Crystal Forest Loop Vs. Jasper Forest At Petrified Forest National Park

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One of the most popular hikes in Petrified Forest National Park is the Crystal Forest trail. It’s a short, easy hike with plenty of opportunity to see some impressive petrified logs.

They’re not as impressive as the Long Logs trail, but it’s still a great hike. In my two visits to the park, I’ve actually done this hike three times. I don’t know if I really need to do it again, but I would because it’s nice and easy.

It’s a busy-ish trail but it’s not packed. At least it wasn’t totally packed in the spring and fall. It was also weird travel times, you know, 2021, so maybe that’s different when things are normal, but I don’t think it could really be that busy anyway since it’s not a huge parking lot.

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crystal forest trail Petrified forest national park

The whole trail is paved but it’s a little lumpy and crumbly like the Blue Mesa trail, at least in spots but it’s not bad. The hike is a loop and all three times I’ve gone to the right.

It starts out going up a little hill with some small pieces of petrified wood dotting the sides of the trail. Shortly, it will flatten out a little more and you’ll come to a really long log right along the trail.

The trail continues to twist and turn around giants stumps of all colors on it’s way back to the parking lot. There is one little covered area otherwise the whole trail is in the sun, so it can get hot.

crystal forest trail Petrified forest national park

Be sure to drink lots of water here, in the park in general, since there isn’t much shade anywhere. And it does get very hot in the summer, 90+ F regularly.

Overall, I like this trail but I think I like others in the park more. It’s a great trail for first time visitors and anyone just looking for an easy hike.

National Park Goodies

crystal forest trail Petrified forest national park

Where is the Crystal Forest trailhead?

The trailhead is about twenty miles from the Painted Desert Visitor Center and just ten minutes from the Rainbow Forest Museum at the other end of the park. This is along the main road but the side opposite Jasper Forest.

How long is the Crystal Forest hike?

0.9 miles and it’s a loop so there isn’t any back tracking here. This is a nice short hike right off the main road. It can be a little bust but it’s a good stop.

Is the Crystal Forest hike hard?

Nope! There is minimal elevation change (36 whole feet) and the whole trail is paved, but like Blue Mesa, it can be a little lumpy and crumbly in places. It’s easy and doesn’t take too long, less than an hour.

Is the Crystal Forest hike worth it?

Yes! This is a nice easy hike that isn’t that long but the logs here are pretty impressive. If it was between this and something else though with limited time. I would go with Blue Mesa and the Agate House and Long Logs loop if you can only do one or two hikes.

Jasper Forest Petrified forest national park

Hiking Jasper Forest

Jasper Forest is just one of the different areas in Petrified Forest National Park where you can hike around a, well, forest of petrified wood. This stop on the scenic drive has a little overlook but no official trail.

BUT you can hike around down there wherever you want! If you’re facing the overlook from the parking lot, there is a little trail leading down into the forest on the right.

Jasper Forest Petrified forest national park

It’s a short, easy walk down there and you can wander all over. Just don’t take any petrified wood home with you, from anywhere in the park. It is illegal and probably cursed or something. It’s probably not cursed but still, don’t take it.

Wee didn’t spend tons of time down in the Jasper Forest but it would be very easy to wander for hours looking at all of the wood. There are some incredible pieces here and it’s like you see one cool one, then you look up and see five more and it just keeps going.

We only saw one other small group of people down here and when I went the second time I didn’t notice anyone down there.

If you don’t mind off-trail hiking, this is a really great hiking opportunity. Navigating isn’t very difficult because you can see the overlook and you’re just sort of at the bottom of this, I don’t know what to call it, hill? Mesa?

You basically just have to go back up and you’ll eventually get to the parking lot or road if you’re way off track. If you are concerned about getting lost, consider tracking your hike with something like AllTrails.

Jasper Forest Petrified forest national park

I would definitely recommend doing at least a little hiking in the Jasper Forest, especially if you want to get away from some of the crowds, not that they were crazy either time I was there, but still.

I would love to spend more time in the area next time because I will definitely be back.

Jasper Forest Petrified forest national park

Where is Jasper Forest?

The Jasper Forest is about 15 minutes from the Rainbow Forest Museum and 35 minutes from the Painted Desert Visitor Center. This is just right on the side of the main road, too.

Is hiking the Jasper Forest worth it?

For sure! This isn’t an actual trail, it’s just sort of a free-for-all wander which I think makes it better. We saw one other small group while we were hiking down here.

Is the Crystal Forest hike or Jasper Forest better?

I would have to go with Jasper Forest. Both are great but I also think it depends on what you want. If you prefer maintained trails, Crystal Forest is better but if you want to go wherever, Jasper Forest.

If you’re short on time, Crystal Forest. If you have more time, Jasper Forest. You could still see Jasper Forest if you’re short on time but there is so much good petrified wood down there, it’s hard to turn around.

Have you hiked the Crystal Forest trail? What about Jasper Forest? What did you think of them? Do you want to hike them?

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