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We’re finally back with another things to do that aren’t hiking post! This time it’s all about Petrified Forest in Arizona. I’ve been here twice now, once in the spring and again in the fall and both visits were great.
While there aren’t tons and tons of things to do in Petrified Forest National Park besides hiking, there is still a good amount to see and do either on short walks or the side of the scenic drive.
I love doing these posts because they help me learn more about the parks that I might not have known otherwise. These things to do in Petrified Forest are perfect for anyone with limited time or that can’t/doesn’t want to hike. Or you just want to get active another way.
Like usual, there are some short walks, technically hikes, on this list, but they’re all one mile or less and easy. I’ve done everything on here (except Geocaching and biking) and feel confident saying any hikes here are easy.
Most people aren’t that impressed with Petrified Forest but I loved it and want to go back at least one more time for a few days to do a few more hikes.
If you’re debating whether or not Petrified Forest is worth it at all or worth going out of your way for, I would say yes. You could easily add it to a Route 66 trip (it actually goes through the park) or to a trip to Flagstaff, even.
If you do decide you want to do some hiking, the Blue Mesa Trail and Agate Hose and Long Logs Loop are two great choices that are still short and relatively easy.
Also, I didn’t include them in the list, but the visitor centers and all of the overlooks (or most of them) are must-dos on any trip here, but especially if you don’t want to hike.
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! If you want one for all of the NPS sites (400+!) then this one is for you!
- Before your trip, get some national park apparel for your trip! Homage is donating 5% of sales from the national park collection to the National Parks Conservation Association this year. Buy national park shirts 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.
See the Agate Bridge
This is, I think, the least exciting stop on this list. Its just a short walk from the parking area so it’s not like you’re wasting an hour seeing this or anything, but I was underwhelmed by this.
It’s an impressive log, I’ll give it that, but it’s being held up by a support so it’s not just a log bridge, which is what I expected. I don’t think it’s exciting, but it’s a quick stop so give it a shot.
Walk to the Puerco Pueblo
The Puerco Pueblo trail is a nice easy hike in Petrified Forest coming in at 3/4 mile. The trail is paved and takes you to some petroglyphs (I like these more than Newspaper Rock) and a 100 room pueblo that was occupied more than 600 years ago.
I like this hike but I like ruins, rock art, and archaeological sites a lot. Apparently one of the petroglyphs is relevant to the sun on summer solstice but I’m not sure how or what happens but I love archaeoastronomy things like that.
See the old Route 66 car
If you’re visiting Petrified Forest on a Route 66 road trip, this is a must see. It’s also a fun stop for history buffs or car enthusiasts. It’s right on the side of the scenic drive before you cross to the other side of the interstate.
It’s closer to the Painted Desert Visitor Center. It’s an old, rusty Studebaker. The car is from 1932 and is aligned in the direction Route 66 would have been.
Walk the Giant Logs Loop
This trail is very short but it’s not paved. It’s just 0.6 miles but it ‘s not super flat. It’s not hilly, though, it doesn’t have tons of elevation change, but it has a few small sets of stairs if that matters for you.
I didn’t love this trail but I had already done Blue Mesa, Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest, Long Logs and Agate House Loop, and Puerco Pueblo.
It was probably my least favorite of them but the Old Faithful tree in this is pretty impressive, so it could be worth doing just to see that. Still not crazy exciting but it’s a pretty huge petrified tree trunk and all in one piece.
This is at the parking area for the Rainbow Forest Museum so I would stop in there while you’re here. I actually haven’t been in this yet!
Walk the Crystal Forest Trail
This is the last hike/walk on the list and it’s a good one. This trail is the longest on the list at 0.9 miles but it’s also paved. It’s a little crumbly in some spots but it is all paved.
This is a great place to get close to petrified wood, see some giant logs, and see all the colors and textures of petrified wood. This (and all the other walks) are in direct sun with no shade, so make sure you stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
Stop at Newspaper Rock
This is one of many Newspaper Rocks in the Four Corners area, and between this one and the one near Moab, I prefer Moab. But this is a cool stop not far from Puerco Pueblo.
You can’t go down to the rock to see the petroglyphs up close but it’s not super far from the overlook. There are also some of those binocular viewer things to look at them closer.
Stop at the Painted Desert Inn
**This is temporarily closed because 2020, you know, but you can still visit the outside.**
For almost 100 years, the Painted Desert Inn has stood in Petrified Forest. It’s been quite a few different things in it’s days but it’s currently a museum. No, you can’t stay there anymore, but you can visit and learn some history.
When it was first built, it was made of petrified wood and in the 1930s, they renovated it to the current adobe style. There is a short walk to an overlook out back and this is one end of the rim view trail.
There are at least six Geocaches in the park along the main scenic drive. All of them have parking available. I forgot to look for them but I know there is one at the Painted Desert Inn and the Studebaker, for sure.
This is a fun thing to do to spice up the drive if you’re super limited on time or literally just passing through. Of course, they’re fun to find even on a regular visit.
There are quite a few in the Holbrook and Winslow areas, the whole area around here, really. There are TONS in the Tonto National Forest between Payson, Sedona, and I40.
Do some biking
The biking allowed in Petrified Forest is worded a little weird, but it sounds like these are the places you can bike in the park (this list is directly from the park service website):
- the unpaved portion of Old Route 66 from the main park road to the east boundary fence
- the eastern portion of Old Highway 180 in the Rainbow Forest area from its intersection with the main park road to the east boundary
- the portion of the Long logs trail from its intersection with the main park road, continuing to the trailhead loop area approximately ½ mile up the trail.
- the trail beginning at the Rainbow Forest Picnic Area, and continuing to the base of the mesa, ending at a loop in the road (approximately 1 mile in length).
Have you been to Petrified Forest National Park? What did you do there? What did you think of it? Do you want to go?