2022 Guide to Camping in Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is often overshadowed by other National Parks such as the Grand Canyon National Park, or Zion National Park which are somewhat nearby. Although not as dramatic as either of these, the park has rolling red hills and vibrant petrified wood. 

Camping in Petrified Forest National Park might seem like a lot of work at first. In reality, it is actually really easy to obtain a permit, and a great secluded place to relax.

Petrified Forest National Park is located in the north eastern part of Arizona. Getting there tends to be a longer journey than some other National Parks. The two most common airports to fly into are Phoenix Sky Harbor, which is about a 4 hour drive or Albuquerque International Sunport, which is about a 3 hour drive. 

It is also only about a 3 hour drive from the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, which makes it a great additional day trip (plus it is a lot less crowded!).

When to Go to Petrified Forest National Park

Similar to Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park goes through extreme weather conditions. Summer months can get well over 100 degrees fahrenheit, while in winter months temperatures can get below freezing and there is even the possibility of snow. 

The spring and fall months have the most temperate weather, but also have a chance of some thunderstorms.

Getting Permits to Camp in Petrified Forest National Park

The only way to go camping inside of Petrified Forest National Park is to go into the backcountry. There are no designated campgrounds, or areas for RV’s to park. 

Unlike other backcountry permits, the ones at Petrified Forest National Park are obtained in person, there is no online reservation. They can be obtained the day of your trip, and not to worry although there are limited amounts of permits the park ranger I spoke to stated that they rarely ever hit capacity. 

Permits can be obtained at either visitor center at no cost. They will just collect some simple information such as the number of people in your party, tent color, license plate, and what area you are planning to camp in. 

Tip: Cell signal, although low can be found in most areas of the park in the case of an emergency

Where to Camp in Petrified Forest National Park

There are essentially 2 areas that you are able to go camping in. The first, being the northern area of Petrified Forest National Park. This area you can expect to see more of the red rock landscape. The other option is to camp on the southern end of the park. Here you will find less red rocks, but a lot more petrified wood. 

The dogs and I decided to head off to the northern end of the park. It is just a short drive from the visitor center to the Painted Desert Inn, which is where you will park the vehicle overnight. We headed down to the switchbacks to the desert floor. 

Once you reach the bottom, it is pretty much just a flat trail that you have to hike. There is a short trail, and then it opens up to just pretty much hike anywhere. The rule provided by the National Park Service for backcountry camping is it needs to be at least a mile off the main trail.

We headed north-east for about 3 miles until we found an area that was secluded from the wind. That is one thing I didn’t not expect to face, but honestly it made it feel a lot cooler. Once camp was all set up the dogs enjoyed their dinner before an evening walk. 

It was starting to get dark pretty fast, so I cooked myself dinner and then waited to see the stars. It is very dark within Petrified Forest National Park, which makes it great for stargazing. After about an hour I decided it was time to get some rest, as I knew the sun would be up early and I wanted to get out before it got too hot. 

The dogs and I were packed up by 7 and started our trek back to the car. We reached the car around 10:30, after plenty of water breaks. Although just a short night trip the dogs loved being able to get out and explore the wilderness.

How to Bring Your Dog Camping with You in Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is on the short list of parks that allow you to bring your dog. This is not one of those parks that are bring your dog, they can only stay on the paved path. No, they can adventure anywhere in the park, including joining you to go backcountry camping. 

Obviously there are rules listed out by the National Park Service, such as they must be kept on a leash and you need to pick up after them.

This is a great adventure for your pups, but remember to check the temperatures before going. It can get very hot and with limited shade dogs have the potential to overheat fast. I brought both my dogs in late April, and they loved it. 

Tip: Your dog can become a BARK ranger!

What to Pack for Petrified Forest National Park

Packing to go camping in Petrified Forest National Park can be kind of difficult. First, the weather can be polar opposite during the day and night. The sun can be sweltering in the afternoon, and with limited shade it is difficult to stay cool. Once the sun goes down temperatures drop dramatically. 

There is also no water when camping in Petrified Forest National Park, so you need to bring all of your water with you, this can add weight and fast. 

Here is what I packed for my 2 day 1 night adventure while camping in Petrified Forest National Park:

Whether you are planning just a day trip, or a multi-day camping trip Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to check out.

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