Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Utah
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is a must-see stop when exploring Grand Staircase Escalante Monument. Walk through geological history as you explore colorful, 150 million year old petrified wood on the Petrified Forest Nature Trail or escape the southern Utah heat in the cool waters of Wide Hollow Reservoir.
Fun: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Difficulty: Very Easy Easy MODERATE Hard Very Hard
Very Easy to Moderate depending on what you are doing
Distance: 0.1 to 3 miles if hiking
Elevation Gain: flat to steep if hiking
Terrain: Sand, rocks, petrified wood, reservoir
Time: A couple hours to a few days
When to Go: Spring, Summer, Fall
$6 Day use fee
$20 – $28/Night
Reservoir for swimming/boating/kayaking/fishing
Paddle boards/kayaks for rent
THINGS TO BRING
Camping gear if camping
Good hiking shoes/gear
Petrified Forest State Park is a great base camp for visiting Escalante National Monument. It not only provides a central location for visiting sites nearby, but also has fun activities and geological points of interest right within the park. You can stop here for a few hours to explore the petrified wood or cool off in the reservoir or stay several days. We stayed three nights and wished we had a few more days to spend.
Petrified Forest State Park is definitely somewhere we will stay again. We loved that we were near the many outdoor adventures of Grand Staircase Escalante Monument. There are endless outdoor adventures in this 1 million acre protected area. We were able to explore the Spooky and Peak-a-boo slot canyons within the monument during our stay. These slot canyons were absolutely incredible and such a surreal experience. Full review to come on these slot canyons.
The town of Escalante is located just a few miles from Petrified Forest State Park. Within the town of Escalante there are visitor’s centers and historical sites as well as access to gas stations and small grocery stores. It was nice to be near some civilization, we were able to grab some eggs for breakfast we had forgotten and slushies to help us cool off.
Things to Do
Petrified Wood Viewing
Petrified wood can be found in a viewing area near the nature trail trailhead. An entire tree is displayed as well as several pieces. This area is great for any age and is ADA accessible. There is also a large petrified tree near the main bathrooms.
Wide Hollow Reservoir is located within Petrified Forest and is a refreshing place to escape the southern Utah heat. It is nestled along the layers of red and white rock providing a one of a kind scenic backdrop.
The beach area of the reservoir is located across the reservoir from the entrance and the campground. We drove to the beach from the campground because it is probably about a half mile walk.
We had so much fun playing in the sand, swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. We own paddle boards and kayaks, but there are also rentals if you don’t have your own at Float Werks Rental located just outside the park.
The views while paddle boarding and kayaking were absolutely stunning. I definitely recommend doing this if you have time.
There is a dock and boat launch located right next to the camping area near the entrance of the park. We had fun dock jumping for the first time. There were several boaters while we were there water skiing.
The Petrified Forest Nature Trail is a 2 mile trail that leads to several deposits of petrified wood. The trailhead is located next the main parking lot just after the park entrance. This trail is a steep upward climb for the first quarter mile.
It levels out for a loop on a plateau where you can view a few deposits of petrified wood and then descends a quarter mile on the same trail back to the beginning. There are points of interest numbered and marked along the way. We enjoyed following along with a handout from the trailhead to learn about each point of interest.
Off the Nature Trail there is an additional ¾ mile loop called Trail of Sleeping Rainbows. This trail descends into a steep ravine and then back up to connect into the Petrified Forest Trail. This ravine area has the best and most petrified wood deposits in the park. Definitely worth the steep decline and ascent.
There is a small 20 site campground located within Petrified Forest State Park. We stayed three nights and had plenty to do within the park as well as in the surrounding Escalante National Monument. We loved the beautiful redrock backdrop and lake scenery. This is a place we will stay in again.
Most of the camping spots have shade provided by a nearby tree or a built in shade structure. We stayed in campsite number W108. The scenery was beautiful at this site but the tent area wasn’t big enough for our tent so we had to set up our tent on part of the parking spot. The restrooms were well kept and warm showers were available.
This campsite books on a 4 month rolling basis. I recommend planning ahead and booking 4 months in advance if you are able. This campsite fills up quickly in the late spring and early summer.
Grand Staircase Escalante Monument
There are endless adventures in this more than one million acre national monument. While staying at the Petrified Forest State Park we explored the Peak-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. These were absolutely incredible. Full review to come. There are dinosaur tracks, waterfalls, and other hikes and slot canyons nearby.
Historical Sites in Escalante
There are several historical sites and points of interest within the city of Esclante including the Escalante Heritage Center, the Escalante Interagency Vistor's Center, and
PROS & CONS
Water activities nearby
Central location to explore Grand Staircase Escalante Monument
Shade structures available
Water rentals available
Hot in the summer
Small campground can fill quickly
Utah's Petrified Forest State Park is located off of scenic highway 12 just a couple miles northwest of the town of Esclante, UT. Put Petrified Forest State Park, UT in your GPS device to get to the right location.
OTHER NEARBY ADVENTURES
Bryce Canyon National Park (1 hour)
Willis Creek Slot Canyon (1 hour)
Kodachrome State Park (50 mins)
Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons (1 hour)
Anasazi State Park Museum (1 hour)
Capital Reef National Park (90 minutes)
Petrified Forest State Park official page
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I'm Corrine! I'm an outdoor enthusiast, mother of four, wife, nurse and runner. I believe God gave us this beautiful earth to explore, enjoy and protect.
My goal is to inspire you to get outside and create your own amazing memories as a family. Life is precious and there are too many adventures to be had to spend life on the couch or in front of a screen.
Join me and my family for "Adventures off the couch!" Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest @outdoorfamfun.