The Crystal Forest Trail is another of the impressive and beautiful hiking trails at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. To get to the Crystal Forest Trail you’ll need to drive about 10 miles along the park from the South Entrance to get to the trailhead for the Crystal Forest Trail. The Crystal Forest Trail is a relatively easy and paved trail that covers .8 miles round trip and has very minimal elevation gain. The trail is named for petrified log that once contained glassy quarts and amethyst crystals. Over time park visitors stole many of these crystals so the sights along the trail are not as impressive as they once were.
From the parking area the start of the trail is a very short walk. There is an informational sign at the trailhead that provides a little information about the sights on the trail, the disappearance of many of the crystals over time and illustrates the route the trail follows through the Crystal Forest. The Crystal Forest Trail blends the sights seen along the Giant Logs Trail and the Painted Desert into one .8-mile trail. Like the Giant Logs Trail, there is petrified wood everywhere and possible more of it within sight than along the Giant Logs Trail.
The Crystal Forest Trail provides beautiful landscape views of rolling hills that tend to be a mostly chalky white near the trail ad blend into a more brown and golden color off in the distance. The environment in this part of Petrified Forest National Park is a rather harsh desert environment where few plants manage to cling to life, however you will see some grasses dotting the landscape as you walk along the trail. As you continue along the trail, larger badlands mounds will appear off in the distance. Though the light will probably be a rather harsh afternoon light as you hike this trail you’ll still be able to get some fairly good photos of these precursors to the Painted Desert and the Blue Mesa Trail a bit father along the road through Petrified Forest National Park.
As you continue around the trail you will encounter more large petrified logs that if they were completely in tact look as if they may at one time have been even larger than the “Old Faithful” petrified log along the Giant Logs Trail. Some large petrified logs will appear to grow out of the ground while others are still more than 50% buried and working their way to the surface as the forces or wind and water erosion slowly uncover these giant specimens of petrified wood.
Some logs along the trail are much more colorful than others. When you come to some of the larger petrified logs that have relatively clean breaks in them and look as if they may have been sliced with a chainsaw before they became petrified, take a close look. While human hands have not professionally polished these specimens, the hands of nature offer you some very brightly colored multicolored cross sections of petrified wood to look at along your hike.
Soon you will come to the end of the .8-mile hike and end up back at the trailhead where you started a short distance fro your car in the parking lot. As you continue your South to North journey along the road through Petrified Forest National Park be sure to stop at the Jasper Forest, the Agate Bridge, hike the Blue Mesa Trail (or at least drive the 3-mile Blue Mesa loop road) and continue on up toward the Painted Desert to see even more spectacular sights you probably didn’t associate with Petrified Forest National Park unless you did at least a little research before your journey to the park!