Hike to the North Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest Loop Trailhead

Great hike to one of the petrified forests in the park. It is a less traveled area with a high chance of seeing wildlife.

Make sure you swing by the Visitor's Center to get a map and a paper copy of directions to the trailhead as it goes through private property.

The trail starts at the parking lot and heads into a wilderness area. After a few hundred feet you will pass through a gate. Make sure to sign the booklet into the wilderness area.

After .5 mi and 100 feet of elevation gain, you will rise up to a plateau and see a fork in the trail. A right will take you to the South Petrified Forest and a left takes you to the North Petrified Forest. Take the trail left. After approximately .5 mi, the trail will dip down into a little valley and the North Petrified Forest starts on the far side of the valley. 

For a more strenuous hike, you can hike the Petrified Forest Loop (10.3 mi), or you can turn around and head back to the trailhead. 

You have a high chance of seeing bison and other wildlife on this trail, including rattlesnakes. Ensure to check the weather before this hike as the drive and trail are clay. 

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Water
  • Rain Jacket
  • Good Shoes/Boots
  • Sunscreen
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RT Distance 3 Miles
Elevation Gain 400 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

North Dakota sure is ugly

Just kidding. The mileage given is accurate IF you come to the first petrified wood stump and then turn around. I went in late June and all the plant life is green and still flowering. There is no shade on the trail. Sun protection and plenty of water is a must, especially if you want to go even a bit further. And speaking of going further, the trail in many spots is extremely hard to follow. I ended up going the entire length of the north route, and took a fading horse/bison trail to the Little Missouri (~10 total, from trailhead to river and back to trail head) where the trail is basically indistinguishable from the surrounding prairie or canyon. The views and wildlife are worth it all. Do pray for dry weather, though. That clay sticks to your shoes and makes the trail slick. Geology nerds and erosion aficionados will find this hike particularly enjoyable. Oh and watch for snakes and ticks. Ok what did I miss? If you’re driving thru NoDak and have time for one hike and one hike only, do this one.


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