Roadtrip with RVshare Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park

The location of Riverside, CA, inland from the busy California coastal cities, appeals to many corporations investing in new businesses in the area. Vacationers travel to Riverside for its tranquil environment that is influenced by a mix of arid desert and marine air. It provides an excellent respite for those seeking to cross the inland deserts to Arizona or to visit the California beaches, the San Bernardino Mountains, or the national parks located in the Sierra Nevadas. One of the favorite roads out of town takes visitors to Petrified Forest National Park where a mix of time's signatures is visible. There is a lot to see in the forest, including technicolored fossil remains of the woods that once covered the area, petroglyphs carved on the bare rock by humans who walked these deserts 8,000 years ago, and the remains of communities and farms that could not survive. To thoroughly enjoy a journey through these diverse backgrounds, consider using this road trip itinerary from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park as a guide. 

Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park Road Trip Itinerary

  • Trip length: 7 hours 20 minutes
  • Mileage: 523 miles
  • Fun fact: Riverside is home to the world's largest paper cup

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Nearby National Parks

Channel Islands National Park

Begin your trip by visiting a desert of a different sort — the Pacific Ocean. Drive west 150 miles to Santa Barbara to visit Channel Islands National Park. These granite islands are sprinkled throughout 390 square miles off the coast of California near Santa Barbara. The islands have enjoyed complete isolation from the mainland for millions of years. They are examples of fundamental evolutionary forces. Flora and fauna native to these islands are related to those found on the mainland, yet they have unique qualities not seen elsewhere. Only a few islands are accessible by boat; others are off-limits but viewable from offshore watercraft. 

Sequoia National Park

After visiting the Channel Islands, retrace your route to Santa Clarita and detour 235 miles north through Bakersfield to see another remote area where nature prevails, Sequoia National Park. Covering 404,040 acres in the upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this park plays host to the largest redwoods in existence today. Clinging to rocks, perched along great bluffs, and towering over steep ravines, these trees inspire awe when seen for the first time. Visitors to the park enjoy hiking amongst the giant tree trunks, through deep valleys where roaring streams bang their way through the rocks, and across high ridgelines with spectacular views of the neighboring mountains. These heights force clouds to release rain, which creates the perfect environment for the water-hungry redwood, despite the high elevations. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Returning to the starting point of your Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park road trip, detour 70 miles east to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Named for the short, twisted trees that survive in this harsh environment, the park encompasses 790,636 acres of desert. The park draws visitors to witness a clean night sky where stars stand out. Hiking, biking, and rock climbing are some of the favorite activities in this park. Be sure to carry plenty of water as the sun beats the desert like a hammer from mid-day to evening, especially in late spring, summer, and early fall.

Grand Canyon National Park

When you reach Flagstaff, AZ, 433 miles into your road trip from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park, detour north for 213 miles to see the wonders of Grand Canyon National Park. The 1.2-million-acre park includes the iconic Grand Canyon which was carved over millennia by the rushing waters of the Colorado River. Visitors nationwide come here to hike and bike the trails, ride horseback down the vertical slopes, or ride rafts through the untamed whitewater deep in the canyon. Though considered remote, the park is serviced by several small towns where visitors can purchase supplies, camping gear, and hiking equipment. 

Nearby State Parks

Castaic Lake State Recreational Area  

Castaic Lake State Recreational Area, 84 miles west of Riverside, sits close to Santa Clarita on your way to visit Channel Islands National Park. The recreation area is an oasis of water nestled amongst the bustling life of the Los Angeles region. There are plenty of RV campsites, and a boat ramp provides easy access to the water. Boats, kayaks, and canoes are available for rent at the camp store. Angling is one of the favorite activities here, with catfish, bass, and trout amongst the species of fish stocked in the lake each year. 

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mount San Jacinto State Park is located 55 miles east of Riverside, making it the ideal location from which to explore Joshua Tree National Park. The 14,400-acre park offers fern-ringed meadows, high-country wilderness, and alpine forest-covered slopes on high granite peaks. The highest peak is San Jacinto Peak, which stands at 10,834 feet and overlooks several other lower peaks that are challenging to climb. 

Homolovi State Park

A perfect spot from which to explore the 221,290-acre Petrified Forest National Park is Homolovi State Park. It lies 33 miles east of your destination on your Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park RV road trip. The park is next door to an active archeological dig exploring the lives of the Native American Hopi tribe that occupied northeastern Arizona. There is little precipitation at this park, making the night sky one of the clearest in the country. Hiking trails run around the park, some of which pass petroglyphs.

Along the Way

Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center

While you are still in the Riverside area, stop by the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center for some fun family activities. Located only 11 miles northwest of Riverside, this museum and activity center offers fun for every family member. The facility provides hands-on experiences in fossil digging and rock, mineral, and gem identification. 

Mojave National Preserve

Located 145 miles along your road trip from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park, Mojave National Preserve is a 1,542,770-acre desert that is one of the hottest in the world. Picturesque stacks of rocks, bare mountains, and an infinite horizon beckon to adventurers seeking an arid-area experience. Joshua tree forests and groupings of cacti pepper the area and provide homes to desert rodents and birds. Ghost towns that once survived here now serve as interesting backgrounds for photos. 

Lowell Observatory

Located in Flagstaff, AZ, 433 miles along your road trip from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park, is the Lowell Observatory. The facility is famous as the location where Pluto was discovered. While the 13-inch Lawrence Lowell telescope is retired from the front lines of astronomical exploration, it is an integral part of the history of modern astronomy. Visitors are welcome to visit the site and learn of the vital contributions the early 20th-century telescopes made to humans' understanding of the universe that surrounds them.

Main Cities You Will Pass Through

San Bernardino, CA

The first major city you pass through on your road trip from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park is San Bernardino. As its importance as a major crossroads grew, the city expanded to become the major public works center in the area; it includes several public hospitals, universities, public works departments, and transportation hubs that bring workers to the area in droves. While you are here, take advantage of one of the city's dump stations. There are also several campgrounds nearby if you wish to stay a day or two.

Bakersfield, CA

You pass through Bakersfield on your way to see Sequoia National Park. The city is a great place to stop and enjoy one of their famous restaurants and stores, like Murry Family Farms, which grows, processes, and sells fresh, dried, and canned fruit. Indulge your family by visiting the California Area Living Museum to glimpse the incredible array of wildlife you will see on this road trip from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park. While you are here, take advantage of the numerous dump stations and campgrounds that surround Bakersfield.

Flagstaff, AZ

In the Flagstaff/Prescott area of Arizona, you find a region of historical significance. Visiting the museums in the area, you'll notice a significant human pre-Columbian presence that prospered in this unusually fertile area surrounded by desert. While you are here, use one of the numerous dump stations in the area. You'll also find plenty of campgrounds in and around Flagstaff.

Find Adventure from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park

Find your One-Way Rental

When you follow this road trip itinerary from Riverside to Petrified Forest National Park, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Riverside or Petrified Forest National Park.