Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hike 2011.092 -- Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Hiked Friday, December 16.

Spent the previous night in Gallup, New Mexico. It's about an 84 miles from Gallup to Petrified Forest National Park. From I-140, access is via Exit 331. It loops a bit to the north, goes past the visitors' center, and reaches the north entrance station. After just two miles, the road heads to the west, then turns south, eventually crossing over I-40 (no freeway access there). After a total of 28 miles, it reaches NM highway 180. From there, I headed west. Nineteen miles later, at the town of Holbrook, NM 180 intersects with I-40, where I could continue my drive back to California.

It's largely a drive-through park, with only a few short trails available (plus a large wilderness area in the Painted Desert area, if you wanted to backpack).

I took all the available trails. From north to south, they were: 1) Rim Trail, near the north end of the park, goes .6 mile each way (according to the sign at the trailheads) from Tawa Point to Kachina Point. Kachina Point is near historic (and non-operational) Painted Desert Inn, which also provides access to the trail heading into the wilderness area; 2) Puerco Pueblo, .3 mile loop; 3) Crystal Forest Trail, a .75 mile loop; 4) Giant Logs Trail, a .4 mile loop, but with an additional .3 or so mile of paved trail heading off on another loop; 4) Long Logs and Agate House Trails (2.6 mile total for both loops/there and backs, according to the NPS website). Add it all up, and that's about 5.5 miles total walking, spread out across four different trails. An additional one mile trail at Blue Mesa was closed due to snow and ice conditions on the steep and shaded descent portion of that trail.

NPS descriptions of these trails are here.

Won't write full blown descriptions of all of these trails, because the NPS already has that. I will say that, if given a ranking, I'd say the Long Longs trail is definitely the most densely decorated with petrified wood. In part because of the conversion of a nearly one-mile long access road into a paved walking trail, visitation has dropped, and resulting thievery of petrified wood has also been reduced. It also gave me a little privacy, in contrast to the other trails, which were pretty well traveled, despite the cool and windy weather.

The Agate House is a little disappointing, once you read that the Agate (petrified wood) house is a reconstruction and not an original habitation.

Newspaper Rock (which required a walk of about 75 yards on a sidewalk to see) is crazy-covered with petroglyphs. However, in the winter, they're a little hard to see because they're on a rock at the bottom of an amphitheater. In the winter, I don't think the sun rises high enough to light that area up. Solid outdoor binoculars are installed at the top, so you can examine the stone markings from the safety of the sidewalk. If taking pictures in winter, a tripod to steady your camera might be helpful.

I also saw a few petroglyphs on a rock overlooking a wash near Puerco Pueblo.

Pretty much all of these trails (except the Rim Trail) are highly improved--either macadam or concrete. That's important, because the highly erodible clay soil of this national park become mucky and messy when wet, which they definitely were on the day I visited.

The Rim Trail was pretty much the only chance to put boots on to soil. The views down over the badlands were nice, too.


  1. Nice Skyhiker. I also stopped by this park when I moved to LA a few years ago, hope to get back there sometime. I also couldn't see newspaper rock that well thanks to the angle of the sun. Are you going to hit 100 hikes?

  2. Odds are looking very good, although the last bunch of hikes will probably be mostly short, local stuff. Don't feel much like driving at the moment. :D

    I'll be doing my 94th hike later today. Thinking of something out of Chantry Flats, since I still have my Adventure Pass and I won't be able to use it at Chantry much after I start work. On the weekends, the place is pretty much filled unless you can get there as close to 8am as feasible.

    Though, now that I think about it, my new job will require me to get up during the week by 6:30am or so, so I might get in the habit of more early morning starts to my hikes. After all, here I am, blogging away at 8am on an "off" day. Hmmmm. . . ?