Essential Travel Experience #73 – Be Amazed at Unusual Geology

There are some very strange geological formations on this earth. From tall pillars to leaning rocks, from symmetrical cones to circular holes, these anomalies grab our attention because they are so unusual, sometimes even fanciful. They can be found all over the world, but areas of active geology are perhaps the best places to see these formations.

Some of our favorite examples of unusual geology are chronicled in the pictures below. See the spires and pinnacles at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, where the spires are known as “Hoodoos.”

Bryce Canyon

Here is a single hoodoo called Thor’s Hammer.

Thor's Hammer

Another single spire is found on the island of Maui, in Iao Valley State Park. Here the culprit is called the Iao Needle.

Iao Needle

Multiple pinnacles can be found on the Needles Highway in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

The Needles

Monument Valley, on Navaho tribal grounds in Arizona is noted for its unusual shapes, butte, and mesas. These are the vistas so often seen in John Ford westerns.

Monument Valley

Fantastic and unusual shapes are the rule at Garden of the Gods State Park, in Colorado Springs, CO.

Garden of the Gods State Park

Perhaps the most incredible collection of unusual shapes can be found along the Li River in China. The boat ride from Guilin to Yangshuo passes by some of the best examples of karst (glacial) landscape in the world. This scene can be found on Chinese money.

Li River Landscape

 Here is another example

Li River Karst Hills

 and this

Glorious Li River Landscape

 Arches are another example of unusual geology. Unfortunately, they are temporary structures and will eventually be worn away. This is the largest arch in the world, Rainbow Bridge.

Rainbow Bridge

 Here is an arch at Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon Arch

 The Grand Canyon is, of course, a wonderful example of river geology. The Colorado River has cut this incredible canyon exposing millions of years of earth history.

Grand Canyon

Here is another view.

Grand Canyon Vista

Yosemite Valley was sculptured by glaciers and has the steep walls to prove it.

Yosemite Valley

 Another valley that sports unusual rock formations is Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona, Arizona. Here are red rock formations that stimulate the imagination.

Oak Creek Canyon Drive

 No wonder car commercials often feature this drive.

Bell Rock, Oak Creek Canyon Drive

Considering imagination, look at Camel Hill, a fixture in Seven Star Park, Guilin, China.

Camel Hill, Guilin

 White things are not terribly common in nature, so expanses of white, at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, fit this post admirably

White Sands National Monument

as do the White Cliffs of Dover,

White Cliffs of Dover

 Colors in nature are particularly arresting and great draws on the tourist scene. Thus, Death Valley National Park is popular with people who love the unusual, the colorful, and the weird.

Red Cathedral, Death Valley

Zabriskie Point is fascinating as well.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

One of Lee’s favorite places in the US is Devil’s Tower National Monument, in northeastern Wyoming. It is actually the core of an extinct volcano, but legends about the structure abound. It was even used in the alien movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Devil's Tower

 Up close it is even more intriguing.

Devil's Tower NM

As stark as Devil’s Tower looks as it rises above the flat landscape, another site is even more dramatic. Meteor Crater, near Winslow, Arizona, is the crater formed by a chunk of space debris 50,000 years ago.

Meteor Crater


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