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Rocks of Ages: The Coolest Geological Hikes in the U.S.

Who says rocks have to be boring? You can hike and/or paddle to these 10 geological wonders.

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The Wave offers a breathtaking cross-section of geologic history. Its rippling sandstone formations have been eroded by wind and water, and reveal…

The Wave offers a breathtaking cross-section of geologic history. Its rippling sandstone formations have been eroded by wind and water, and reveal the winds changing directions over time. Seeing this natural wonder may take some serious planning, though: to protect the Wave, the Bureau of Land Management limits permits to just 20 visitors per day. [image: Lobineau/Wikimedia]

Established as America’s first national monument in 1906, Devil’s Tower is sacred to the Lakota and several other Native American tribes. The Tower,…

Established as America’s first national monument in 1906, Devil’s Tower is sacred to the Lakota and several other Native American tribes. The Tower, likely formed by an intrusion of magma into now-eroded sedimentary rock, is also a favorite amongst ambitious climbers. [image: Jeff Fennell/Wikimedia]

Storm waves are responsible for the bizarre shape of Turnip Rock, a formation jutting out of Lake Huron, just off of Michigan’s northeast shore.…

Storm waves are responsible for the bizarre shape of Turnip Rock, a formation jutting out of Lake Huron, just off of Michigan’s northeast shore.  Again, you’ll have to work to get there: Turnip Rock is surrounded by private land and can only be reached by kayak or by trekking across the frozen lake in winter. [image: Derek Turner / Flickr]

Dating back over one million years, Mono Lake is considered one of North America’s oldest lakes.  Due to a complex process of evaporation and mineral…

Dating back over one million years, Mono Lake is considered one of North America’s oldest lakes.  Due to a complex process of evaporation and mineral deposition, it is also one of the continent’s saltiest lakes, with a higher salinity level than most oceans. Otherworldly tufa towers, rising eerily from the ancient waters, are the lake’s most spectacular feature. These calcium-carbonate formations are formed from interactions between fresh and salt water within the lake. [image: Chris Streeter/Wikimedia]

You may recognize these monuments from their onscreen appearances in numerous spaghetti Westerns. The Mitten Buttes, each towering more than 6,000…

You may recognize these monuments from their onscreen appearances in numerous spaghetti Westerns. The Mitten Buttes, each towering more than 6,000 ft, are a combination of shale, sandstone, and conglomerate rock. [image: Christian Mehlfuhrer/Wikimedia]

Mesa Arch is the must-see formation in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. A short hike will take you directly to this pothole arch, formed from…

Mesa Arch is the must-see formation in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. A short hike will take you directly to this pothole arch, formed from pooling water and erosional processes. Be sure to see Mesa Arch at sunrise, when the spectacular orange and pink glow of the rock and surrounding mountains will make your pre-dawn wake up call well worth the effort. [image: John Fowler/Flickr]

No rock-lover's life list would be complete without the Grand Canyon, the granddaddy of natural rock formations. Carved out over millions of years by…

No rock-lover’s life list would be complete without the Grand Canyon, the granddaddy of natural rock formations. Carved out over millions of years by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon boasts layers of rock dating back nearly 2 billion years. From the South Rim, take in quintessential Canyon views from Mather Point.  At nearly 9,000 feet, the North Rim’s Point Imperial is the highest overlook in the Grand Canyon and provides another not-to-be-missed vantage point. One final tip: to beat the crowds and heat, as well as to see the startling contrast between snow and colorful rocks, consider checking out the Canyon in wintertime. [image: NPS]

The famous Nakalele Point blowhole throws spray in the air as if it were Old Faithful kickin' it on a beach vacation. And for all you romantics and…

The famous Nakalele Point blowhole throws spray in the air as if it were Old Faithful kickin’ it on a beach vacation. And for all you romantics and honeymooners out there, be sure to check out the heart-shaped Ocean Arch rock opening nearby. [image: Makaristos/Wikimedia]

Kentucky’s Red River Gorge Geological Area contains over 160 natural rock archways, a number surpassed only by Arches National Park in Utah. Double…

Kentucky’s Red River Gorge Geological Area contains over 160 natural rock archways, a number surpassed only by Arches National Park in Utah. Double Arch presides as one of the Gorge’s most exceptional formations and offers panoramic views of the surrounding forests and canyons. Climbers, meanwhile, will love The Motherlode (pictured), one of the state’s most popular rope spots. [image: Jared Tuszynski/Wikimedia]

This formation, visible from Death Valley’s famous Artist Drive, is fittingly named for its brilliant display of colors. Formed over 5 million years…

This formation, visible from Death Valley’s famous Artist Drive, is fittingly named for its brilliant display of colors. Formed over 5 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity, the mountains here owe their rainbow appearance to chemical reactions of iron, mica, and other minerals. [image: Samartur/Wikimedia]