It had been a few years since I had been up to the Petrified Forest. In the past we have done overnight backpacking trips. This trip was focused more on the park I had not visited, primarily the Southern and Western ends. Before heading there I had come across a few blog post mentioning Devil's Playground. The focus of the trip was to try to source some of the few permits that are distributed weekly by the NPS. Along with that area I wanted to visit the easier to access points of interest throughout the Southern portion of the park. We used Holbrook as our launch pad for the few days of exploration we had planned.
Petrified Forest NPS
Devil's Playground Hike
We secured our permits from the National Park office and headed out to the trailhead. The trail/route is scarcely marked and the information provided is minimal. Along the route the NPS has installed multiple marker post (seen in the photos), but they are tricky to spot as they match the landscape. After 3.5ish miles you end up at a barbed wire fence and the marker post suddenly end. We were confused initially but soon discovered this is the start of Devil's Playground. The area has no designated trail; you just explore the area on your own. There are many things to see here and can easily burn a few hours exploring the hoodoos and valleys. The total mileage for the hike was 10 miles with 600' AEG. With the exception of occasional route finding the trail is easy.
Southern Park Highlights
After exploring Devil's Playground we loaded up in the car and hit the road heading South through the rest of the park. In the other two times I had gone here, I had never been to this area. There are multiple scenic pullouts along the way, in fact there are too many. Some of the pullouts have short hikes under a mile. We stopped at a few of the points including Route 66, Puerco Pueblo and Newspaper Rock.
Onyx Bridge Hike
The last hike we did was up in the Northern end of the park, starting at the Painted Desert Inn. Our destination was Onxy Bridge, which was a short 4 mile hike. With except of the descent down there is no trail, just footprints. We used GPS to ensure we found it, but you can easily followed the many footsteps. If time allows there are other areas to explore near Onxy Bridge.