The short hike along a paved path around the Crystal Forest is filled with excellent examples of long petrified logs. Though you will most definitely be sharing this trail with others, it’s a good opportunity to see petrified wood up close. There are a couple steep sections, but wheelchairs can probably complete this loop with a strong companion.
The loop begins at the parking lot, and you can choose to complete it in either direction. There’s a short spur trail near the beginning for those who want a good overlook of the Crystal Forest or don’t want to hike the whole thing.
I traveled counter-clockwise, and there are a few large pieces of petrified wood along that section of the trail, but the real good stuff comes as you make your way around the back of the loop.
Very, very long logs of petrified wood lying in a straight line where they fell before long before the dawn of humankind.
It’s really remarkable the way the texture of the bark was preserved even as the tree was becoming petrified. It’s hard to appreciate that these trees were living 210-227 million years ago and yet we are looking at a fossilized version of them today.
Did that blow your mind? If not, get close to a few of them and study the crystalline detail.
Several more groups of petrified wood can be seen as you make your way around the loop.
Watch for mosquitoes at dusk. Those things can be vicious!
Map & Directions
Location Petrified Forest National Park, Holbrook, Arizona
The park can be entered on the north end or the south end, depending on your direction of travel, though the south end is closer to this trail.
South Entrance From Holbrook, take Highway 180 east to the park entrance on the left, and follow the park road to the turn for Crystal Forest. Turn right and park in the parking lot.
North Entrance From Holbrook, take I-40 east to the exit for Petrified Forest National Park. Follow the park road to the turn for Crystal Forest. Turn left and park in the parking lot.
Fees/Passes There is a fee to enter Petrified Forest National Park, or you can use your America the Beautiful pass.
Trailhead Facilities None, but you can find restrooms and water at the visitor center.
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