It’s an easy hike down from the painted desert inn down and into the wilderness. Permits are free and easy to obtain. Ask for a wilderness hiking booklet as well, it’s very well made and can help orient yourself in the vast wilderness as well as offer hiking options and specific destinations and points of interest.
Once you’re out there - you’re out there! No amenities and you only have what you packed!
I stayed two nights here to visit the Petrified Forest. The tent sites sit packed together on the perimeter of the park overlooking the highway, which you can here all night long. This was the most expensive campsite I’ve visited on my road trip, yet they were unable to provide me with a charcoal grill and the fire ring was filled with garbage.
The facilities are clean, at least they have got that right.
Stayed at a FHU PT for the night, on my way to the Petrified Forest. The sites are gravel, but not well maintained compared to other campgrounds that are all gravel. There was a lot of machinery and work equipment laying around. The staff was very friendly and the shop was very well stocked. A little overpriced imo.
Dispersed Camping was wonderful here. Permits are available at the visitor center. We walked down into the wilderness area behind the painted desert Inn. Beautiful views, an easy hike out, and no one else around
This campground is great if you’re trying to check out the Petried Forest! The campground is clean and the staff are friendly. We stayed in the two person cabin with a bathroom. The bathroom looks like it was just added and it’s really nice! It is a walk-in shower so it is handicap accessible. The campground also offers an all you can eat pancake breakfast that is great. Would definitely go to this campground again.
Stayed here two night so we could hike and horse back ride in canyon de Chelly. This campground could be better the grasse in the site needed to be mowed. It’s a nice location close to the opening of the canyon and horseback rides are across the street. Be careful what you leave out theft here is a problem, we had our bumper hitch stolen while we were in town shopping.
While this site might have very few tent sites, they do accommodate the average tent camper, and at a very reasonable rate. I was very pleased to have found this site after being told about it because of its proximity to several Route 66 stops we were making in the area. I had tried another campground and been very happy with it previously but also wanted to try something a bit different this trip.
We pulled in kind of late but still were assisted in finding one of the sites and given a complete idea of the entirety of the campground which included a laundry, nice restrooms and bathhouses and a petrified wood display right out front.
We were settled int he Yellow Row in a small tent space just across from the restrooms which are handicap accessible. It was a great spot just enough room to move in and out and since we were the only ones staying there in a tent it made for a pretty nice space. If there was more than a couple I could see how it would be to crowded.
- Call in advance to see if they have openings because sites are limited. *Speak to the office about all the cool things there are to do along Route 66 in this area, they had a map when we were there with some things I wasn’t aware were nearby.
This KOA has lot's of space, from private tent sites to RV with full hookups, fully equipped cabins, even a giant Wigwam to stay at. It also has a pool, playground, small libary, and a well stocked store, everyday they cook food that you can buy instead of cooking yourself. This KOA is in the route 66 town of Holbrook, a small quiet town, with gas, groceries, and fast food all with in a mile of the campsite, the Petirfied Forest is a 30 mintue drive away and worth the trip. During this trip we took a big family group, and normally we tent camp, but we decided to stay in their biggest cabin, it was big and beautiful 3 a/c units, full small kitchen, loft full bathroom and lot's of comfy seat's, all you had to do was bring your clothes and food, everything was there for you. From the gas grill to the fully equipped kitchen, it was a super easy stay. This cabin slept 7 and had a eat in porch as well. It was a little on the pricey side at $160 a night but we felt worth it's price.Check out the video for a video tour of the cabin.
In my second trip to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert we wanted to explore the opportunity to try a little dispersed camping. We checked out the park and inquired about permits, which are free and were ready to take on the adventure head on.
What we were not expecting was the WIND!! Lots and lots of wind!! In this area there are not large ares of coverage from the elements. Very minimal in fact so it made it a bit harder than we had thought it would be in selecting an area we felt comfortable even attempting to make a home for the night.
On other trips to the same location we have had wind but never like this! Since there are no barriers to block it camping cannot be comfortably done in these conditions.
We opted to throw in the towel and try again next time.
What we did gather from this however was that the park staff is very friendly and helpful in regards to setting up your adventure and issuing permits. The park itself has sites to numerous to list that are of interest for doing this style of camping. And the biggest one of all, without camping you CANNOT get sunrise or sunset pictures because of opening and closing times of the facility.
- Check wind advisories in area before traveling to the location
- Pack a lower profile tent which does not grab the wind as much
- Bring a headlamp because it is a true dark sky when you are camping here, you can see nothing at night!!
After we paid the park entrance fee ($16, I think), we picked up our FREE back country permit from the visitors center first thing. There we were told we were going to be the only people in the desert that night.
After we did all the road side attractions by car, we headed to the trial head at the Painted Desert Inn. About 1.5 hours before sun set, we backpacked into the Painted Desert from the Inn visitors center where there is water and toilets available. The trail that goes down about 200 feet via switchbacks then ends in a magical lunar landscape of red dirt and petrified pieces of tree. Once you get to the end of that trail, you just have to walk 1 mile in any direction to camp. We hiked a for about an hour across amazing desert-scape and found an incredible plateau to camp on top of. We had a fantastic view of the surrounding dessert without being able to see any man-made structures!
While it is definitely back country camping with no water, electric, toilets, defined sites or anything, it is the most amazing camping I've ever done! There's no light pollution so seeing the stars and the milky way is is no problem. It's so quite, my husband said all he could hear all night was his tinnitus.
It was beautiful, magical and remote. I would go again and again. There's so much to explore and so far you can go. We even found out you can bring your dog with you in the desert!
The only downside is you have to pack in all your water with you, making a multi-day trip a little harder.
- The most fantastic and magical backpacking you can imagine
- So remote and peaceful
- You can see the Milky Way (it was my first time seeing it).
- You can bring your dog!
- Incredible lunar landscape! You get to live out fantasies of being part of the Apollo 11 mission
- No amenities in the desert (no water available to pump from natural sources either)
- No showers for when you get off the trail
You should camp in the Painted Desert. Seriously, do it!!
After driving some 3 hours from our last destination and exploring the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in the harsh wind, we were exhausted upon pulling into our campsite at Holbrook Petrified Forest KOA. Seeing how windburn we were from the journey, we were offered an upgraded "super tent" site upon our arrival for only a $5.00 charge. The appeal was such that we jumped on the opportunity.
To those unfamiliar with KOA campsites, they offer a variety of options for campers from primitive camping to improved campsites for both tents and rv campers. Super tent sites include electricity and runnin water as well as private yard area for campers. At this particular site it offered a wind shield fence and private treed yard which made for a much more camp friendly experience after the long day.
We had neighbors on the other super tent site which were delightful and we greatly enjoyed conversations with them throughout the evening. The campground was filled with friendly faces!
Perhaps one of the most exciting features for us after such a long cold journey from our previous campsite was the amenities throughout the grounds which included a cook station open to the public and heated bathroom and shower facilities. The grounds were well kept and easy to navigate by foot.
In the evenings and mornings there was a cook on duty which offered everything from hot dogs to New York strip in the evening and all you can eat pancakes or other breakfast items.
All in all we give this site a 5 of 5 Bunnies because of the cleanliness, friendliness and overall amenities. There were no real areas of improvement we could see to make our stay better!
… As far as campgrounds go, I would not choose this spot. It is close to a scenic national monument and is located right at the entrance and is easy to get in and out of. That is where the positives end. It is sparse and fairly packed. It doesn't have a ton of vegetation as it is in the desert so expert dirty and hot. The monument itself is worth experiencing but I wouldn't plan for it to be a destination, just a pit stop. I won't stay here again.
We added in Petrified Forest National Park at the last minute and needed a place to stay. We arrived after sunset, showered with hot showers, kids played at the playground, enjoyed pancake breakfast the next morning.
The site was basically a gravel parking lot with picnic table. We were in a camper van and the hum of RV ACs was very loud. We were hot, even after night fall, but it got them job done. If I had known there was camping closer to the Natinoal park, I would have done more research and stayed there. Oh well.
Stayed in a cabin here and had a terrible time. Nothing like getting rained on due to a hole in the roof of the cabin. I had cabin H. We also got woken up by people trying to get into the cabin. I can't blame them the cabin didn't have a letter clearing marking it as cabin H. Also we had a hard time finding the cabin in the first place due to signage being wrong. Shrubs are grownup were it is difficult to get to the door of the cabin.
I also heard one of the maintenance people talking about some cabins that the hot water heater wasn't working correctly.
If you run into trouble don't expect help or understanding from the manager or staff. While writing about my experience on other sites i kept wondering how these folks got good reviews in the past. then i saw a post dated around 2 months ago saying that they had new owners. so be forewarned.
The Holbrook KOA is conveniently near Petrified national forest, which makes it an easy place to set up camp because of it's proximity. The campsite was somewhat under construction and it looked like they were adding some additional campsites which is exciting. They offer plenty of amenities (running water, electricity, wifi and playgrounds for the kids.
All of the tent campsites are right next to each other, so you will get to know your neighbors pretty well. When I went I was the only person tent camping which made it great for privacy. My only issue with the campsite is the location of where the tent camps are set up, it is really close to the I-40, you will hear truckers and other cars drive by while your sleeping at night which made it difficult to fall asleep. I think it would be better if they moved the tent camping to the other side of the park that way your farther away from all the highway noise.
Since there are no developed campgrounds inside Petrified Forest National Park, you have two options: choose a private campground outside of the park, or grab a permit and set off into the backcountry. We did both during our visit in August 2015.
We were pleasantly surprised with our campsite at the KOA outside of Petrified Forest. Typically, we prefer campgrounds that are more scenic and rustic, but after a few weeks on the road, we enjoyed the amenities (hot showers, coin laundry, wifi, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast) and convenience (less than 30 minutes to the park) of this KOA. We chose the “deluxe” tent site, which, for $2 more than the regular tent site, offered a covered picnic table, hot & cold water, and electricity at the site. The campground was nearly empty at this time of the year, so although the sites are close together, we felt alone. The only downsides would be the less-than-inspiring scenic views and the cramped sites during peak season.
The proximity and position of this campground to the national park allows for easy visiting and minimal backtracking. We’d suggest starting your trip along Highway 40 to the northern Painted Desert Visitor Center to get acquainted with the park, then making your way south and exit near the Rainbow Forest Museum. Simply return to the campground via Highway 180.
Inside the park (north to south), here are the must-sees: the Painted Desert National Historic Landmark (try to time it and attend a free ranger guided tour), the Blue Forest, Jasper Forest (below this overlook was our favorite trail of the park!), Crystal Forest, and the Giant Logs area. Don’t forget to stop at both visitor centers for more information about this fascinating geologic anomaly.
You can read much more about our four days in the park on our blog: Switchback Kids (Petrified Forest)
The KOA in Holbrook, AZ, is conveniently located just west of Petrified Forest National Park. A quick 10-minute drive to the SW entrance will reward you with a quiet, easy entrance to the park. From there, you can drive through the park and end up at the main visitor center on the northern end, near the Painted Desert.
This campground has a nice, yet older, playground, a swimming pool (open seasonally), and offers full hookups (including cable for an extra fee), tent sites, and cabins. The "kamping kitchen" is open for cowboy cookouts, including dinner and breakfast (at extra charge), and we sampled their all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, which was the best one our 5-year-old ate on our entire trip! Right near the kitchen is a sampling of petrified wood to get you in the spirit of exploration. The owners are very friendly, and even in June this campground felt uncrowded. Sites are a bit close together, but with our small 17-foot trailer, we had plenty of room, a picnic table, and fire ring. The owners were also helpful about giving directions and suggestions about all the attractions in the area. There is also a laundry room on site.
So open and wide in this state park, the sky is beautiful and the rocks are orange. I remember going here when I was younger and to revisit is just amazing. I would defiantly recommend this state park to anyone.