The Petrified Forest was simply AMAZING, and it was also one of the first parks we went to. We spent a full 8-hour day there and had a picnic and a nice, leisurely drive. We had originally only planned on about 4 hours, but honestly, we could have spent 2 days here.
A 28-mile road goes down the center of the park, with several stopping areas in between. This may sound like a few miles to spend 8 hours in, but every mile of it is just fascinating. There are massive amounts of petrified wood here, and the trees are just amazing. They are more crystal than rock, really. You can see the rings of the trees still, but it is literally rings of different-colored crystal. They are everywhere alongside the road, sticking out of hills, laying in valleys, or on hiking trails. You could see thousands of trees from your car window if you didn't want to walk. There are also old ruins and petroglyphs at Petrified Forest, so there is obviously much to see. We spent so much time pointing out things from the car that I am surprised I didn’t hit someone. There are also numerous places to stop and miles and miles of hiking trails for the more adventurous. Bathroom facilities are located at regular intervals, so no worries there, either.
The sheer amount and size of the petrified wood is impossible to describe without being there. It’s also a great park for the physically challenged to visit. Many prime examples are right at the parking lots. You can view the ruins and petroglyphs from several of the parking lots without getting off the pavement, and chances for great photos are everywhere. Be sure to look carefully at all rock faces, though, as I would have missed half the petroglyphs, had my wife not pointed them out.
If you love nature, this is a great park. The size and layout of the park make it seem less busy than it really is. While the park appeared to be fairly busy, we only ran into people at the restrooms and only once on the trails. Oftentimes you will have a whole viewpoint or parking lot to yourselves. Plan at least a full day here and bring lots of film. Also bring some water if you want to hike and good hiking shoes. The trails are improved but often have loose bits of rock or shale on them.
Of all the national parks I have been to, this is very close to the top, if not #1, in my opinion.