Oh wait! I have to mention another stop first! On our way from Flagstaff we stopped in Winslow, Arizona so we could get our picture standing on the corner (if you don’t get the reference, read this and listen to this). It was so windy there (and for the rest of our trip).
Anyway, it’s recommended that if you’re driving eastbound, take US 180 to the south entrance and drive north in the park. If you are headed west bound, exit on the I-40 and drive south in the park. You can pick up the highway/freeway on the other end so you don’t have to back track. We were coming from the west, so we started at the south entrance.
The Rainbow Forest Museum is the first stop in the park and the start of the Giant Logs and Long Logs trails. We walked the Giant Logs trail so that we could see Old Faithful – the largest log in the park (10 foot wide base). The trail is only a 0.4 mile loop and it’s paved, so it’s the perfect way to stretch your legs after the car ride.
From there we drove north to the Crystal Forest trail. The trail is a 0.75 mile loop through badlands landscape surrounded by colorful petrified logs. It was a really pretty walk and a great way to see some of the petrified wood up close.
The petrified wood comes from trees that were deposited over 200 million years ago. The petrified wood is now mostly quartz and is very hard – 7.8 on the hardness scale (diamonds are a 10). It’s also super heavy weighing in at 160-200 pounds per cubic foot.
Our next stop, and our favorite trail of the day, was Blue Mesa. At this point the landscape starts to change from Petrified Forest to Painted Desert. There’s still petrified logs on the trails, but the desert starts to become the focal point.
Blue Mesa is a 3.5 mile loop drive though some of the prettiest areas of the park (in my opinion). There’s also a 1 mile trail that you can take to explore further into the canyon. The trail in (and out) is steep, but the rest is fairly flat.
The colorful layers of the formations are so beautiful. The blue of the layer is made up of bentonite clay and the rest of the layers are silts, sandstone, mud, and gravel. The clay swells with moisture and shrinks as it dries creating the elephant skin appearance.
After making our way back up the trail and finishing the loop drive, we continued north to Kachina Point for one of the best views of the Painted Desert.
Our last stop was Tawa Point for one final view of the Painted Desert. You can take the Painted Desert Rim Trail between those two points, but it was getting late in the afternoon and Ringo was over it, so we just stopped for pictures at both spots instead.
From there we exited the park and hopped on the freeway to our hotel in nearby Holbrook. You guys, we didn’t stay in just any old hotel, we stayed in WIGWAMS!
There were seven Wigwam Villages built between the 1930s – 1950s and spanned from Florida to California. Only three of the villages are remaining today (Kentucky, Arizona, and California). The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is located on Route 66 and is made up of 15 concrete wigwams. The wigwams are dated, but everything was clean. It’s definitely worth the experience of staying there one night. It’s also dog friendly too (although they charge a dog fee, I think it was $20).
There’s not much to do in that area, so I wouldn’t plan spending much time there. We got to the hotel around 4 and just hung out in the wigwam (except for a quick pizza run) for the night. The dogs were exhausted and we were fine with a relaxing night in. It was so funny watching Ringo try to stay awake! He couldn’t keep his eyes open and his head kept falling and startling him awake (I’m sure we’ve all done that in a class before). Abby was asleep and snoring the whole night.
The next morning we packed up and headed home. It was a fun weekend trip and so nice to get away for a couple days. We loved that could bring our dogs along on this trip…and the dogs loved all the new smells and getting to pee in so many new places.
A few tips for visiting this area:
- Bring food to the Petrified Forest National Park – There’s a diner on the north end and snacks on the side side…and that’s it!
- Bring plenty of water – It’s a desert and there’s not a lot around. You don’t want to get stuck out there without any water.
- Pick up after your dog – Bring poop bags and use them! Places will only stay dog friendly as long as people are responsible. Don’t ruin it for others!
- Leave the Petrified Wood – You can buy pieces of petrified wood in the gift shops. Please leave the pieces on the trails and in the desert for everyone to enjoy.
- Make reservations – If you want to stay in a wigwam, call to make reservations ahead of time. I’ve read that they book up a couple weeks in advance (although you might luck out). Also, you can’t make reservations online and the office is only open for a few hours in the late afternoon to make reservations over the phone.
Have you ever been to Petrified Forest National Park? What’s the last National Park you’ve visited? Our pass is good until the end of September so give me some ideas!
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