Half Day/ Auto-tour Itinerary

If you have several hours/ half a day in the park:

  • Stop in at Painted Desert Visitor Center, near the north end of the park.

    • Watch the film, gather any brochures, or ask any questions you may have.

  • Drive the length of the park (28-miles), stopping any of the several overlook locations, including:

    • Newspaper Rock, Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest,

  • Drop by the Rainbow Forest Museum to see fossil and petrified wood displays, and well as history and wildlife exhibitions.

Full Day Itinerary

If you have a full day to spend in the park, consider adding several destinations:

  • Stop in at Painted Desert Visitor Center, near the north end of the park.

    • Watch the film, gather any brochures, or ask any questions you may have.

  • Visit the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark, located just north of the Visitor Center, a historic building which provided respite for Route 66 travelers.

    • The Inn also provides exhibits and great views of the surrounding vistas.

  • Drive the length of the park (28-miles), stopping any of the several overlook locations and hikes, including:

    • Puerco Pueblo Trail (located just before Newspaper Rock) and Giant Logs Trail (located next to the Rainbow Forest Museum).

    • Tiponi, Tawa, Kachina, Chinde, Pintado, Nizhoni, Whipple, Lacey, Newspaper Rock, Jasper Forest, and Crystal Forest.

    • Drive the short Blue Mesa Road (4-miles round-trip), located near the southern end of the park.

  • Drop by the Rainbow Forest Museum to see fossil and petrified wood displays, and well as history and wildlife exhibitions.

Two Day Itinerary

If you have two days to spend touring the park, you’ll be able to add several nice hikes to your trip. We recommend you split the trip up like this:

Day One - The Northern Half of the Park:

  • Begin at Painted Desert Visitor Center, near the north end of the park.

    • Watch the film, gather any brochures, or ask any questions you may have.

  • Visit the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark, located just north of the Visitor Center, a historic building which provided respite for Route 66 travelers.

    • The Inn also provides exhibits and great views of the surrounding vistas.

  • Drive south on the main park road, stopping at any overlook locations and these three short hikes:

    • Painted Desert Rim Trail (located at Tawa Point and Kachina Point): 1 mile round trip; offers spectacular views of the Painted Desert and the chance to spot various plants and wildlife.

    • Puerco Pueblo Trail (located just before Newspaper Rock): .3 mile loop; paved trail that offers visitors sights of a 100-room pueblo, and several petroglyphs at the south end of the trail.

    • Drive the short Blue Mesa Road (4-miles round-trip), located near the southern end of the park, and hike the 1 mile loop located at the end of the road. Trail begins at Blue Mesa Sun Shelter, and provides a “badlands” hiking experience and views of the great blue mesas.

Day Two - The Southern Half of the Park:

  • Drop by the Rainbow Forest Museum to see fossil and petrified wood displays, and well as history and wildlife exhibitions.

  • Enjoy these hikes:

    • Crystal Forest (located north of the Rainbow Forest Museum, south of Blue Mesa Road): .75 mile loop; visitors can find beautiful crystals inside the petrified logs.

    • Giant Logs Trail (next to the Rainbow Forest Museum): .4 mile loop; features some of the largest and most colorful petrified logs in the park. The iconic “Old Faithful” log is located here, and is almost 10 feet in diameter at the base.

    • Long Logs Trail (next to the Rainbow Forest Museum): 1.6 mile round trip; one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park.

    • Agate House (next to the Rainbow Forest Museum): 2 miles round trip; see a small, 8-room pueblo that was occupied 700 years ago.  

      • Long Logs and Agate House Trails can be combined for a total of 2.6 miles round trip.

Backcountry Itinerary

Backcountry permits are free, but must be obtained at least one hour before park closure, at either the Rainbow Forest Museum or the Painted Desert Visitor Center.

Most backpackers head into the Wilderness Area, located North of Hwy 40 and Route 66, as much of the other areas of the park are private access; however, some popular areas are located in other areas.

In the Wilderness Area:

  • Park at the Painted Desert Inn.

  • Backpackers must hike 1 mile from the trailhead, past LIthodendron Wash before setting up camp.

  • See the complete list of rules here.

  • See more hikes, located in other parts of the park here.