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I love Petrified Forest National Park. I thought I would and I was not wrong. This is a park that people always say is boring, not worth it, or just to drive through in a couple hours.
But it’s worth more than that. I will admit, it may not be as mind blowing as somewhere like Zion, but it’s got way more to it than most people think.
You can drive through the park in just a couple of hours, for sure, but you could easily spend days hiking here. We managed to do the most of the main trails in one day, but I could go back for a few more to do even more.
And I want to. But today we’re just talking about the Blue Mesa trail, one of my favorites in the park so far. It’s an easy trail with one steep section but it’s totally worth it.
The whole trail is paved but it’s kind of lumpy and crumbly. It’s easy walking though. You start out on top of the mesa for a few minutes before heading down to the bottom of it.
You’ll be walking at the base of the mesa surrounded by the blue/gray/red/purple bentonite clay hills dotted with petrified wood of all sizes.
You’ll see whole logs broken up in the corners of the hills. Corners might not be the right word, but the crevasses where the bottoms of the hills meet. It’s so cool seeing the whole logs almost in tact like that.
The trail meanders through petrified wood chunks with a view of the prairie to your right and the mesa above you. There is petrified wood that actually looks like wood or bark still and some that is bright red, yellow, orange, purple, and white.
You can even spot little crystals in some of them! How cool is that!? Don’t be afraid to go off trail a little but here to get up close and personal with some of the wood pieces. Just don’t take any petrified wood with you.
Once you make your way back to the little fork in the trail (it doesn’t matter which way you go at the beginning here, we went to the right both times) you’ll have to face that steep hike back up.
At the top of the mesa you have an amazing view of the prairies (I don’t know what to call them) below on both sides. It’s really the Painted Desert but that’s what the whole area is. Either way, it’s an incredible sprawling view.
This is an amazing trail and if you can only do one or two hike in Petrified Forest, this should definitely be one of them. No, it doesn’t have giant human-sized logs but the area is just so beautiful.
Make sure you stop at the Blue Mesa Overlook, too so you can see the whole trail area from above. It’s a nice stop on the way to the trailhead.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! Buy a national park journal here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Where is the Blue Mesa trailhead?
The Blue Mesa trailhead is about 18 miles from the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Coming from that direction, it will be a left turn. There is a sign showing you where to turn and it’s a couple miles in from there. It’s the only trailhead up there.
How long is the blue Mesa hike?
This is a nice, short trail coming in at just one mile round-trip. It’s a loop so it’s easy to follow and you aren’t back tracking at all on this one.
Is the Blue Mesa hike worth it?
Yes! I loved this hike a lot and have done it twice now. It’s beautiful and you can get up close to a lot of petrified wood. It’s one of my favorite hikes in the park, for sure.
I think this would be a fun park for history buffs, too, because you’ve got the Native American history as well as the Route 66 history, too. This hike definitely deserves a spot on your national park bucket list.
Is the Blue Mesa trail hard?
Not really. It only has 111 feet of elevation change but that all happens at once. You walk on top of the mesa for a minute then head down to the bottom of it and that’s where the hard part is.
It’s steep on the way up but it’s short. The whole trail is paved though it is a little lumpy.
Is there a fee to hike the Blue Mesa trail?
Not to hike the trail, but to enter the park, yes. It’s $25 per vehicle for a week but if you’re going to a lot of parks (three or more), the America the Beautiful pass will be your best option.
Blue Mesa Trail Gallery
Have you hiked the Blue Mesa Trail at Petrified Forest? What did you think of it? Do you want to hike it?