5 Spectacular Red Rock Formations in the U.S.
There are many great things about the United States, but we're pretty partial to the country's natural wonders. The peaks, valleys, rivers, shores, forests, swamps, deserts, and plains are worth enjoying, exploring, and protecting.
Last week, we learned that some of the planet's light displays can be better than fireworks.
Our 4th of July celebration continues this week with highlights from our favorite red, white, and blue outdoor sights.
How many of these red rock formations have you seen?
Peer through one of the 2,000 natural stone arches at this park, and you'll see traces of the same desert snapshots as those seen by hunter/gatherers who migrated to the area nearly 10,000 years ago. The park's most well-known formation, the Delicate Arch, is the same one featured on Utah state license plates. Located five miles north of Moab, the park covers over 75,000 acres in a "high desert" environment. Bring your water, but also bring an extra jacket; the temperatures here can swing nearly 50 degrees in a single day.
What do you get when the Sierra Nevadas collide with the El Paso Range? You get 27,000 acres of some of the most brilliantly-layered hues of red in the country. An 1890s gold rush in the region wasn't the only instance of those hoping to strike it rich, as the park's proximity to Los Angeles made it an increasingly popular backdrop for Hollywood films. Two natural preserves give hikers plenty of room to explore without boxing them in with trails.
At 56.2 square miles, Bryce Canyon is pint-sized compared to other national parks -- all the more reason to visit this biodiversity mecca, which is home to three different climatic zones and over a thousand different species of plants. The park was named after Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce. So big is its legacy, in fact, that an American naval combat ship took its name. The amorphous rock pillars scattered throughout the park are called hoodoos. Erosion aside, you won't forget these formations anytime soon.
This unique music venue claims to be the "only naturally-occurring acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world," an attribute which attracts legendary bands like the Beatles and U2. Located nearly 6,500 feet above sea level, two 300-foot monoliths wrap around the outdoor theater, which can seat 9,400 spectators. When you're not listening to your favorite band howl at the moon (or when you're not howling along with them), take in the 640-acre Colorado park's scenery. It's a beauty worth singing about.
This park's unique location (pictured at the top of this post) along the winding banks of Oak Creek creates a riparian habitat ideal for wildlife study and environmental education. Visitors interested in some light reading can check out a 20-page document solely devoted to its plants. Sharp eyes might catch rare animals like the Sonora mud turtle, which is identified by the U.S. Forest Service as a "sensitive species." If you fall in love here, you're in luck: Wedding packages are offered year round. You won't need rice to throw here. Birdseed will do just fine.
-images by iStockphoto/urosr, iStockphoto/vgoenka, iStockphoto/surpasspro, iStockphoto/JustinMcD, and iStockphoto/ChuckSchugPhotography
Davis Jones is an editorial intern at Sierra. His love for the outdoors began when he stepped on a fish hook as a 12-year-old and cried, in a burst of epiphanic clarity, "I'm too young to die." He attends the University of San Diego and enjoys camping, hiking, backpacking, and other activities that more or less benefit the mosquito population.