Petrified Forest National Park backcountry includes 50,260 acres of established wilderness. Day hikes are the most popular way to explore the backcountry. Many features can be reached in one day trip, most lying within a few miles of the park road. There are no developed trails in Petrified Forest wilderness, so most hiking is cross country style. Clear air, a lack of heavy vegetation, and a variety of landmarks combine to make conditions excellent for this type of hike. Since water and shade are not available, hikers should carry their own. A wide brimmed hat and long sleeve shirt will provide good sun protection.
A gallon of water per person per day is recommended in summer months. Good sturdy shoes will make hiking in the park's loose sand and loose clay more comfortable. Topographic maps and more detailed information are recommended for hikers planning extended trips. Just park in any designated pullout in the park and you can be on your way to a deeper understanding of Petrified Forest. The entire park boundary is fenced and most of the surrounding land is privately owned. Please get permission from landowners before hiking on their lands.
See the Camping Page for backpack camping.
If at all possible, don't hike alone.
Topographical maps are available for purchase at Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum.
Telephones are available near the entrance to the visitor center and museum.
First aid and emergency services are available at the visitor center, museum and from any park ranger.
Emergency Phones are located at Puerco Pueblo, Blue Mesa and Crystal Forest.
Heat Exhaustion is characterized by pale, cool and damp skin. Remove the person from direct sun, loosen restrictive clothing, and provide cool liquids.
Heat Stroke is characterized by hot, dry, red skin. This is a true emergency. Get the person out of the sun and immediately begin cooling the person's body with damp clothes and fanning. Get help.
Thunderstorms can cause flash flooding which can quickly fill sandy washes. Check the weather forecast before starting your hike and do not camp in low lying areas or washes if rain is a possibility.
Don't over extend yourself; clear desert air can make distant points seem closer.
There is a good chance that you will NOT encounter any of the park's poisonous animals. However shaking out clothing will help avoid scorpions, spiders, and centipedes. Avoid placing hands and feet out of sight on ledges, in rock piles, or animal burrows. If you are bitten by a rattlesnake remain calm and immobilize the bitten limb/body area below the level of the heart. Get help.
Collection of plants, fossils, petrified wood, archeological material or other objects is strictly prohibited.
Do Not feed or harass wildlife - they may carry diseases.
Day hiking is permitted in the park, but overnight camping is permitted only within the designated wilderness area.
Motorized travel is permitted only on paved park roads. Stopping/parking is permitted only at paved pullouts and parking areas. Overnight wilderness campers park only at Kachina Point.
Access to the wilderness area is allowed only by foot or horseback. Permits are required for overnight use.
Apply for your wilderness permit in time to arrive at your campsite by parking closing. Permits stop being issued one hour before the park closes.
The use or possession of firearms is prohibited in all areas of the park including the wilderness areas.
Groups using the wilderness areas overnight are restricted to 15 persons.
Horseback riding and pack animals are permitted in the wilderness, but overnight users are limited to six animals. All feed for animals must be packed in.
Campfires are prohibited; use of fuel stoves for cooking is recommended.
All litter and refuse must be packed out.
Bury human waste a minimum of six inches in the soil.
All day hikers must be back in their vehicles driving towards one of the park exists by the posted park closing time.
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