Years ago in a National Geographic book my kids had read about Rainbow Trees in Arizona and begged to see them one day. But I soon discovered the national park hiking trail that I will skip next time.
Driving across Route 66 I realized we would be going near the Petrified Forest National Park and the Rainbow Forest Museum so we decided to stop in.
Free Entrance to National Parks:
Thanks to my 4th grade son we were using his FREE 4th Grade Kids in the Park pass on our 9000 mile road trip that summer. By the time we had made it from Chicago to the Petrified Forest National Park though we were pretty exhausted!
We’d been tent camping across Route 66 in some pretty extreme weather but were glad to be out of the car and hike for a bit. So let’s be honest here for a minute – Arizona gets ungodly hot in the summer and my family was already exhausted after sitting in the car for a week.
What trails are at the Petrified Forest National Park?
- Painted Desert Rim Trail
- Puerco Pueblo
- Blue Mesa
- Crystal Forest
- Giant Logs
- Long Logs
- Agate House
You can learn more about each trail on the National Park Service page.
There are TWO entrances into Petrified Forest National Park. YES TWO!
There is an entrance off of I-40 and and entrance on 180. The visitors center and trails we wanted to hit were ALL off of 180. Since we were on our way up to Holbrook it worked out great.
We started our day at the Rainbow Museum Visitors Center. Our only plan as we were driving through to get to Holbrook and eventually Williams was to see the Rainbow Trees. The visitors center was small but nice and had this lovely homemade kaleidoscope set up – great for kids!
Where is the Rainbow Forest located?:
Directly behind the visitors center, right out the back door, is what most people call the Rainbow Forest. It’s made up of the Giant Logs trail and is fairly accessible for everyone.
Be forewarned that the trail kind of goes all over the place with no signs. I wasn’t really sure where we were supposed to start, go, or end so we just started walking forward to whatever interested us.
There’s no denying that these ginormous petrified logs were unique and worth protecting, but these petrified “rainbow tree” trails are ones we will skip next time. After you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all type of thing.
Unpopular opinion maybe, but when it’s over 100*, you’ve spent a week driving in the car and have 3 tired hot kids in tow, we were a little underwhelmed at the trees we’d waited so long to see!
The National Park hiking trail I’ll skip next time:
Out of all of the places we’ve been in the country this national park hiking trail is one I will skip next time. It’s a one time deal to say you’ve seen it.
These photos are exactly what you will see….over and over again on the petrified tree trails. We saw a LOT of things on our 9000 mile road trip but this is probably the only place I wish I had skipped. Oodles of nearby stores had massive displays of petrified wood – both for viewing and for sale.
Other places to see petrified wood:
Again, perhaps the heat of the day and our exhaustion from the long week went into play here but it was less than exciting for my family. But we had set aside most of a day to see these when we saw piles and piles of them in shops all over Holbrook and nearby towns. I wish I’d known that beforehand!
Thankfully though we decided to try one more trail in the Petrified Forest National Park and headed over to the Blue Mesa trail which you can read about here. You also don’t want to miss this vintage car on Route 66 in the park!
This is probably one of the coolest postcards we picked up on our 9000 mile journey! I LOVED the overlay on the font, especially the Route 66 sign! It was too cool not to share!