Best Geological Formation (2016)


From sea to shining sea, the United States is covered in spectacular and sometimes strange geological formations – natural wonders that make it easy to see why it's called America the Beautiful. We asked 10Best readers to vote for their favorite iconic American geological formations, and the results are in.

  • Shiprock

    Shiprock, N.M.

    Rising up from the landscape of the Four Corners area of New Mexico is Shiprock, a 1700-foot-high volcanic plug that can be seen for miles in any given direction. Known to the Navajo people as "Tsé Bit' A'í," or "Rock with Wings," Shiprock is what remains of a throat of a volcano, exposed after millions of years of erosion. As a formation sacred to the Navajo people, climbing or hiking Shiprock is forbidden.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Devils Tower

    Devils Tower
    Devils Tower, Wyo.

    Long before Close Encounters brought this natural monument to the surface of the collective American consciousness, it already ranked as one of the most visited attractions in the nation. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the 1,267-foot-high rock formation the first national monument in 1906. Once a sacred Native American site, it today attracts rock climbers and geology geeks.
    Photo courtesy of NPS / Avery Locklear

  • Bryce Canyon Hoodoos

    Bryce Canyon Hoodoos
    Garfield County, Utah

    Nowhere in the world are hoodoo rock formations more abundant than in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park. These tall, skinny rock spires range in height from 5 feet to the height of a 10-story building. Visitors to Bryce Canyon can see these unusual formations from overlooks above the Bryce Amphitheater or by hiking the Navajo Loop or Queen's Garden trails.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Antelope Canyon

    Antelope Canyon
    Page, Ariz.

    A landscape photographer's dream, Antelope Canyon in Arizona's Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park features 120-foot red sandstone canyon walls rising up from a stream bed where antelope once roamed freely. This preternaturally beautiful slot canyon is open by guided tour only, but is certainly worth the effort.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Halema‘uma‘u

    Big Island, Hawaii

    To visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is to see geology in action, and nowhere is this more true than at Halema‘uma‘u. From a viewing platform outside the Jaggar Museum, visitors stare in awe at the smoking volcanic crater inside the larger Kilauea Caldera. At night, the lava lake roiling within glows.
    Photo courtesy of Michael Szoenyi

  • The Wave

    The Wave
    Coyote Buttes, Ariz.

    Situated on the slopes of Coyote Buttes within the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the border of Arizona and Utah, The Wave formation is famous for its undulating Navajo sandstone layers. So popular is the formation, despite the difficult hike necessary to reach it, that permits are handed out via a lottery system.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Natural Bridge

    Natural Bridge
    Natural Bridge, Va.

    Natural Bridge, a stone bridge in the southern Shenandoah Valley that formed when a cavern collapsed, is one of America's oldest tourist destinations. According to local legend, a young George Washington visited the site in 1750 and carved his initials into the stone. Plans are in the works to make the natural wonder a state park.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Monument Valley

    Monument Valley
    Arizona & Utah

    Monument Valley is defined by its large sandstone formations projecting 400 to 1,000 feet skyward. The sight becomes even more stunning as the sun casts shadows across the desert landscape that surrounds these monumental landmarks. Visitors can tour the area by foot, vehicle or horseback, but a Native American guide truly brings the area's history to life.
    Photo courtesy of Scott Taylor / Flickr

  • Delicate Arch

    Delicate Arch
    Arches National Park, Utah

    Arches National Park in Utah is brimming with fantastic rock formations, but if we have to narrow it down to just one, that one would be Delicate Arch. Of the park's 2,000 stone arches, this is the most famous. Measuring 64 feet high and 45 feet across, it's the largest free-standing arch in the park and a symbol of the state of Utah.
    Photo courtesy of NPS/Neal Herbert

  • Turnip Rock

    Turnip Rock
    Port Austin, Mich.

    Worn away by millennium of wave erosion from the waters of Lake Huron, tree-topped Turnip Rock juts up from the lake waters not far from Port Austin. During the summer, the formation is accessible via kayak, and in winter visitors can trek (carefully) across the frozen surface of the lake.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The top 10 winners in the category Best Geological Formation are as follows:

  1. Shiprock - Shiprock, N.M.
  2. Devils Tower - Devils Tower, Wyo.
  3. Bryce Canyon Hoodoos - Garfield County, Utah
  4. Antelope Canyon - Page, Ariz.
  5. Halema‘uma‘u - Big Island, Hawaii
  6. The Wave - Coyote Buttes, Ariz.
  7. Natural Bridge - Natural Bridge, Va.
  8. Monument Valley - Arizona & Utah
  9. Delicate Arch - Arches National Park, Utah
  10. Turnip Rock - Port Austin, Mich.

Other formations nominated in this category included Chimney Rock in Scotts Bluff, Neb.; Devils Postpile in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; Fisher Towers in Moab, Utah; Goblin Valley in Green River, Utah; Half Dome in Yosemite, Calif.; Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Ore.; Mono Lake Tufas in Lee Vining, Calif.; Monument Rocks in Grinnell, Kan.; Smith Rock in Terrebonne, Ore. and Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly, Ariz.

Congratulations to all our winners!

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