Painted Desert
Painted Desert
4.5
About
This desert is famous for its striking bands of colors.
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area
Address
1 Park Rd, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028-9997
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See what travellers are saying
  • Bob Kramer
    Ankeny, Iowa240 contributions
    Great Day Trip from Flagstaff Area to Painted Desert and Petrified Forest
    Although this site directs you to the Painted Desert, you'll see many posts about the Petrified Forest. Here's my take on the Pained Desert ... We had a fantastic day, driving from the Flagstaff area, through Winslow on I-40, and north on HW 77 to the Painted Desert. I'll just let the pics do the explanation for you. The weather was perfect for a September afternoon, and I would encourage you to go in the off months like we did. Plenty of fairly level nature hikes available, or if you prefer ... LOTS of areas to pull over and just enjoy.
    Visited September 2022
    Written 19 December 2022
  • fungramma51
    178 contributions
    Beautiful, even on a rainy, windy day
    Well worth the drive to see. If you go in the North entrance, be sure to stop at the Visitor Center before paying to go in to the park as you can’t get back to it without exiting the park. We didn’t do that so I can’t comment on the visitor center. The park road is about 28 miles to the south entrance. You can either exit the park there or turn around and drive the road back to the north entrance. (of course you can do it south to north if you prefer). The north entrance is right of I-40. The south entrance is about 20 miles south of Holbrook. There are numerous pullouts for views along the way. The Painted Desert Inn museum was nice. There were some beautiful features inside and you could peek in the windows of some of the old guest rooms. There wasn’t much at the Puerco Pueblo ruins but there were quite a number of petroglyphs in the area. At the Newspaper Rock petroglyph pull off it was hard to see them as they are down a hill. They did have telescopes to look through however. The Blue Mesa Loop drive is worth taking. There is a trail there as well which we didn’t take as it was raining. There are other pullouts/trails that take you close to the petrified wood. There is also a visitor center at the south end.
    Visited February 2023
    Written 20 March 2023
  • spitzy135
    884 contributions
    Many Beautiful and Interesting Sights
    The Petrified Forest National Park is located within the Painted Desert and it is very easy to drive through and see both on the same trip. We drove it from north to south accessing it at the Painted Desert Visitor Center from I-40, exit 311. You can also access it in the other direction driving south from Holbrook on Route 180 and driving the park from south to north. This park is a little unusual as the roads are only open from 8am – 5pm. For us, the Painted Desert looked similar to the Badlands we visited in South Dakota, having the horizontal striations of banded color. We found the Painted Desert views in the Petrified Forest to be much more colorful in the south and more interesting than the northern section. The Blue Mesa and the Tee Pee’s area is especially beautiful. Don’t miss these viewpoints. We didn’t do the Blue Mesa Trail, but it looks like a gorgeous walk. We did visit on a somewhat cloudy day, so the whole area is probably even more striking on a sunny day. The site at Newspaper Rock was incredible. We’ve seen petroglyphs in other areas, but these were spectacular. There are over 650 petroglyphs on a few large rocks that are clearly visible from the elevated viewing area even without binoculars (you can see them from above but cannot get close to them). The zoom on my camera picked them up beautifully, but there are also free spotting scopes at the viewpoint that enable you to get a closer look. It’s really cool seeing all of the petrified logs at the various viewpoints. Several of the viewpoints show the petrified logs at a distance. That’s why we especially liked the Giant Logs Trail and the Crystal Forest Loop Trail since you can get up close to them, and you don’t have to walk very far either. You can see truly giant logs lying on the ground broken up in sections. The Crystal Forest Loop Trail is a don’t miss section of the park. Here you can see logs that have turned to quartz with shades of many colors. And the quartz crystals sparkle in the sun. Its almost magical! We have visited several other national parks, and every one really has its own uniqueness. This one is no exception and has such a variety of beautiful scenic vistas, interesting trails and points of interest. Plan to spend at least a couple hours here, but you can easily spend more.
    Visited March 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 10 April 2023
  • Traveler # 316
    Moore, Oklahoma43 contributions
    Nice geological site with information about when different layers of colored were formed.
    Nice drive through park. It is a national recreation area, so there are signs that tell all about the different colored layers of rock. The welcome center has a movie about it, as well as a snack bar and clean restrooms. We entered the park from the north side off I-40. At the end is the Petrified forest area. This area also has information about the rocks, a gift shop, bathrooms and information about dinosaur bones found in the area. The kids would like the skeletan of a large dinosaur in the information center. There is a charge if you don't have a national park pass. I believe it is $20 a car.
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 15 May 2023
  • Bonnie E
    San Diego, California121 contributions
    Lovely colors
    If you've never seen Death Valley in California, the colors here are great. But honestly, they don't compare with the amazing colors in Death Valley. Drive through the Petrified Forest and then directly into the Painted Desert to catch both sites on the same trip
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 7 June 2023
  • A Midlife Adventure
    Dursley, United Kingdom1,313 contributions
    Our first National Park but not our last
    Although we have been to the USA. before this was our first adventure into a National Park. As we are travelling Route 66 it was a fairly easy trip into the northern end of the park. Cost for us was 25 dollars for the car. We stopped at the visitor centre here and listened to a short talk from one of the rangers who was not only informative but also friendly and helpful. We followed the road throughout sticking to the speed limits set. We were slightly shocked to see others speeding around! You can pick and chose which vistas you stop at which are clearly marked on the leaflet received on entry. At each vista point there is a full explanation of the highlights and what to look for. We found the whole area interesting, the petroglyphs are obviously a highlight along with the Crystal Walk. Even in the height of summer with the heat beating down it is bearable as long as you have water with you.
    Visited July 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 8 July 2023
  • Noel W
    Fort Worth, Texas5 contributions
    Awesome
    The Painted Desert was breathtaking. As a photographer I was amazed at the colors of the desert. I was never bored at the vast amount of the overlooks. We spent over 3 hours at the park. Walked away with some awesome images and memories. Since I am a disabled Army Veteran I have a lifetime national park pass. We will return for another adventure to the Painted Desert.
    Visited August 2023
    Written 19 August 2023
  • Lisa_in_TN
    Nashville, Tennessee88 contributions
    Lots of unique beauty in a small national park
    While the park is not a large one, it is definitely worth a visit. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can still see a lot of beautiful scenery right from the road side. Combine it with the Petrified Forest Park and you can still cover both and a half day. Allow more time if you plan to hike or visit all of the pull offs. We did not have a lot of time, so I would gladly visit this park again!
    Visited October 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 5 November 2023
  • Lindsay-and-Neil
    Sheffield, United Kingdom1,107 contributions
    Rain made for a subdued visit!
    We visited the Painted Desert area of Petrified Foest NP a few weeks ago and although it is a beautiful place our visit was slightly marred by the bad weather! Lots of rain and wind curtailed our visit. I sunshine the vistas would have been stunning, sadly with grey rain filled skies they didn't sparkle as much. It's a shame but we still made the best of our visit.
    Visited November 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 2 December 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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Excellent
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Average
135
Poor
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Terrible
7

Lindsay-and-Neil
Sheffield, UK1,107 contributions
Nov 2023 • Couples
We visited the Painted Desert area of Petrified Foest NP a few weeks ago and although it is a beautiful place our visit was slightly marred by the bad weather! Lots of rain and wind curtailed our visit.
I sunshine the vistas would have been stunning, sadly with grey rain filled skies they didn't sparkle as much. It's a shame but we still made the best of our visit.
Written 2 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lead2829
North Lawrence, OH310 contributions
Nov 2023 • Family
Amazing to see. The views from the lookouts are some of the prettiest views that exist in this state. Worth the drive if you are remotely close.
Written 18 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lisa_in_TN
Nashville, TN88 contributions
Oct 2023 • Couples
While the park is not a large one, it is definitely worth a visit. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can still see a lot of beautiful scenery right from the road side. Combine it with the Petrified Forest Park and you can still cover both and a half day. Allow more time if you plan to hike or visit all of the pull offs. We did not have a lot of time, so I would gladly visit this park again!
Written 5 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Noel W
Fort Worth, TX5 contributions
Aug 2023
The Painted Desert was breathtaking. As a photographer I was amazed at the colors of the desert. I was never bored at the vast amount of the overlooks. We spent over 3 hours at the park. Walked away with some awesome images and memories. Since I am a disabled Army Veteran I have a lifetime national park pass. We will return for another adventure to the Painted Desert.
Written 19 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bethany Jones
Sioux City, IA44 contributions
Jun 2023 • Family
I'll be honest, this wasn't my kind of thing. They say you can spend a day just inside the park, and I was there an hour and was bored. Yes, it's beautiful. But all of the locations are pretty much the same. We made a couple of the stops, but if you aren't into stuff like this, don't waste the money. $25 for a car to drive through. It's definitely got some picture worthy spots and if you love things like this, I am sure you could spend an entire day inside the park. Small kids are going to hate it. My teens were bored out of their mind. Again, driving through was pretty and maybe it was the time of day we went, but it was super hot, windy and we had already been in the car for 6 hours, so jumping in and out to grab some photo moments wasn't thrilling for any of us. I wouldn't visit again, once was enough for me. Again, pretty, but not something exciting.
Written 9 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

A Midlife Adventure
Dursley, UK1,313 contributions
Jul 2023 • Couples
Although we have been to the USA. before this was our first adventure into a National Park.
As we are travelling Route 66 it was a fairly easy trip into the northern end of the park. Cost for us was 25 dollars for the car.

We stopped at the visitor centre here and listened to a short talk from one of the rangers who was not only informative but also friendly and helpful.

We followed the road throughout sticking to the speed limits set. We were slightly shocked to see others speeding around!
You can pick and chose which vistas you stop at which are clearly marked on the leaflet received on entry. At each vista point there is a full explanation of the highlights and what to look for.

We found the whole area interesting, the petroglyphs are obviously a highlight along with the Crystal Walk. Even in the height of summer with the heat beating down it is bearable as long as you have water with you.
Written 8 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bonnie E
San Diego, CA121 contributions
May 2023 • Couples
If you've never seen Death Valley in California, the colors here are great. But honestly, they don't compare with the amazing colors in Death Valley. Drive through the Petrified Forest and then directly into the Painted Desert to catch both sites on the same trip
Written 7 June 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Traveler # 316
Moore, OK43 contributions
May 2023 • Couples
Nice drive through park. It is a national recreation area, so there are signs that tell all about the different colored layers of rock. The welcome center has a movie about it, as well as a snack bar and clean restrooms. We entered the park from the north side off I-40. At the end is the Petrified forest area. This area also has information about the rocks, a gift shop, bathrooms and information about dinosaur bones found in the area. The kids would like the skeletan of a large dinosaur in the information center. There is a charge if you don't have a national park pass. I believe it is $20 a car.
Written 15 May 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

spitzy135
Buffalo, NY884 contributions
Mar 2023 • Couples
The Petrified Forest National Park is located within the Painted Desert and it is very easy to drive through and see both on the same trip. We drove it from north to south accessing it at the Painted Desert Visitor Center from I-40, exit 311. You can also access it in the other direction driving south from Holbrook on Route 180 and driving the park from south to north. This park is a little unusual as the roads are only open from 8am – 5pm.

For us, the Painted Desert looked similar to the Badlands we visited in South Dakota, having the horizontal striations of banded color. We found the Painted Desert views in the Petrified Forest to be much more colorful in the south and more interesting than the northern section. The Blue Mesa and the Tee Pee’s area is especially beautiful. Don’t miss these viewpoints. We didn’t do the Blue Mesa Trail, but it looks like a gorgeous walk. We did visit on a somewhat cloudy day, so the whole area is probably even more striking on a sunny day.

The site at Newspaper Rock was incredible. We’ve seen petroglyphs in other areas, but these were spectacular. There are over 650 petroglyphs on a few large rocks that are clearly visible from the elevated viewing area even without binoculars (you can see them from above but cannot get close to them). The zoom on my camera picked them up beautifully, but there are also free spotting scopes at the viewpoint that enable you to get a closer look.

It’s really cool seeing all of the petrified logs at the various viewpoints. Several of the viewpoints show the petrified logs at a distance. That’s why we especially liked the Giant Logs Trail and the Crystal Forest Loop Trail since you can get up close to them, and you don’t have to walk very far either. You can see truly giant logs lying on the ground broken up in sections. The Crystal Forest Loop Trail is a don’t miss section of the park. Here you can see logs that have turned to quartz with shades of many colors. And the quartz crystals sparkle in the sun. Its almost magical!

We have visited several other national parks, and every one really has its own uniqueness. This one is no exception and has such a variety of beautiful scenic vistas, interesting trails and points of interest. Plan to spend at least a couple hours here, but you can easily spend more.
Written 11 April 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

fungramma51
CA178 contributions
Feb 2023
Well worth the drive to see. If you go in the North entrance, be sure to stop at the Visitor Center before paying to go in to the park as you can’t get back to it without exiting the park. We didn’t do that so I can’t comment on the visitor center. The park road is about 28 miles to the south entrance. You can either exit the park there or turn around and drive the road back to the north entrance. (of course you can do it south to north if you prefer). The north entrance is right of I-40. The south entrance is about 20 miles south of Holbrook. There are numerous pullouts for views along the way. The Painted Desert Inn museum was nice. There were some beautiful features inside and you could peek in the windows of some of the old guest rooms. There wasn’t much at the Puerco Pueblo ruins but there were quite a number of petroglyphs in the area. At the Newspaper Rock petroglyph pull off it was hard to see them as they are down a hill. They did have telescopes to look through however. The Blue Mesa Loop drive is worth taking. There is a trail there as well which we didn’t take as it was raining. There are other pullouts/trails that take you close to the petrified wood. There is also a visitor center at the south end.
Written 20 March 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Painted Desert (Petrified Forest National Park) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) - Tripadvisor

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