Traveling along Interstate 40, take exit 311 and head north to the Painted Desert Visitor's Center. Here you will be able to get a meal, buy souvenirs, fill your canteens, and if you plan to do back country camping in the Painted Desert Wilderness Area, register for a free backcountry permit.
About 1/10 of a mile north of the Visitor's Center is the gate to Petrified Forest National Park. Entrance fee's are $10 US for a vehicle, $5 for pedestrians, or free with a Golden Eagle pass. If you have any petrified wood that you purchased or collected outside of the park, it is very critical to declare it at this time. The first stop on the park's paved access road is Tiponi Point. Facing to the north and northeast, the visitor is given their first views of the park with a sea of red, pink and white formations.
Further down the road is Tawa Point which is also the trailhead to the half-mile Rim Trail. Heading northwest on the trail, it ends at Kachina Point where the Painted Desert Inn is located, a National Historic Landmark used as a ranger station, store (no food or water) and privy. The classic southwestern adobe building faces incredible deep red formations and the Black Forest region of the Painted Desert. The trail is unimproved but well maintained and practically flat. A bench is located roughly at the half way point and offers a place to enjoy the view, or get some relief from the heat.
Driving from Kachina Point, the road turns to the west with a side road leading to Chinde Point. Chinde Point has privies and picnic areas, and also is the trailhead to access the Painted Desert Wilderness Area. A 50,000 plus acre region of total desolation lined with badland formations. If you are well equipped and in good condition, you can hike eleven miles round trip to the Northwest and visit Pilot Rock, which stands over 6,200 feet in the northwest corner of the park.
Continuing from Chinde Point the road turns south, and you will come to Pintado Point that faces west towards Flagstaff and the San Francisco Mountains, which on a very clear day can easily be seen. Continuing south on the road, you will also come to Nizhoni, Whipple, and Lacey Points, which offer differing views of the western Painted Desert.
Continue your tour of Petrified Forest National Park...