Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
1.00 mi (1.61 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Blue Mesa Scenic Loop is perhaps the best short drive in Petrified Forest National Park, at only 3 miles round trip from the main road. You will see many pieces of petrified wood strewn across the landscape as well as oddly shaped hills and buttes. Then there are, of course, the bluish-colored badlands for which the area is named. To see them up close, however, you should hike the Blue Mesa Trail, which begins from a parking lot along the scenic drive. The hike is a 1-mile loop that takes you down into a wide ravine in the midst of all the vibrant formations. You'll see scattered petrified wood including pedestal logs and all the dimples, runnels, and "elephant skin" of the badlands up close.

The word badlands refers to any landscape of softer sediments that are eroded and leached by infrequent but typically heavy rainfall. Water permeates these soils easily and forms many small grooves and tunnels, giving the hills their weathered shapes, then evaporates out and leaves the dirt parched and cracked, creating the elephant skin texture. The unique sediments here have leached into blues and grays, making them a very attractive banded coloration. Informational signs along the loop explain a lot about the geology, nature, and history of these badlands.

It is very much worth it to walk the whole loop and take it all in. If you are pressed for time, however, you can view the badlands from any of the overlooks above or walk the trail just a short distance. There is an ADA ramp at the trailhead and the path is paved, but the beginning is very rough and steep, so it may be dangerous for wheelchairs. Unlike most national parks, Petrified Forest is quite pet friendly. Your dog can come on the trail if it is kept on a leash and cleaned up after.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Colorful geology. Lots of petrified wood.

Cons

None.

Trailhead Elevation

5,600.00 ft (1,706.88 m)

Highest point

5,600.00 ft (1,706.88 m)

Features

ADA accessible
Family friendly
Geologically significant
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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