2 backpackers walk away from the camera across dry wash

Backpacking in Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area

NPS/Tara Harbert

To stay overnight in the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area, obtain a free backcountry permit from Painted Desert Visitor Center (8 am-5 pm year round, extended hours in summer) or Rainbow Forest Museum (8 am-5 pm year round, extended hours in summer).

Most backpackers hike into the Painted Desert Wilderness Area at the north end of the park. Parking, facilities, and an access trail are available at Painted Desert Inn. Backpackers must hike north of Lithodendron Wash (1 mile from the access trailhead) before setting up camp. There is a southern unit of Wilderness Area with a very different character, accessible from a pullout off the main park road.

Group camping is limited to 8. Because of the fragile soils and landscape features, minimum impact camping is very important. This includes limiting the number of people within an area.

See to learn about the principles of Leave No Trace camping.

Rules, Regulations, and Safety Points:

  • Collection of plants, rocks, petrified wood, fossils, archeological objects or other materials is illegal anywhere in the park.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed in the Wilderness.
  • No wood or charcoal fires are allowed. Please use fuel stoves.
  • Bury human waste.
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trash behind.
  • Be aware that elevations average 5,800 feet.
  • Temperatures vary greatly from extreme heat to bitter cold.
  • Take all water necessary. One gallon per person per day is recommended during summer months.
thumbnail of color coded Wilderness Zones


View the Backcountry Permit Zones by clicking on the image at left.

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