Crystal Forest – Petrified Forest NP

Distance.89 mi
Elevation Gain36 ft
My time21 min
DifficultyEasy
Closest TownGallup
Food NearbyEl Rancho

Crystal Forest

On my first trip to the Petrified Forest National Park I went to the Painted Desert Rim but never got a chance to see the actual petrified trees. So on the way back on the Great Southwestern Road Trip I decided to stop again and visit the Crystal Forest. The Crystal Forest is one of the two best known spots to see the petrified wood at the park.

Getting Started

The Crystal Forest trailhead is about 22 miles down the Petrified Forest Road with a small pull off and parking lot on the east side of the road. There are several pull off areas between the visitor center and the Crystal Forest. For me it was easier to drive right there and then hit the other pull offs on the way back.

The trail itself is very easy. It is a paved path that does a small loop that is under a mile long.

The Sign for the Crystal Forest along with the paved path that takes you to the forest itself.

I have to admit that when I heard the name Crystal Forest I was expecting (hoping) a lush forest full of 50 foot tall crystal trees that rained down diamond acorns. My retirement was based on this assumption. I was incorrect.

The Petrified Wood

The section of petrified wood is much different. The “wood” comes in varying sizes laying around the trail. These are actually classified as fossil’s. According to Geology.com the fossil forms when “plant material is buried by sediment and protected from decay due to oxygen and organisms”. Fatman translation = it looks really cool.

The Base of a fossilized tree on the Crystal Forest path.  You can see the remnants of rings on the tree.

Some of the cool things that I noticed were that you could still see remanants of rings in the fossils. The other thing that I found fascinating was the variations in colors that could be found in this small area.

More crystalized fossils that look like tree chunks at the Crystal Forest Path.

I would say that this section of “forest” had about 40 – 50 samples of fossils. The sizes, shapes and colors were all over the place. Each little spot was completely unique which made the short journey feel like it was even longer.

A pile of red and purple "stumps" of fossils laying on white rock on the Crystal Forest Path.

Eventhough it was much smaller than I had expected, and it didn’t rain diamonds at me, I still did enjoy the short walk through the Crystal Forest. Next stop was Giant Logs and more petrified fossils!

Bonus Video

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around .89 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 36 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 5,567 feet. I was also moving for a total of 21 minutes.

Effort

A really nice and easy walk around a paved path the Crystal Forest should be able to be enjoyed by all skill levels. There is a slight hill but nothing that is too challenging on this one.

Terrain

A paved walkway for this path makes the trail really easy to navigate.

Access

The Crystal Forest is located about 20 miles down the road from the I-40 visitor center. There is parking for about 10 cars at this pullout at the Petrified Forest National Park. There is an entry fee of $25 per vehicles but a National Park pass will work.

Wrapping up The Crystal Forest

This was more of what I was thinking of when I first went to the Petrified Forest National Park. The iconic wood fossils was what I was hoping to see and I wasn’t disappointed. If there is something I have learned on this Road Trip is that nature is amazing.

The one thing I didn’t really like was the 20 mile drive once inside the park to make it to the forest. I pulled over once thinking that I had missed it but I was only half way there. The park is very long and the views are mixed. A large stretch is just scrub brush which made me doubt I was headed the right way.

When I found it though I thought it was very cool except for being a bit smaller than I thought it would be.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. You can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

3 thoughts on “Crystal Forest – Petrified Forest NP”

  1. Pingback: Giant Logs - Petrified Forest NP - Fat Man Little Trail

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