Holbrook/Petrified Forest NP

We are making our way north towards Wisconsin from Casa Grande, AZ, so we needed a place to stay for two nights along our route and Petrified Forest National Park seemed like a decent place to stop. As there is nowhere to camp within the park, we stayed at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA for two nights while visiting the area. The KOA is nothing to write home about. It’s basically a gravel parking lot. There are restrooms with showers (which we never checked out), a laundry room (the most expensive we’ve seen yet), a little store, and a decent dog run. There’s also a broke down basketball court, a broke down volleyball court, and a pool that was not in use due to it being out of season, but that also looked broke down. Amongst the piles of miscellaneous stuff lying around, there is also a grassy area for tent camping and cabins for rent.  We paid $49/night for full hookups with cable, which seemed high for the quality of the park. When driving out the south end of the National Park, we noticed there was free overnight RV parking at the Crystal Forest Museum Gift Shop – no hookups, but if you’re looking for a place to stay for a night near the Park, you can’t get any closer or any cheaper.

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

Address: 102 Hermosa Drive, Holbrook, AZ 86025

Phone Number: (928) 524-6689

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups Available
  • Pull Throughs Available
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Dog Run
  • Laundry
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Play Area
  • Swimming Pool
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Store
  • Seasonal Pancake Breakfast and Cowboy Cookout
Our Site – #17
The RV Area of the Park – Gravel with Picnic Table and Fire Ring at Each Site

We weren’t quite sure what to expect at Petrified Forest National Park. We had seen petrified wood at a few other places we had visited before, but obviously nothing to the extent of what’s found in the park. There is more to the park than just crystalized wood, however.

The north end of the park has views of the Painted Desert, which extends all the way to the east end of the Grand Canyon and north to the Navajo Nation.

View of the Painted Desert from Tawa Point

There is a 28-mile scenic drive from the north end of the park to the south. We arrived in Holbrook at the KOA at about 1:30, got set up, and decided to do the drive to see what we wanted to explore more thoroughly the next day. The north and south entrances are both about a 25-minute drive from the KOA. We drove from north to south, stopping along the way at different viewpoints. As we had Max with us, we did not visit the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark. The building functioned as an inn starting in the 1920s, but the maintenance required became overwhelming and today the building is used as a museum.

Petrified Forest is the only National park in the country with a portion of Historic Route 66 within its borders. A 1932 Studebaker sits where the road once cut through the park.

The Crystal Forest Trail is 0.75-mile loop trail that offers the best opportunity in the park to see petrified wood deposits. The trail meanders among hundreds of petrified logs of all sizes and shapes, allowing you to see the colors of the crystalized wood up close. If you’re just passing through the area and only have time to see one thing in the park — this is what it should be.

When we came back to the park the second day sans dog, we stopped at the Rainbow Forest Museum and strolled the neighboring Giant Logs Trail. This is where you’ll find Old Faithful, the park’s most massive log, which measures 35 feet and weighs approximately 44 tons.

We walked the Agate House trail, which is 2 miles roundtrip, to see the eight-room ruin inhabited beginning about 1050BC that’s constructed of chunks of petrified wood and mud mortar.

Our favorite part of the park was the 1-mile Blue Mesa Trail off of the 3.5-mile scenic Blue Mesa loop drive. This area is called the Blue Badlands (even though I would refer to the color as violet) and it’s clear to see how it got its name. The trail is quite steep at the beginning, and since it’s a loop, at the end, but it’s such an interesting departure from the rest of park. You’ll still find petrified logs here, of course, and paleontologists have also found numerous plant and animal fossils in the sedimentary layers.

Petrified Forest National Park was an interesting site to see. You can definitely do it all in one day. It’s the most accessible National Park we’ve been to, as all of the trails are almost completely paved, which means strollers and wheel chairs will be able to make it to most parts of the park. It’s also the most dog-friendly park we’ve been to, as dogs are allowed everywhere except in buildings. The roads are all paved and smooth, so those with RVs will have no problem maneuvering within the park, and there’s a decent amount of RV parking at most points of interest as well. Beware that this area gets VERY windy. During the winter, winds can reach 60mph. We didn’t see any wildlife while in the park, but on our drive back to the campground, we saw two female pronghorns along the side of the road.

Casa Grande, AZ

We were in Casa Grande, AZ for two weeks and stayed at Casa Grande RV Resort & Cottages. We chose this resort because of its proximity to the Phoenix airport and we thought Travis was going to have to travel to a customer during this time (he didn’t). This is a LARGE resort, with over 350 RV sites and 17 cottages. We stayed during the last week of March and first week of April, when the temperature really started to creep up. This is a place where snowbirds winter, and during the two weeks we were there, we saw a dramatic decrease in numbers as people started to leave to return home.

As we had stayed at Wine Ridge RV Resort & Cottages in Pahrump, NV in the past, which is also a part of the RV Management Services resort group like Casa Grande, we were expecting a clean, well-maintained, friendly resort with great amenities. The staff is pretty friendly and the amenities are plentiful, but the resort is a little tired and definitely needs some love. Half of the cottages face the dumpsters and maintenance building, along with all of the junk (tools, fence posts, etc.) piled up in that area. The bathrooms have falling down ceiling tiles and some showers with two temperatures — really hot or scalding hot. They have a fantastic dog play area but the fence needs attention in places as dogs of all sizes can escape. And the entire property could use a good weeding. Maybe these things are taken care of during the slower season after a long winter of hundreds, maybe thousands, of guests using the facilities. The day we left we noticed a prong on our surge protector had been fried. Apparently, according to our neighbor, the people that stayed in the site prior to us had backed into the electrical box and sort of knocked it over. I don’t know if that is what caused the issue. When we brought it to the attention of the staff, they made it seem as though it was our fault and said that we wiggle the surge protector when removing it from outlets and this loosens the prongs which then makes them go bad. They didn’t even come to our site to look at the electrical box, so that was disappointing.

Amenities

  • Full Hookups
  • Large, Level Sites
  • 2 Swimming Pools
  • Laundry Room
  • Free Showers
  • Pickle Ball
  • Bocce Ball
  • Mail Service
  • Lending Library with Books, Games, Puzzles and Movies
  • Propane Service
  • Fitness Center
  • Card Room
  • Dog Park
  • Billards Room (Very Impressive with 8 Full-Size Tables)
  • Daily Activities
  • Coffee & Waffles (Monday-Friday November-April)

Address: 195 W Rodeo Road, Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Phone Number: (520) 421-0401

Things to See and Do in the Area

I’ll be honest — we didn’t do much while we were here. It was hot. Really hot. Unseasonably hot. Plus, I went to San Diego for four days during this time while Travis stayed in Casa Grande with our dog, Max.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument: Casa Grande, or Great House, was built by ancient Sonoran Desert people around 1350. It’s unclear what the purpose of it was, but it’s four walls face the cardinal points of the compass and there are various openings that align with the sun and moon during certain celestial events, like the setting sun at the summer solstice. We visited because it was close and we have a National Parks pass, but, while interesting, I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

Saguaro National Park: It’s a little over an hour drive to Saguaro. We visited Saguaro West, which is west of Tucson, while Saguaro East is 33 miles away, east of Tucson.  Saguaros are slow growing, only growing about an inch in their first 6-8 years. It may be 70 years before they sprout their arms, and they reach full height, 40-50 feet, at about 150 years. These majestic plants are found only in a small portion of the United States. Our visit was a quick one, as the temperature was a tad too high for us during our visit, which is why we got to the park by 8:30am. We drove the 6-mile Bajada Loop Drive, which is labeled as being suitable for low-clearance vehicles, but it was a rough ride in our Ford F-150 (which I switched into 4WD), so be cautious. Along this loop is where you’ll find the Signal Hill Trail, a short trail at a nice picnic area that is home to petroglyphs. After completing the loop, we drove to the Red Hills Visitor Center to learn a little bit more about the area. This park seems to have some nice hikes and it has great picnic areas, both sheltered and unsheltered. I would not recommend bringing a dog to this park, as they have limited access, and there are so many things that can cause them severe pain and discomfort: cactus spines, thorny brush, rattle snakes, scorpions, open mine shafts and heat stroke.

 

Zane Grey RV Village

We spent only one night here as we drove from Page, Arizona to Casa Grande, Arizona, so this will be a quick one! What a delightful find this place was! Zane Grey is a fairly small, incredibly clean, ridiculously cute RV park sitting amongst beautiful trees next to the West Clear Creek. Our site (#50) was incredibly level (yay!), large, and easily accessible.

Address: 4500 E. Hwy 260, Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Phone: (928) 567-4320

  • 96 Full-Hookup Sites with 14 Pull Throughs
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Communal Fire Pit
  • Walking Trail
  • Dog Run

Seeing as we were here for less than a day, the only site we took in was the Montezuma Castle National Monument, which is a five-story, twenty-room pueblo built by Sinagua farmers. It was less than a 20-minute drive from the RV park and was neat to see. Entry is free for up to four adults with a National Parks Access Pass or $7 per person.

 

Two Weeks in Page, AZ

We spent two weeks in Page, Arizona on Lake Powell, which, at this time of year, is at least a week too long. The winter offseason doesn’t end until about mid-April, so some of the best things Page has to offer, like the boat tour and hike to Rainbow Bridge, aren’t readily available until later in the year. Even so, we were able to take advantage of some nice-weather days and experience some of the awe-inspiring local attractions.

But first…

We stayed at Wahweap RV & Campground located on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The campground is huge and caters to all types of campers, from tents to enormous fifth wheels and motorhomes; however, there are only a couple of ‘loops’ open this time of year. When making the reservation, we were told the best views are from C loop, but when checking in, were told C loop was closed and we’d be in F loop. Disappointing, yes, because the views ARE better from C loop, but understandable as they only want a few bathrooms (that need to be cleaned) open and access to only a few dumpsters (that need to be emptied). Seeing as Wahweap is part of a national recreation area, there is a $25 National Parks Service fee that is good for seven days. Your National Parks Access Pass will cover it. The campground and the neighboring Lake Powell Resort are part of an area called the Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas that include five campgrounds, three sticks & bricks lodging options, and five marinas. During prime season, they offer a slew of boat trips on the lake, as well as watercraft rentals, house boat rentals, fishing, and multiple dining options. It’s clear that this campground and the resort are seasonal destinations and I’d love to see the vibe and atmosphere during busier times. That being said, we tried to make the best of our time here, even though the weather didn’t often cooperate (lots of rain and wind) and Travis had to fly out to visit a customer onsite for five days.

Address: 100 Lakshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040

Phone Number: (888) 896-3829

  • 130 Full Hookup Sites
  • 112 Tent or Self-Contained RV Sites
  • 36 Tent Only Sites
  • 6 Group Sites (9-30 People per Site)
  • Restrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Coin Laundry
  • Showers ($2/15 Minutes)
  • Wahweap Swim Beach
  • Campground Store

Things to See and Do in the Area

Antelope Canyon: Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in Page on Navajo land. Because of this, you need to book a tour with one of the local tour companies in order to experience the canyon, which has two distinctly separate sections; Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. We toured Lower Antelope Canyon with Dixie Ellis’s Tours. Visit their website here. Check our Instagram post here for tips and information regarding our tour. If you don’t want to take part in a tour but still want to see slot canyons, there are others in the area. Waterholes Canyon is just south of Horseshoe Bend, but a permit to access Navajo land is needed.

Horseshoe Bend: Horseshoe Bend was not at all what I expected! While I knew it was a bend in the Colorado River (270 degrees, to be exact), I didn’t realize it’s beauty would take my breath away. This is definitely one of those cases where photos won’t do it justice — you have to see it in person. It’s located a couple miles southwest of Page on Hwy 89. You can’t miss the parking lot, which has port-a-potties, but no other services are (currently) available. There is a three-quarter mile (one way) hike to the viewing area for Horseshoe Bend. I call it a hike, because part of it is uphill and part of it is downhill, both of which are over loose surfaces. Bring water and an umbrella or hat if it’s especially warm out. As the number of visitors has increased dramatically over the last few years, there are a handful of updates underway to make visiting Horseshoe Bend more accessible and safer. These include an accessible 1-mile long trail and rim viewing platform, restrooms, potable water, and a parking lot expansion.

Glen Canyon Dam: A 710-foot dam on the Colorado River in Page that helps ensure an equitable distribution of water between the states in the Upper Colorado River Basin and the Lower Basin, although critics argue that the dam is responsible for evaporative losses of Lake Powell and ecological impact on the Grand Canyon, which lies downstream. Tours are available.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Utah’s newest national monument, Escalante spans nearly 1.9 million acres. Needless to say, it takes a lot of time to come close to exploring a fraction of this area. If you’re a hiker, this is the place for you. There are hikes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. If you opt for a multi-day hike, a free overnight camping permit is required. We made the smallest of dents here. I wouldn’t even call it a dent; a nick, really. We drove the 25 miles from Wahweap northwest along Hwy 89 into Utah to the southern edge of the Escalante to the Toadstool Trailhead, easily found between mile markers 19 and 20. The hike is short and of easy difficulty, and you’re exposed to the toadstool hoodoos, balanced rock formations that look like mushrooms.

Hiking: We didn’t do much hiking while here, unfortunately, although we did hike the Hanging Gardens Trail. The trailhead can be found at a parking lot right before the bridge on the Page side of the dam. It was fairly easy and is only about 1 mile roundtrip, unless you follow the wrong path, like we did (stay straight when it looks like you should go left). There’s also an 8-mile Rim Trail that circles the city of Page that we didn’t get to.

We did not get to visit the following places this time, but that just means we’ve saved stuff for next time!

Rainbow Bridge National Monument: Deemed the world’s highest natural bridge, Rainbow Bridge is accessible by a boat ride from Wahweap Marina at the Lake Powell Resort plus a mile-ish (depending on water level) hike or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike 16-18 miles around Navajo Monument to reach Rainbow Bridge. We would’ve loved to make the trek via boat, but there aren’t many boat trips scheduled this time of year, and the ones offered just didn’t work out for us.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument: This national monument is located directly west of Page, but straddles the state line, so part of it also lies in Utah. The Navajo Bridge Visitor Center is a 40-mile drive from Page.

Zion National Park: Page is known as the “Center of the Grand Circle” due to it’s proximity to Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Zion is located 115 miles west of Page.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Known for its crimson-colored hoodoos, Bryce is located 133 miles northwest of Page.

Grand Canyon National Park: Both the North Rim and the South Rim are located about 115 miles from Page and both will take about two and half hours to get to. The North Rim is considerably less crowded, cooler, and at higher elevation than the South Rim; however, it’s only accessible by car May 15 to November 1. Backcountry permits are required by hikers and cross-country skiers the rest of the year.

Kaibab National Forest: The 1.6-million-acre forest borders both the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon. If driving to the North Rim, you’ll enter Kaibab 75 miles southwest of Page.

As for the city of Page itself, there isn’t a whole lot there. It seems the town exists strictly for tourists to come and check out the natural wonders in the area. There’s a grocery store and a Walmart, some gas stations and a Denny’s, a post office and a municipal airport. We ate at a few of the local restaurants; Big John’s Texas BBQ (the ribs were fab) and Slackers, a burger joint that was surprisingly good. We also ate dinner at the Driftwood Lounge at the Lake Powell Resort, and that was  also surprisingly good. I think the biggest draw to Page, besides Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, is the lake. Unfortunately, it’s not very usable this time of year. If we pass through the area again, we’ll make sure it’s a little later in the year.