Petrified Forest NP : Devils Playground

Today, I had the pleasure of securing a permit to go hike around Devils Playground in Petrified Forest National Park.

Yesterday, I woke up with this unshakable feeling that I just had to figure out if I could figure out securing a permit to hike Devils Playground. I had heard of it previously, although I was awfully skeptical of the hype that I had heard about it. I did some quick research and there just wasn’t much aside from noting how recently it had been opened and the extreme limit of only 3 people allowed to go in a week. How could something with so much hype be totally neglected in documentation?

Of course, as this went, I kept thinking of Druid Arch in Canyonlands National Park. I was lucky I had even heard of that one, and yet it is probably one of my favorite hikes I’ve done in all of the national parks I’ve visited today. But could Devils Playground be anything like that?

I ended up calling the number provided on the NPS website given for inquiries about permits and spoke to a ranger. Of course, all of the permits had already been given out, but I learned that all 3 for the following week opened up today.

From that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had this intense feeling that I just had to go in early and snag a permit to do this hike. Any time I tried to think of waiting for Thursday or even the weekend, it just refused to sit right. It had to be today. Although I had a call for work scheduled at 11:30, so I would have to get the permit and wait until about 12:30, at the earliest, to actually set out. I went to sleep oddly nervous, but absolutely sure that this was the plan for the day.

Waking up early this morning, I was immediately greeted with the news that my 11:30 call for work had been canceled! In excitement, I quickly packed up camp and hit the road towards the park.

Arriving in the Painted Desert Visitor Center, another person just before me was finishing up completing the permit process with a ranger for Devils Playground. “Oh, I hope I’m not too late!” The park wasn’t even open 2 hours yet!

But sure enough: there was one more permit left to give! Not even stopping to question it or recall my nervousness from the night before, I got the permit from the ranger and headed to the trailhead.

The Hike

It’s a rough road into the trailhead, mostly dirt and not always in the best of conditions. But Tivona handled it well, and I parked and set out. First hiking further down the road from the parking area, across a large wash, I jumped onto the trail loosely marked but fairly rough. I almost lost the trail and went the wrong way a few times before finally arriving at the gate that Devils Playground lied immediately beyond.

There isn’t much of a trail once you actually enter the area. I simply walked all around, exploring several different corners of the area, amazed by all of the remarkable formations of badlands and hoodoos and other remarkable things. The colors of the hills and the strangeness of being in this land was absolutely amazing. Some parts made me feel as though I was clearly on an alien planet, and some left me feeling strangely guilty to even be walking upon ground that had not a single footprint from human or animal and hardly even a plant sprouting forth.

It felt like I spent hours in Devils Playground, just exploring and enjoying. I didn’t want to leave. Not at all. But alas, I began to feel like I had spent long enough in the area to head back and get back to camp to try to get some work done for the evening.

As it turns out, I only spent about 3 hours total on this hike, although it felt like so much longer to me. This is certainly a place I would love to return to some day in the future!


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