Petrified Forest Trail is a 10.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Fairfield, North Dakota that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from May until October.

Length10.2 miElevation gain833 ftRoute typeLoop
HikingViewsRockyNo shadeNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (0)

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (163)
Photos (228)
Recordings (126)
Completed (271)
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Mary Geiger
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HikingGreat!

Walked this trail today. Great hike, dry ground. Nice trail, well marked and visible.

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John Mohapp
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Hiking
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Anne Hansen
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Hiking

The trail was a little hard to follow. Completely underestimated the distance with the elevation. It was really hard for me. Gorgeous views and a pretty hike

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Matthew Labella
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HikingGreat!

Could only go about a mile into each of the north and south trails due to time constraints. South appeared to provide better immediate views.

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Anne Hansen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 4, 2020
Hiking

Great. South is a bit easier than North. Saw many basin as well as a herd of antelope. Really cool

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Alexandria Kimsey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 30, 2020
RunningGreat!

I loved everything about this trail. It is fairly flat so I opted to run it, which took me about 2 hours. I did it clockwise but agree with other commenters that counterclockwise would be better given that the South Petrified Woods part of the trail is mostly Prarie land (which was still gorgeous but in a different way). This is fairly well marked but it's worth mentioning for the directionally challenged (aka - me) that when in doubt of where the trail leads, you follow the wooden posts off in the distance (it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure that out). The junction of Maah Daah Hey Trail and South Petrified Forest Trail was also not entirely obvious if goingclockwose (I overshot it by a bit and had to backtrack).

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eric koffler
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 28, 2020
Backpacking

Excellent trail. I recommend starting the loop counter clockwise. Lots of walking through what I call "the eternal grasslands" the trail can be a little tricky to follow as some guide posts were down and hard to see. Beautiful views of the badlands and unique hiking views in the petrified forest regions. Take plenty of water and be ready a few challenges with some hills. Overall i rate this a 7/10. Only downside for me was the grasslands, they last forever. Came across some bullsnakes and a few buffalo. Great for a daylong adventure.

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Kelly Anoe
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 26, 2020
HikingGreat!No shadeRocky

We only did the hike out to the petrified forest and back instead of the full trail. Definitely worth the hike to see this unique landscape. It’s much more vast than it appears in pictures.

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Eric Mitchell
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Hiking
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Phillip Weber
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Hiking
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Brian VanderWaal
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Hiking

It was a great hike, if a lot windier (30 mph+) than it needed to be. We were glad we did it counter-clockwise; seeing the south forest after the north forest would have been disappointing. Some previous reviews opined that there was too much prairie portion. If you want to save a little mileage I’d suggest taking a sharp left off-trail where the trail meets the Lone Tree Trail, cutting across to the Maah Daah Hey instead of needlessly going to the ‘point’ of the trail. (See trail map.)

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Joe Johnson
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HikingGreat!No shade

I did not do the whole loop as is depicted in the map. I went from the western trailhead time the south forest, backtracked back to the split, and then went to the north forest before heading back to the trailhead. As someone below said, the south forest is very cool and has some excellent tree/rocks. But the north forest is absolutely exceptional and puts the south to shame. It is much bigger, has more tree/rocks, and has different shapes besides just the stumps. Personally I’d recommend going to both, in the same order I did, but if you are strapped for time, the north forest is the one you want to see. One of a kind hike and I would recommend this heavily to anyone going to TRNP.

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Chelsea H.
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Hiking
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Ellen Russell
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Hiking

Awesome trail! Saw Bison, prairie dogs, chipmunks.

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Tommy Patterson
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Hiking
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Angela Vandegrift
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Hiking
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Seth Cardinal
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HikingGreat!
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Hope Smith
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HikingGreat!No shade

Did the South section of this trail, coming from the Plateau trail. Was a worthy destination, even having to walk across a few miles of prairie and detour around a few trail hogging bison! Beautiful!

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David Harris
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Hiking

A few detours to avoid some bison. Done clockwise, views on the southwardly section, south part back to the parking lot is pretty boring grassland.

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jim Chamberlain
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Hiking
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David Platt
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HikingOver grown

As others have mentioned, Google Maps will get you 99% of the way to the parking lot, but the NPS road markers are helpful for that last 1% In terms of the trail, the South Petrified Forest is nice, and the North Petrified Forest is spectacular. For the gorge, I'd recommend descending from the counterclockwise direction as shown on the map for the best views from the trail. The sprawling prairie of the Maah Daah Hay segment is pretty and tranquil, but does get repetitive after a while. Spotted no bison on the trail today, but there were quite a few pheasants, other small colorful birds, and a snake.

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Colleen D
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 27, 2020
HikingNo shade

Took 5hr 15min w a short snack and lunch break (and photo stops!) most of the trail is on flat prairie w no shade—bring water and hat/visor. We only saw two people from a distance—views and quiet were great. Wasn’t super challenging beginning and end w rocky parts—just use caution and bring hiking poles if you’d feel more comfortable. I wouldn’t call it a scramble but I can see how if it just rained some parts would be tricky but not undoable. We started on north bc we heard it was harder and wanted to get done first—we felt it only had a few short steep parts. We wore pants bc of a review and there was a short part w high grass—-I was glad I had my pants but my friend felt like she didn’t need them through that section. SUPER well marked. Markers all along the way (possibly every tenth of a mile) and you could see from distance in case during the beginning (north trail) you got a little confused as to the multiple worn paths. OH and follow the directions in the TRNP newspaper to trail head.

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Brendan Sluke
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 26, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

Awesome hike with beautiful views! 85 degrees end of July, took us about 5 hours to do the full 10 mile loop. Please use caution when doing the 10 mile loop as the the North Forest trail has a very drastic elevation change going down through the valley that connects to Mahdah Hay Trail. My Fiancee and I are novice hikers but we are in pretty good shape. We started the hike by taking the South Forest trail at the fork. Everything was pretty straight forward including the Mahdah Hay Trail portion of the trail. The difficulty set in when we got back off the Mahdah Hay Trail and onto the North Forest Trail. There is a pretty difficult trail that goes through a rocky valley of the Badlands. We got a little bit lost in the bottom of the valley because there hadn't been much traffic through there this year. We felt like sitting ducks in the valley because it was quite swampy and it was one of the only water sources around. Please be cautious going through that area and make sure to pack more water than you expect to need!

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Jer Webster
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great hike, lots of petrified trees, and mud everywhere. Be prepared if it just rained.

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David Levitt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 22, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

Definitely a full day trail, but totally doable! Tackled with my girlfriend and am absolutely beat now after. I’m a relatively seasoned appalachian mountains day hiker, my girlfriend is in good shape but had not done a serious hike in a while. Petrified forest was really cool and right on the trail. Some terrific ridges on the southern leg and great canyon views. The Maah Daah Hey section in the middle is a very long stretch of out and out prairie hiking, but the prairie dog town halfway was a great reward. I would recommend doing the south leg first and getting the elevation changes out of the way. There is pretty much no shade, especially when you hit the prairie, so bring lots of water and hike early morning if possible. It was 90 degrees out the day we went and we waited a little late in the day; thankfully there was a breeze the whole time that saved us. Exactly one cloud blew overhead for the whole hike around mile 8 making us very happy. Not a very technical hike, the only challenging parts were the length and the sun. It seemed like lots of people were doing the south leg and then turning around. Trail conditions were generally good with one or two overgrown parts, but feels like it would be very muddy after a heavy rain. Lots of Bison dung around but no Bison. Some cool birds though! Note about the trailhead: If you plug the AllTrails coordinates into google maps, you will be taken to an extension of river road that doesn’t exist anymore. Let google maps get you near and then follow the park signage to the parking lot; it’s pretty well signed. The AllTrails coordinates are correct but Google maps hasn’t updated the dirt roads. Overall a great trail! Was our first hike in Theodore Roosevelt and we definitely left feeling like we had seen a wide range of the features the park has to offer

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