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Painted Desert, Arizona

Visiting the Painted Desert


Painted Desert

Painted Desert

© Betsy Malloy 2003
  • Hours: Open daily except December 25
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: National Park entry fee
  • Location: Northeast Arizona, directions below
  • How Long: Allow a couple of hours, longer if you hike or take lots of pictures
  • Best Time to Visit: Late afternoon light makes the Painted Desert even more colorful
  • Discover more sites on our Northeast Arizona Circle Tour
Arizona's Painted Desert gets its name from bands of red, white and yellow sediments and bentonite clay of the Chinle rock formation, exposed by erosion. These colorful formations stretch from about 30 miles north of Cameron near the Grand Canyon, and run southeast, ending just beyond the Petrified Forest, which the National Park Service administers together with the Painted Desert. The formations from which it takes its name vary from 10 miles wide in the Cameron area to about 35 miles wide at Petrified Forest.

Painted Desert Review

At first glance, there's not much to see in this dry, desert country. Painted Desert Visitor Center is a good place to begin delving beyond the obvious, with hands-on exhibits and a 20-minute video. Park Rangers can help you plan your exploration of the Painted Desert, with driving and hiking tips.

The park offers a number of hikes, and a 10-mile paved road gives the non-hiker visitor a good opportunity to see some of the formations.

Despite its name, the historic Painted Desert Inn operates as a museum and bookstore but offers no lodging.

Getting to Painted Desert

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest, AZ
Painted Desert Website

Located in northeastern Arizona, the Painted Desert is about 3.5 hours' drive from either Phoenix, AZ or Albuquerque, NM. It lies between Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 180. Exit I-40 at exit 311.

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