What’s the Best Time to Visit Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona?

Two hundred million year old trees that have fossilized into quartz? Who wouldn’t want to see that incredible natural wonder?

Along with Joshua Tree and Saguaro, Petrified Forest is one of the few national parks named after trees.

The park is home to countless pieces of petrified wood – ancient trees which partially turned to stone or quartz via the fossilization process.

best time to visit petrified forest national park

When I visited recently, I wasn’t sure what I’d find other than these hunks of old wood. But it turns out PFNP has some fascinating walking trails and natural features like Blue Mesa and the Painted Desert.

Because it’s located in Arizona, many may assume that the weather here is always hot and sunny. But that is not the case. It gets chilly and even snowy during the winter months.

What’s the best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park? The short answer: To avoid crowds and get the best weather, come on a weekday during autumn.

But this is a rare national park where you can come any month of the year and have a good visit. Let’s go into detail about the pros and cons of each season.

quartz log
A petrified log that has turned to quartz.

Best Time to Visit Petrified Forest: Weather By Season

Petrified Forest National Park in Spring

Average high temperatures: 64-79 F
Average low temperatures: 31-45 F
Precipitation: 2 days per month

Spring is an awesome time to come to the park. Crowds aren’t super-big yet, and temperatures are generally comfortable but not too hot.

I came to the park in late May. It was a little hotter than I would have preferred, but in general it was fine, and the walking trails were not overcrowded.

Visitation starts to pick up in May, which is the third-most popular month to visit, behind June and July. May is when many of the wildflowers start blooming!

petrified forest national park in summer

Petrified Forest National Park in Summer

Average high temperatures: 90-93 F
Average low temperatures: 54-61 F
Precipitation: 5 days of rain per month (occasional thunderstorms)

The summer months are the busiest time of year in the park, especially for families, since the kids are out of school.

That said, Petrified Forest isn’t running into the same overcrowding issues that parks like Zion, Glacier, and Mt. Rainier are experiencing. So it’s still an enjoyable visit if you make a summer PF trip.

Be prepared for hot weather! The average high is 90 or above from June through August. Fortunately, most trails here aren’t that long, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and a summer visit will be fine.

petrified forest best month to visit
Visiting Blue Mesa on a hot, sunny day.

Petrified Forest National Park in Autumn

Average high temperatures: 60-84 F
Average low temperatures: 31-53 F
Precipitation: 3 days of rain per month

In my opinion, autumn is the best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park. Declining crowd sizes and nice weather make the park enjoyable from September through November.

You’ll still find plenty of sunshine, and you’ll be able to enjoy the attractions with fewer people around.  That’s a win-win!

logs trail national park

Petrified Forest National Park in Winter

Average high temperatures: 49-55 F
Average low temperatures: 23-26 F
Precipitation: 2-3 days per month (occasional snow)

The size of winter crowds can be less than a quarter of the summer crowds, so you’ll have more of the park to yourself. It just depends if you’re ok with potentially challenging weather.

High temperatures still reach 50 degrees on a typical winter day, but those nights will be cold! Dustings of snow can occur during these months. Petrified Forest gets an average of 10.7 inches of snow for the entire winter.

Petrified Forest makes our list of the best national parks to visit in February.

Other Common Petrified Forest Questions

blue mesa badlands
Fall is the best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park to see attractions like the Blue Mesa badlands.

What’s the closest airport to Petrified Forest NP?

The nearest major airports are in Phoenix and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Phoenix is 200 miles west of the park, while Albuquerque is 220 miles east of the park.

Both are about 3.5 hours of driving from the park, so you can fly into whichever airport offers cheaper flights!

There’s a smaller airport in Flagstaff, about 90 minutes from the park. And an even smaller airport (suitable for private planes) just 20 minutes from the park in Holbrook, Arizona.

Is There a Petrified Forest National Park Map?

petrified forest national park map
Basic map of Petrified Forest National Park and nearby towns. (NPS)

The official park map can be found here. Click the Trip Planner for a PDF showing park roads and points of interest.

What are the petrified logs made of?

The logs contain quartz, iron oxides, and manganese oxides. You can tell which minerals are in the wood based on its color.

The logs with a lot of white stone, for instance, are quartz. This sign explains the different types of minerals within the petrified forest.

petrified logs minerals

What hotels are near Petrified Forest NP?

The good news about Petrified Forest is that, unlike many national parks, plenty of hotels can be found within a 25-minute drive, both to the west in Holbrook and to the east in Chambers.

Days Inn by Wyndham Chambers

The closest hotel east of the park is Days Inn by Wyndham. It’s a basic property with free wifi, and microwaves and fridges in the rooms. It also tends to be more affordable than other area hotels. Check pricing and availability here.

Brad’s Desert Inn

Brad’s Desert Inn is the only non-chain hotel in Holbrook. It’s funky and unique, with a lot of Southwest décor. The hotel is located on old Route 66 and features some of that classic flavor. Trains run all night, but the inn provides earplugs. Check pricing and availability here.

Places to Visit in The Park

The park has a lot of interesting features. These are some of the highlights for a quick one or two day visit.

Blue Mesa

blue mesa hiking trail

Blue Mesa is one of the most awesome landscapes in the park, with striped badlands and tall hoodoos, or rock spires.

Shades of white, blue, and gray dominate this unusual area. A paved walking trail leads guests between the colorful mounds.

Painted Desert Rim Trail

painted desert

One mile long, the Painted Desert Rim Trail is the place to view the Painted Desert, a vast landscape with mountains with streaks of red and lavender.

If it’s too hot to hike, don’t worry – you can see this area from many overlooks on the main park road as well.

Giant Logs Trail

This is why you’re here! The Giant Logs Trail was formed around the section of the park with the highest concentration of petrified wood.

This trail is only a half-mile long, and you’ll be able to see the logs up close. You can clearly see how the wood has turned to stone and minerals.

Puerco Pueblo

puerco pueblo

Here’s the most easily-accessible ancestral Pueblo village in the country. The walk is only one-third of a mile to the remnants of stone buildings that were used in the 1300s, and you can also see petroglyphs along the way!

Newspaper Rock

See more than 650 petroglyphs carved into a small group of boulders at this roadside pullout.

Agate House Trail

This walk is two miles and it can be a bit tiring during hot summer sun. It leads to an old 8-room house that was occupied by natives who lived in the area 700 years ago.

Painted Desert Inn

painted desert inn

Once a popular motel, the Painted Desert Inn opened in the 1920s, with a handful of rooms available for $2-4 per night. These days, it’s a historic museum.

Route 66 Studebaker

studebaker route 66

Historic Route 66 goes right through the northern end of the park! This spot is marked with a half-buried, rusting 1932 Studebaker car evoking the bygone era.

Because of its many attractions and easy walking trails, Petrified Forest is one of the best national parks for solo travelers.

Note: While you’re in the area, consider visiting Standin’ On the Corner Park on Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. We also have blog posts about outdoor activities in Phoenix, and the wildlife of the Grand Canyon.

Have you ever visited the park? What do you think is the best time to visit Petrified Forest National Park?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *