Let me start off by saying “this is a true story.” On our way back from a nice weekend in Scottsdale and Phoenix my husband thought it would be a good time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Ok, really… We had been forced to take a detour through Payson Arizona because Flagstaff had 6 inches of snow and we were in a car that didn’t have 4 wheel drive :) Nevertheless, Payson had 2 inches of ice and we were totally freaked out and needed to decompress. That is how we ended up in the Petrified Forest…
The scenery is fun for little ones and it is nice to get out and stretch your legs. They have a Jr. Ranger program where your children can earn a badge and a patch for answering some questions while walking through the park. There are fossils and huge logs of petrified wood with amazing colors! There are also native grassland, and displays of over 200-million-year-old fossils, this is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science. He especially loved the large black Ravens we encountered. We entered the petrified forest from the south end of the park (see map below). The petrified forest spans twenty-some miles and drops you right off at 1-40. So, if you have an hour to spare on your way home from Arizona stop by this little gem.
Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona, about 50 miles from the New Mexico border on Interstate 40.
Private Vehicle: Driving from Phoenix you have several choices, depending on your location in the greater Phoenix area:
From eastern side of greater Phoenix, travel Highways 87 North to Payson, 260 East to Heber, 377 North to Holbrook, and 180 South to the park (215 miles).
Driving from Albuquerque travel 204 miles west on Interstate 40 to Exit 311.
Petrified Forest National Park stretches north and south between Interstate 40 and Highway 180. There are two entrances into the park. Your direction of travel dictates which entrance is best for you:
Westbound Interstate 40 travelers should take Exit 311, drive the 28 miles through the park and connect with Highway 180 at the south end. Travel 19 miles on Highway 180 North to return to Interstate 40 via Holbrook.
Eastbound Interstate 40 travelers should take Exit 285 into Holbrook then travel 19 miles on Highway 180 South to the park’s south entrance. Drive the 28 miles north through the park to return to Interstate 40.