to see. So we hiked down into the desert, explored a little and hiked back up. We did almost 2 miles. It was breathtaking! The only way you can see Petrified Wood on the Painted Desert side is if you hike down to it. So we were able to see some of the Petrified Wood, which was really incredible! The colors of the Painted Desert are magnificent. It is a beautiful red throughout. The Painted Desert is red because it was exposed to oxygen, which makes it the red color it is.
We quickly stopped here before we went to Blue Mesa. This was pretty cool. It was hard to get a good photo of it on just iPhone, but we luckily brought our nice camera! This area has over 650 petroglyphs covering a group of rock faces. The petroglyphs were created by ancestral Puebloan people between 650 and 2,000 years ago. How incredible!
Blue Mesa Trail:
It’s hard to believe this is the same National Park as the Painted Desert. Just because how different the landscape is. You go from deep reds in the Painted Desert to grays, blues, and lavenders in Blue Mesa Trail. This is a 3.5 mile loop trail that takes you down into the badlands. You will also come across some petrified wood here as well. To say this was beautiful is an understatement. Pictures and videos don’t do this place justice. The colors are grays, blues, and lavenders because of the lack of oxygen this area got, compared to the painted desert where it is deep reds. This is a MUST DO if you decide to go to this National Park.
Last but definitely not least was Crystal Forest. This is one of the most southern places to see in the park, which makes it easy to leave. We left through the south entrance to US 180 West to Holbrook. This was a .75 mile easy loop that took you through INCREDIBLE petrified wood. While you get to see petrified wood throughout the other trails in the park, it is unlike any other at Crystal Forest. This petrified wood showcases the beautiful crystals that can be found in the wood. 225 million years ago 200-foot conifer trees dominated a tropical lowland. Time, climate, and geologic forces buried the trees in layers of mud and volcanic ash. This left enormous fossilized remains for visitors of the modern age. Crystal Forest has unusually high concentrations of additional crystals. There are pockets of these trees that became filled with deposits that eventually turned into quartz and amethyst crystals.