The Blue Mesa trail is a beautiful and short hiking trail within Petrified Forest National Park. The trail is moderately trafficked and features stunning views of the colors that the painted desert has to offer.

Blue Mesa Trail Hiking Guide

The Four Corners region of the United States features some of the most unique landscape in the country. Known as the Colorado Plateau, this region includes several popular national parks. The southeastern edge of the plateau in northern Arizona is home to Petrified Forest National Park. This national park is known for its reptilian and tree fossils as well as a large area of vibrantly colored landscape known as the painted desert.

The Blue Mesa trail is a short hike that features some of the vibrant colors that the Painted Desert has to offer. This short lollipop trail takes hikers from the top of the mesa down to the base of the gray, purple, and white rolling badlands. Views will include scattered petrified wood and rainbow shades of bentonite clay/soil that represent millions of years of geological time.

It is important to note that prior to European exploration and arrival, this region was highly valued by Native Americans for over ten thousand years. The area within Petrified National Forest served as an important trade and migration route for the people’s of the Pueblo, Zuni, and Hopi. Surrounding the park’s borders is the territory of Navajo Nation.

Blue Mesa Trail History

Prior to being the high desert plains and Painted Desert of northern Arizona that it is today, the area was once an immense tropical floodplain. The tropical environment was home to many pre-historic species of amphibians and reptiles during the Triassic period approximately 225 million years ago. The current long logs are a remnant of a large scale flood 200 million years ago.

The Blue Mesa trail doesn’t feature petrified logs as numerous as the park’s southern boundaries on trails such as the Giant Logs trail or the Long Logs and Agate House loop. There are still some to be seen along this trail however. The petrified wood adds a nice contrast to the otherwise barren landscape. The area has also been known for many dinosaur fossil discoveries.

In the flood, prehistoric trees were buried by immense layers of sediment. The logs were buried so deep that oxygen was cut off from the decaying process. Sediment and volcanic ash in the water allowed organic matter to slowly be replaced with a variety of minerals. Today the fossilized trees are mostly made up of quartz and are a reminder of an environment that once was.

 On A Personal Note

If you’re looking for a short hike that offers some up close views of the painted desert this hike does not disappoint. Out of the three trails that I’ve hiked in this National Park, this trail was by far my favorite. For those people who enjoy photography, there are some areas along this trail that offer some great perspectives for those with a creative mind.

As a reminder, it is a criminal act to steal any petrified wood, fossils, or Native American artifacts. Please remember to always leave no trace when visiting the outdoors.

Have you hiked this trail recently? Please share any trail updates/pictures in the comments below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 20% 20%
  • Overall Views: 95% 95%
Blue Mesa Trail Quick Facts:
  • Max Elevation: 5536 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 127 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 0.9 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 1.04 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 30-90 minutes.
  • My Time:  32 minutes moving; 45 minutes total.
Blue Mesa Trail Directions:
Open in maps. The trail location is located off of  Blue Mesa Scenic Road. This road is off of Petrified Forest Road. The location is almost directly in the middle of the park. The trail can be accessed from either the north or the south entrances to the park in almost the same amount of time. Cost is the price of admission to the park. An America The Beautiful Pass will also work. The park does have limited hours and is not open 24/7. Please keep that in mind when visiting.
Blue Mesa Trail Pictures:
Who Blue Mesa Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: This is a great trail for new hikers, families, or people who are unable to do long hikes. This trail is a great introduction to the colors of the Painted Desert. There is limited elevation gain/loss and the trail is very well maintained. 

Advanced Hikers: Although this trail is not long by any means, it’s a great way to get your legs moving if you have just one day to spare in the park. The rainbow colored mesa is a unique sight. I actually recommend this short trail for even advanced hikers just beacause of the unique beauty. 

Expert Hikers: This is not a tough trail by any means but let that keep you from enjoying the historical perspective of the trail.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Blue Mesa Trail:
This national park experiences a full four seasons as far as temperature is concerned. Spring and Fall have mild temperatures. Winters can be cold with occasional snow and light rainfall. The growing season is short here during the spring. The plants green up during a couple of months and wildflowers can be seen from the end of March to May. 

As summer nears the temperatures also increase. Between the months of July to September it’s not uncommon for there to be temperatures upwards of 100 degrees. Summer is also the rainy season. The monsoon season kicks into gear starting in late June and tapers off in September. It’s not uncommon for there to be heavy downpours, lightning, and periodic flooding. Most of the park’s rainfall takes place between the months of July to September. 

If you hear thunder, it’s not a good idea to be out along the open trail. Instead, seek shelter so that you won’t be the tallest object standing in an open field during a lightning storm. 

It’s always a great idea to check the weather before a hike.

Blue Mesa Trail Conditions:
The Blue Mesa trail is in great condition and maintained by the National Park Service.  This is a lollipop trail.  The first portion of the trail is paved along a slight ridge line leading from the parking area. The ridge gives great panoramic views of the surrounding mesa and sprawling Painted Desert.  From there the elevation declines slightly into the valley. The trail is composed of loose dirt/sediment. 

The trail is clearly marked along the way with some informational placards describing the badlands of the area. There is no shade so dress accordingly. There is not enough shelter here so rattlesnakes should not be commonly seen. The soil is too loose for plants so there is no poison ivy along the trail.