Petrified Forest

March 28 -29

After our time in Saguaro National Park, my mom and I made our way to Petrified Forest National Park. Somehow I didn’t think about the fact that it was a 5 hour drive from Tucson to Holbrook…I deluded myself into thinking that it was only a 3 hour drive, I’m not entirely sure why. We threw everything into the back of the bug-mobile and set off to the next adventure.

We arrived mid-afternoon and only had 2 hours to explore because the park was only open from 8AM-5PM. I’m not sure if this is a COVID specific time schedule to assist with physical distancing and maintenance of the park or if the park is normally only open those hours, unless you have a back country camping permit or special nighttime ranger program. We hurried through the entrance gate and made our way to some of the first overlooks in the northern part of the park nearest to the Painted Desert Inn.

At the Painted Desert overlooks you can just sit and stare, the quiet of the desert below you and the wind rushing by. The idea of sitting for hours to take in the splendor of what’s before you, the red rock eroding into badlands and nothing but blue sky to the horizon, is not an absurd one. We rushed through some of the view points knowing that we’d be back to take everything in the next day when we could get to the park as early as it opened.

We did one short nature walk the evening of March 28 through the Crystal Forest, a .75 mile paved walkway through a large concentration of the petrified wood. As we walked the sun glinted off the fossilized trees showing the sparkling quartz and beautiful array of colors. After completing our nature walk we drove to our campground for the evening and got ready to get rest to get up early the next day.

In the morning we got back to the park just after 8AM and went to the Rainbow Museum and did the Giant Logs trail. We then drove the Blue Mesa loop and did the short 1 mile hike to walk through the park’s unique badlands. Mom and I took a quick stop at Newspaper Rock and the Puerco Pueblo. Our final “hike” was to walk the half-mile rim trail from the Painted Desert Inn to the Painted Desert Overlook and then back again.

By the time we were finished with our short hikes and our loop of the park road it was 1PM. We were supposed to camp one more time near Petrified Forest, but decided that, while we could relax at camp, it might be a better use of our time to get closer to our next stop, Grand Canyon National Park. We booked a night at a campground near Flagstaff and started our drive.

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