Crystal Forest

Round Trip Distance: 0.9 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5516 - 5560 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Crystal Forest
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: petrified wood, paved trail

The Crystal Forest trail is located in the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona. The Petrified Forest is laid out so that visitors can drive through the park from either the north or south entrance and exit at the opposite end of the park. The park hours vary throughout the year but the road is basically only open during daylight hours. To control the theft of park resources vehicles are searched upon exiting the park. There are many places outside the park where petrified wood can be purchased legally for the average price of around $2/pound. To simplify things it is probably best to make purchases of petrified rock after visiting the park.

The Crystal Forest gets its name from the various forms of quartz that formed crystals within the hollow logs as they petrified. Unfortunately a lot of the crystals of amethyst and quartz have been removed by previous visitors. If you keep a keen eye out you are bound to see some wonderfully colored specimens as you hike.

The trail at Crystal Forest is a wide strip of pavement suitable for baby strollers and wheelchairs. The trail splits into a loop a short distance from the trailhead. This post follows the loop in the clockwise direction by following the left fork.

This once hollow log has been entirely filled with quartz while the outer ring was petrified retaining its original shape and texture.

A fascinating aspect of the petrified forest is that several hundred million years ago it was a tropical rain forest located at the equator. Now it is an arid desert that is mostly treeless. The petrified remains adorn the land as monuments to a time so long ago that remind visitors that they once graced the land as living trees. Too bad there wasn't someone around at the time to carve their initials into one of the trunks.

There are areas where the petrified trees are crumbling and the ground is littered with rocks that resemble wood chips.

The petrified trees break into sections resembling firewood as though they were cut cleanly by a saw. It is all due to the way the quartz fractures when under stress from either the ground washing away beneath it or being uplifted by forces in the earth.

Don't make a costly mistake. There are no free samples. The Petrified Forest National Park only protects about 10% of the petrified rock in the United States. There are plenty of places on BLM land where you can legally collect your own samples. We come across petrified wood on lots of the hikes that are posted on this site.

There are different things that can be learned at each of the trails in the Petrified Forest National Park. An ambitious visitor can probably make it to all of them in one day and still have a little time to spend at the museums and gift shops. The Crystal Forest trail is right along the main road and only takes about 30 minutes of your time. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.