The Western United States contains some of the most breathtaking geological features in the world. Plan a visit to these national parks below to experience some truly spectacular feats of nature.
1) Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone, Wyoming
The Morning Glory Pool is one of hundreds of fascinating thermal and geological features inside the park. Photo by Daveynin.
Not only was Yellowstone established as the first national park in the world, it is currently one of the most visited parks in the American West.
Yellowstone is unmatched in its wide range of geothermal features, which include geysers, hot springs and the largest volcanic system in North America.
2) Moonscape Terrain, Death Valley, California
A stunning desert panorama from the Gower Gulch loop trail, one of Death Valley’s most popular hikes. Photo by Miranda Altman.
A land of extremes, Death Valley boasts summertime highs of over 110 degrees and moonscape-like terrain.
Travelers should plan their trip between November and March for more hiker-friendly temperatures.
3) Dramatic Pinnacles, Badlands, South Dakota
Dusk falls in spectacular colors over the badlands. Photo by Larry McAfee, NPS.
Visitors come to the Badlands to view dramatic buttes and pinnacles under wide prairie skies.
The park is also well-known for the tremendous amount of fossils found in its soils.
4) Alien Rock Spires, Bryce Canyon, Utah
A dusting of snow accents majestic hoodoos. Photo by Shelly Stucchi.
Bryce Canyon is a massive natural amphitheater illuminated in a stunning rainbow of pinks, oranges and reds.
What makes this park especially unique is the prevalence of hoodoos—tall, alien-looking rock spires that fill the canyon.
5) Turquoise River, North Cascades, Washington
A stunning aerial view of one of the park’s many glacial lakes. Photo by Alaskan Dude.
The North Cascades boasts over 300 glaciers inside its park boundaries—the most of any national park in the continental United States.
Visitors can expect jagged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls and the rushing turquoise Skagit River.
6) Painted Dessert, Petrified Forest, Arizona
A rainbow assortment of petrified logs. Photo by Petrified Forest Ranger.
Explore colorful badlands and stunning displays of petrified wood in the heart of Arizona’s magnificent Painted Desert.
The Petrified Forest is also known for an abundance of prehistoric fossils, ancient Native American pueblos and historical petroglyphs.
7) Volcanic Paradise, Lassen Volcanic, California
A hot spring boils along the park’s famous Bumpass Hell trail. Photo by Miranda Altman.
This park is one of the few places in the world where all four types of a volcano can be found. Lassen Volcanic also has many interesting thermal features such as fumaroles and hot springs.
Due to its high elevation, the park is best to visit during summer and early fall—many roads become snow covered until June.
8) Sandstone Arches, Arches, Utah
The iconic Delicate Arch can be accessed via an easy three-mile round-trip hike. Photo by Shelly Stucchi.
This park contains over 2,000 stunning natural sandstone arches. The most iconic of these is the magnificent Delicate Arch, shown above.
Plan your visit soon as this fragile ecosystem is constantly changing. Over 40 arches have collapsed in the past 40 years!
9) Enormous Caves, Carlsbad Canyons, New Mexico
Stalagmites create an eerie underground world of enchantment. Photo by margaretkilljoy.
Carlsbad Canyons boasts the third largest cave chamber in the world.
Visitors can explore over 100 natural caves under this rugged desert terrain.
10) Record-breaking Sand Dunes, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
Sweeping sand dunes framed by rugged mountain peaks. Photo by NPS Photo.
Travelers can sand-board down the tallest dunes in North America and hike jagged 13,000-foot mountains in the same day.
The park’s spectacular sand dunes are less than 500,000 years old and are still growing as westward winds deposit particles from the mighty Rio Grande floodplain.
11) Newest Land on Earth, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Hawaii
Molten lava inches toward the sea. Photo by jshyun.
Experience some of the newest land on earth with a visit to the Hawai’i Volcanoes!
Visitors can explore long cave-like lava tubes and an incredible variety of tropical flora in the park.
Those who are lucky may even catch the dramatic sight of glowing hot lava pouring into churning Pacific Ocean waves.
12) World’s Largest Canyon, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Over five million visitors flock to the Grand Canyon’s spectacular landscapes each year. Photo by B Rosen.
At over 18 miles wide in some places, the immense Grand Canyon is one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
The most popular activities in the park include strolling along the canyon’s scenic Rim Trail, rafting the mighty Colorado River or venturing down into the canyon on foot or on mule.
Which geological wonders have you seen in real life? Let me know in the comments.
If you liked this article, you might also like: Do You Dare? Hiking Hawaii’s Most Dangerous Volcano.
Main photo: Scorching lava spews into rough seas off the coast of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park by aprilandrandy.