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A Brief Stopover in Petrified Forest National Park

Arizona Winter Loop | Saturday & Sunday, January 28-29, 2023

We recently found out that Diane would have a little time off from her clinical rotations before going back at it in mid-February and then she would be pretty busy until her graduation in May, so we decided to load up the Jeep and head down to southern Arizona in search of some warmer temperatures for a week. One of my main goals this trip was to spend a couple days exploring the Sky Islands and Chiricahua National Monument in the southeastern corner of Arizona, but since it’s a long drive to get there we broke up the initial drive by spending a night at the Painted Desert Ranger Cabin near Petrified Forest National Park and did a little hiking while we were there. I just can’t pass up an opportunity to spend a little time hiking in the backcountry of that amazing park when we are nearby!

We left home early on Saturday morning and drove down through southeastern Utah and the Navajo Nation until we reached the Petrified Forest in the early afternoon. Once in the park we headed over to the Jasper Forest Overlook and hiked down through the forest to reach First Forest Point, which is one of the park’s Off the Beaten Path hikes that we have been slowly completing on each visit to the park. I had chosen this hike for today since I wanted to do something short and it was only supposed to be 2.1 miles round trip, which would give us plenty of time for exploring the area while we were there, but on our way to the First Forest Point I realized that the distance on the brochure was wrong and the 2.1 miles was actually going to be the one-way distance. No matter, it was easy hiking in a beautiful and desolate landscape- we just wouldn’t have as much time to explore other parts of the area this time. The temperature outside was 50 degrees this afternoon, but it was very windy which made it feel much cooler.

Hiking through the petrified wood of the Jasper Forest.

Jasper Forest Butte

Jasper Forest

First Forest Butte

First Forest Boulders

I had hoped to find some petroglyphs along the way, and we did, but there were not very many around like we have found in other parts of the park.

Small Boulder Panel

Daisy Chain Rock

Round Ears

After a longer hike than I had initially planned, it was getting late when we finished, so we left the park and found our way over to the Painted Desert Ranger Cabin which sits at the boundary of Petrified Forest National Park along Lithodendron Wash. Thankfully the roads were mostly dry, otherwise it could have been problematic getting out here.

Ranger Cabin Sign

After reaching the cabin and getting our gear inside it was getting close to sunset, so I grabbed my camera and headed out for a short walk in the Painted Desert.

Wilderness Point

Boundary Line

Wildhorse Wash Sunset

Heading back to the cabin after wandering around Lithodendron Wash and Wildhorse Wash.

Ranger Cabin at Sunset

The Painted Desert Ranger Cabin

Painted Desert Ranger Cabin

Ranger Cabin at Dusk

Here are two shots of the interior of the cabin. The pellet stove kept it nice and warm inside as the outside temperature dropped into the mid-20’s overnight.

Pellet Stove

Ranger Cabin Interior

On Saturday morning Diane and I were up before sunrise and spent a couple hours exploring the nearby Devil’s Playground. Here are two photos of the cabin I took as we left at dawn.

Morning at the Cabin

Painted Desert Ranger Cabin at Dawn

Following the jumbles of boulders on the way to the Devil’s Playground.

Boulder Jumble

Rocky Tower

White Hoodoo

White Hoodoo

The Devil’s Playground was an interesting area to explore and it reminded me of the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico.

Into the Devil's Playground

Playground Light

Devil's Playground

Up the Wash

Devil's Playground Butte

After returning to the cabin from the Devil’s Playground we loaded up the Jeep and returned to the park so we could go on one more Off the Beaten Path hike near Blue Mesa before heading further south into Arizona.

East Fork Exploring

Hoodoo View

After spotting some small potsherds in a wash, we hiked up the wash and found a couple petroglyphs on boulders.

Fallen Slab Panel

Slab Petroglyphs

Down the Wash

Blue Mesa

Hiking a little further across the moonscape we came across another small hill that had a number of scattered boulders with petroglyphs on them.

Three Boulders

Narrow Panel

Overhang Petroglyphs

Top Panel

Boulder Petroglyphs

Once our search for petroglyphs was over, we headed back to my Jeep through Billings Gap and then continued our drive into southern Arizona.

Billings Gap

>> Stopover in Petrified Forest National Park Photo Gallery


    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 9, 2023

      Yes, you can see it in the second interior photo. There is a sink and shower, too.

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