2023 Vacation Report: Petrified Forest National Park

If you’re driving along Route 66 through Arizona, you will go straight through Petrified Forest National Park. Not that you’d see anything of it if you don’t get off the freeway. MC was quite disappointed that there weren’t actually stone trees looming over us on every side when we visited (and that would have been awesome). But you can get off the highway and take a 28 mile drive through the park. Yes, you’re taking a break from driving by driving somewhere else, instead, but I put it to a vote in the car. (I didn’t want to be the one to inflict another hour of driving when the rest of the gang wanted to be free of the car.) They unanimously wanted to see the park.

Note that it will cost $25 to do the drive, the same fee you’d pay if you were going to stay for a longer time. But also note that for $80, you can get an annual national park pass. If you’re already planning to go to the Grand Canyon, that would cost $35. Bryce Canyon (where we were headed as well) is another $35. Since there are so many stunning national parks in that area, I think it’s worth while to just pay the $80 and see as many as you can. You can buy the annual pass at the entrance to the park. No need to get out and go into the visitor’s center. Just pay at the same place you’d pay for entry.

The nice thing about the visit is that it’s not all just driving. There are many places to pull over, get out of the car, and check things out. The Painted Desert was gorgeous, and it’s close to the start of the route (if you’re traveling west). The end of the route has the best examples of petrified wood. Would I go to the park for an extended visit? Um . . . no. Probably not. It was super hot, quite flat, and didn’t seem like a place I’d like to camp (especially with the Grand Canyon looming in the future). But it was a lovely place to visit.

One other note: there is a ton of petrified wood in the area, not just in the park. The park just has the places with the biggest concentrations of it. You can buy samples of the wood at the gift store, but don’t fall for that. Just outside the park (and practically everywhere else you go), there are places where people are hawking petrified wood left and right, for much less money.

In short, this park is a great side stop on a larger journey, even if I personally would make it an end destination.


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