You don’t need to cross oceans to get majestic views and learn geological history. Nature has created natural wonders right here in the States, too! To inspire your next road trip or teach you a little more about the history of the planet, peruse this list. Here are a handful of the most stunning geological wonders in the United States.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the most famous spring in Yellowstone National Park, and it brings a natural rainbow to Earth. The spring gets its vivid rings of color from the bacteria that live there, spanning the full white-light spectrum. Water in hot springs constantly heats, cools, and heats again, and certain types of cyanobacteria gravitate towards hot water. They thrive on various photosynthetic pigments that make them appear different colors—it’s a majestic ring of rainbows to us.
Hells Canyon, spanning vast swaths of Idaho and Oregon, is the deepest canyon gorge in North America. Millions of years of volcanic eruption, tectonic plate shift, and lava flow created the steep ups and downs of the gorge. When you visit the canyon, you’ll also see how ancient rivers flowed and eroded the plateaus around it. The formation of Hells Canyon is one of the biggest works of art that Earth has to offer.
Formerly known as Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain peak in North America sits among the landscape of Denali National Park in Alaska. A tectonic shift called “Denali,” or “the tall one,” created the whole mountain range 60 million years ago by the indigenous Alaskan population. A unique bend in the fault line caused rocks to pile high, creating this towering range of mountains. Denali is a famously difficult climb but a gorgeous geological feat to behold from afar.
Kentucky is the proud home of the longest natural cave system in the world. Underground rivers and streams carved these passageways in the soft limestone. This process of subterranean erosion is called karst topography, in which underground water slowly softens and shapes the rock around it. Mammoth Cave even serves as an underground aquifer that provides drinking water to the US population.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
This swimming hole in Texas wasn’t always a pool. It used to be an underground river, but the roof collapsed after thousands of years of erosion. Part of it is still underground, but it also offers partial shade thanks to the remainders of the fallen roof. A nearby waterfall keeps the pool filled with refreshing water—and the natural filtering properties of limestone keep the water a clean, clear jade green.
Whether you’re planning a vacation or admiring these wonders from afar, keep this list of the most stunning geological wonders in the United States on your mind.