Distance (round-trip)

0.8 mi


0.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

35 ft




Crystal Forest is home to a moderately easy hiking loop through a dense collection of petrified wood, offering both expansive vistas of Petrified Forest National Park and some up-close experiences with the ancient trees turned modern day stones.

If you’re headed to Petrified Forest National Park, odds are you’re eventually going to want to see some petrified wood, right? There are two areas where established trails can get you right into the petrified forests — one is at the park’s southern entrance, where the Long Logs, Giant Logs, and Agate House are all within easy striking distance of each other — and the other is a bit farther north at the area known as the Crystal Forest.

Here, a 0.8 mile loop trail takes you into the remains of an ancient forest, where some 225 million years ago, 200-foot tall conifers dominated a tropical lowland. Time, climate, and geologic forces buried the trees in layers of mud and volcanic ash, leaving enormous fossilized remains for visitors of the modern age.

The fossilized trees of the Crystal Forest have an unusually high concentration of additional crystals inside the trees themselves — small pockets where the trees have become filled with deposits that eventually turned into quartz and amethyst crystals.

As with all areas inside National Park, collection or disturbance of anything — especially petrified wood — is forbidden. If you spot someone taking petrified wood, please contact the rangers at (928) 524-6228 as soon as possible.

The trail begins on a paved path that heads toward a lone (and very welcome) shade shelter.

crystal forest-2

From this shade shelter, you’ll get a tremendous panorama of the Crystal Forest area. The top of the Blue Mesa formation gives many of the hills a blue-purplish tint, while rabbitbrush and grasses chime in with green or gold. And the fallen, fossilized, fractured trees lie everywhere.

crystal forest-3

The trail forms a lollipop loop, and you can go in any direction. This route goes clockwise but either way, you’ll be taken up close to the petrified wood. Be sure to spend some time getting a closer look — each log is unique, and they all reward careful inspection.

crystal forest-5

crystal forest-6

While most trees in Petrified Forest have been scattered due to geologic movement and erosion, in some cases, you can still see trees that are lying essentially in a straight line, just as they fell all those millions of years ago.

crystal forest-8

The trail reaches its high point at about the half-mile mark, then turns west to close the loop and return to the trailhead.




Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles" and "Discovering Griffith Park." Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.

Historical Interest


Trail Map

0 Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

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

Join the Modern Hiker Newsletter

Learn about new trail guides, outdoor news, and be the first to learn about events in the free Modern Hiker Newsletter. All original content and guaranteed not to flood your inbox -- new issues usually come every 2-3 weeks.

Looking for Quarantine Hikes?Please listen to your local health officials

Because the situation on the ground is changing rapidly and so many different jurisdictions and land agencies are involved, we will no longer be updating individual parks, trails, or regions for closures. We strongly recommend you stick with neighborhood walks to support efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Please read this post for more information.