The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. Zion National Park. These are some of the most incredible and well-known sites for breathtaking rock formations that have been carved out by millennia of wind and rain and seismic shifts. But these natural processes have been responsible for more than just a few major wonders – they’re responsible for building some of the most dramatic and incredible landscapes in America. The Geology of America is as varied as the people within, and some of the landscapes below have been under-reviewed in popular culture.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Over 40k acres of Aztec sandstone provide this state park with an easy to understand name – the layers of rock form a Mars-like landscape. You won’t believe that this is only a short drive away from Las Vegas. Formations such as the Pink Canyon and the Beehives have very apt names that don’t quite provide the whole picture. This is Nevada’s first and oldest state park for good reason.
Craters of the Moon, Idaho
This National Monument and Preserve is more than 618 miles of nothing but solidified lava on top of a long-dormant volcano. While there is no current sign of activity, it should be noted that the caldera is expected to erupt again in a few thousand years – so act quick! The preserve features a full spread of volcanic rock formations ranging from lava tubes and lava rivers to tree molds and lava beds. If you enjoy camping, the remote destination has some incredible spots for truly clear views of the Milky Way.
The Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
The Devil’s Tower is a sacred site according to the Northern Plains Indians – for good reason. This mountainous outcropping was once a volcano that settled and eroded, revealing the hexagonal interior. The dramatic rock formation was used as a set-piece for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and has been used as inspiration for countless art-pieces. A short hiking trail leads around the base, and the truly adventurous can climb the vertical walls up to the top.
These are just a few of the most incredibly unnatural-seeming natural wonders that dot the great nation of America. If you are a hiking or camping enthusiast, are making a cross-country road trip, or are lucky enough to live within a day-trip distance of these locations, make sure to plan a trip for some of the most awe-inspiring experiences of American life – you won’t regret it.