Humans have contributed some undeniably incredible contributions to our planet, but few can compare to Earth’s many geological wonders. The result of an inexplicable amount of time and a combination of natural forces, destinations like Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Norway’s Pulpit Rock or Australia’s Uluru are hard to beat. These eight massive rock formations, canyons and caves will delight hobby geologists.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Norway is a country full of breathtaking scenery, but few are as photogenic as Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). Located in Forsand, this massive cliff will leave acrophobes weak in the knees and photographers reaching for their camera faster than you can say "selfie." Rising nearly 2,000 feet above Lysefjorden, this flat-topped rock formation, along with the views it offers, is well worth the more than 2-mile hike it takes to reach it.
Photo by Szczepan Janus, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Arizona's Grand Canyon needs little introduction. Widely considered one of the most incredible destinations on the planet, this masterpiece of natural forces has left a 277-mile-long and up to 18-mile-wide rift in the Earth's surface that reaches a depth of more than a mile at its deepest. The Colorado River has done an impressive job of eroding the canyon's surrounding rock for some five or six million years to reveal layer upon layer of colorful rock and page after page of geological history.
Photo by Joe Jiang, CC BY-NC 2.0
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As geologically impressive as Australia's Uluru (Ayers Rock) is, it is equally as sacred to the Pitjantjatjara, an Anangu or aboriginal people of central Australia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site rises 1,142 feet out of the Northern Territories desert and is characterized by its vibrant red sandstone. The rock has a nearly 6-mile circumference and, like an iceberg, a sizable portion of Uluru lies underground.
Photo by Shinazy Shinazy CC BY 2.0
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When conditions are right, Mount Roraima looks like a massive floating rock island amidst a sea of clouds. This plateau rises abruptly from its surrounding landscape. The borders of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela meet on this geological formation, which is considered one of the oldest on Earth at nearly two billion years old.
Photo by Neil Acquatella, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Antelope Canyon is a magnificently colorful slot canyon near Page, Arizona. The result of rainwater and erosion, this sandstone canyon's flowing rock formations mimic the flood waters that formed it. With a decent set of photography skills and good timing, early morning to be exact, you can capture the canyon awash in colors that would rival the best sunrise on Earth. This geological wonder is technically comprised of two separate canyons, upper and lower, or the curve and the corkscrew canyons as they've been nicknamed. Both are a sight to behold, but the latter is considerably more difficult to navigate. If you plan to visit, it's important to note that Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land and a Navajo-licensed guide is required.
Photo by Jacqueline Poggi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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You might recognize China's Zhangjiajie National Forest Park as the inspiration for the floating mountains in Avatar. The 185-square-mile forest, despite its name, is less famous for its trees than its rock formations. There are a reported 3,000 towering tree-covered pinnacles that fill the park. In the right conditions, the columns really do appear to float.
Photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, CC BY-SA 2.0
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What hobby geologist doesn't dream of spelunking their way through a massive underground labyrinth? Kentucky's Mammoth Cave is just the place to crawl, hike and climb through narrow passageways and massive chambers. At more than 400-miles-long, it ranks as the longest cave system in the world. The National Park Service offers a variety of spelunking tours for various ages and skill levels to make your dream a reality.
Photo by NPS Photo
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At Madagascar's Ankarana Special Reserve you can see what happens when 150-million-year-old limestone becomes heavily eroded. The result is a rugged karst topography that is fascinating to witness in person. Water, seismic activity and other forces of nature have helped mutilate the rocky surface into a collection of caves, underground rivers and deep gorges.
Photo by Rita Willaert, CC BY-NC 2.0