Why was Petrified Forest Formed
Although the main draw of Petrified Forest is its 200 million year old multi-hued petrified wood, there is also an abundance human history and other natural wonders within this desert landscape.
How do you get to Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest Airports- The majority of visitors traveling to Petrified Forest fly into Phoenix or Albuquerque, which are the closest international airports. Flagstaff, AZ is less than 2 hours drive time, and also has a small airport with daily flights, although the cost is typically quite a bit higher than Phoenix or Albuquerque.
Petrified Forest Car Rentals- No car rental agencies are available at Petrified Forest. There are car rentals available in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Albuquerque and other near by cities.
Petrified Forest Shuttles- There are no shuttles to Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest Fees and Other Costs
The entry fee for Petrified Forest is $10 per vehicle. There is no campground within Petrified Forest National Park, but backcountry camping permits within the Park are free.
Petrified Forest Weather and Climate
Petrified Forest is a desert environment with only 9-10 inches of rain a year. The Painted Desert area has a cool winter climate with rain and snow throughout the season. Spring and fall bring the best weather on the Colorado Plateau and Petrified Forest is no exception. Summer is hot with highs reaching the mid 90’s and monsoon rains in July and August.
When to Visit Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest National Park sees an average of 600,000 visitors each year with many of those visitors arriving during the high summer tourist season in the US. Summer temperatures are hot and dusty, but monsoon rains make dramatic skys in this desert landscape. Spring and fall have warm days and cool nights, and are especially nice for people who want to get out and hike. Winter temperatures may be cool, but days are usually sunny and you can have the whole park to yourself.
Petrified Forest Environment
Petrified Forest National Park lies within the Painted Desert and comprises and area of about 93,500 acres. Painted Desert National Park is an area of Badland, buttes, mesas, and strange rock formations, a ruff and rugged land of stark beauty. Comprised primarily of the Chinle formation the park is full of fossils and unique geological formations including 200 million year old petrified wood.
Petrified Forest Flora and Fauna
Petrifed Forest has a surprising amount of life for such a harsh desert landscape. Mice, rabbits, and even larger animals like Pronghorn are found throughout the park. Both migrating and resident bird can be spotted in Petrified Forest, as well as a large array of sun loving reptiles. This area even has seven species of amphibians, some of which burrow under the ground for up to nine month until rainfall wakes them from their slumber. Plants within Petrified Forest National Park are mainly composed of grasses, lichens and wildflowers, with grasses being the foundation the this ecosystem. Several species of cacti and a few hardy trees like juniper are also found in the Petrified Forest.
Petrified Forest Accommodations
There are no hotels located in Petrified Forest National Park. The closest accommodations are in Holbrook AZ. Winslow and Flagstaff Arizona, as well Gallup New Mexico have accommodations and are fairly close to the park. Backcountry Camping is available in the Park, but the closest RV sites are in Holbrook. There are also several State Parks, and primitive campsites nearby.
Petrified Forest Activities
There is a lot more to do at Petrified Forest than just look at petrified wood. The park offers maintained trails, as well as backcounty hiking for people who want to stretch their legs. There is also a large array of archeological sites including pictograph panels, prehistoric and historic ruins. Visitors can also enjoy horseback riding, guided ranger talks and cultural demonstrations.
Petrified Forest Food and Drink
If you need something to eat at Petrified Forest there is a restaurant next to the Painted Desert Visitor Center, as well as a convenience store for snacks. Holbrook is the closest towns with more options for food and drink.
Petrified Forest Health, Safety and Hazards
During the summer season heat can be a real danger at Petrified Forest. It is very important to stay hydrated, wear sun block and get out of the sun when the temperature is just to hot. Although you probably won’t see one there are some resident rattlesnakes so be aware.
Petrified Forest Culture and History
Although human history in Petrified Forest National Park goes back 13,000 years, the first human settlements date back to about 500 AD during the Basket Maker II period. These people farmed these arid lands, and built year round settlements, and trade routes. Small bands of Navajo, Paiute and Zuni also roamed this land, but there is no evidence that they had permanent settlements. Europeans first came to this area in the 1540’s and buy the 1800’s several ranchers had settled in and around the park. Petrified Forest was first protected as a National Monument in 1906.