backpackers in wilderness area wash with red badlands
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. Permits must be acquired in person at either the Painted Desert Visitor Center, Painted Desert Inn, or Rainbow Forest Museum, at least an hour before the park closes.

To backpack into the north unit of the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area, park at the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark, 2 miles from the north entrance (exit #311 off I-40). This is where the wilderness area access trail is located on the west side of the inn. Backpackers must hike north of Lithodendron Wash (approx. 1 mile from the access trailhead) before setting up camp. To hike the south unit of the wilderness area, park at mile marker 24, 2 miles from the Rainbow Forest Museum. Walk across the road and hike at least 1/2 mile to the wilderness area boundary.

Be sure to stop and get your free permit with current information.


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.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Park Road, PO Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028


(928) 524-6228

Contact Us