The Petrified Forest is a place that we have always driven by and said that we would stop in someday. We've been in Sonoma County for 20 years now and decided it was time to go check it out.
Since our 3-year-old is less interested in structure and more interested in exploring on his own, we opted out of the Guided Meadow Walk. They did mention that the guided walk was moderate difficulty but kid-friendly. We chose the self-guided shorter nature trail. This is an easy trail to walk and took us about 20 minutes. It circles through some of the petrified trees. Most are fenced off and just for observing, but there are some petrified trees that you can touch and sit on.
The trail itself is beautiful, wandering through Manzanita, Madrone, Oak and Redwood trees. There are a few signs with information on how old and how big the trees are and there are many observation benches along the path. The trail is well-maintained; the whole place is kept very neat and clean.
At the end of the trail there are some tables for you and the family to sit and have lunch. And, yes, there are flush toilets! We went on a Saturday and it was very quiet so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.
The best part about The Petrified Forest is the gift shop! It is large and loaded with beautiful gemstones, minerals, crystals, fossils, and of course, petrified wood.
There are bins full of very interesting rocks for little hands. My kids had a great time using the magnifying glasses that they provide to look at all the crystals and geodes.
There are also a lot of books on fossils, rocks, gems, insects, and dinosaurs.
And the kids can fill a pouch with polished rocks for $7.00 to take home as a keepsake.
Admission to walk the Petrified Forest is $5-$10/person (kids under 6 are FREE). I did read in one of their brochures that the money goes straight to maintenance of the park and there is minimal profit. The gift shop is worth the trip alone if you have a rock lover in your family.
The Petrified Forest is located at 4100 Petrified Forest Road on the way to Calistoga. It took us about 30 minutes to get there from Rohnert Park via 101 to Mark West Springs Road to Calistoga Road. They are open 7 days a week, with tours at 11am on Saturday and Sunday (you can also call for an appointment for a tour at another time/day).