The United States is home to one of the world’s largest canyons, the Grand Canyon of Arizona whose psychedelic colors and 12,000-year history mesmerizes millions of visitors annually. However, it is not the United States’ only impressive canyon, with about 70 canyons scattered across different states. Though the list is long, these 11 canyons are certainly the most breathtaking in the US.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Just as its name suggests, this canyon takes a horseshoe shape at a meander of the Colorado River near Page, Arizona, considered part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the rim of the Grand Canyon. While the hike of Horseshoe Bend is a brief 1.5 miles, visitors can take in the majestic views by kayak through the river or by flying over in designated planes. The bright red and orange sandstone frame the water, forming a splendid lookout.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
The Antelope Canyon in the east of Lechee, Arizona includes five different panoramic slot canyon areas, the most distinguished of which is the Lower Antelope Canyon or The Corkscrew known for its very narrow passage ways. The canyon is perfect for a slow-paced hike and plenty of picture-worthy spots. Photographers often opt for the Lower Canyon for its mind-boggling effects in images, capturing the splendor of the rock formations.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Around 4,000 feet in depth, the Columbia River Gorge sits at the northern borders of Washington and southern borders of Oregon. From Crown Point, the sight is impeccable, overlooking the traveling rivers through the mountains and the stunning waterfalls pouring off the rocks. No wonder that the Gorge has been designated as the largest National Scenic Area, with its grand cliffs and multitude of waterfalls in a memorable natural setting.
Reflection Canyon, Utah
An extension of Lake Powell near Kanab, Utah, this 20-mile hike is not for the faint hearted. The Reflection Canyon is often visited by boat or plane as it is one of the most challenging to hike, but guarantees an incomparable sunrise view. Hikers have to make their own way through sand and slickrock, and most importantly, must be equipped with food and water for the long road of at least 5 hours.
The picturesque pastel hues of the canyon at Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada seem out of this world. Also known as the Pink Canyon, the spectalutor sights of the slot canyon are just an hour northwest from Las Vegas, with sandstones that look as surreal in person as in photos. Because it doesn't entail an official trial, the Pastel Canyon is a great destination for a low-stakes walk, as it gets less traffic than other canyons.
Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon, Utah
Tucked in a hidden corner of southern Utah, Peek-a-Boo is a corkscrew while Spooky Gulch is a narrow slot canyon. The red and purple rocks make for a magnificent time getting lost in a humble hike, with passages so slim that visitors will have fun flexing their bodies into the rock’s confines. The loop hike is moderate and especially photogenic in the Peek-a-Boo tight areas after some rockscrambling.
The Wave Canyon
Near the northern border with Utah, the Wave Canyon of Arizona is one of the top photographic spots for its jaw-dropping rock formations, glistening in the midday light. The canyon sits right on the Coyote Buttes slopes and attracts the eye to the majestic Jurrassic-aged rocks. A chute in a sandstone mountain, The Wave requires some way-finding skills as its terrain is hard to locate, but the 6.4-mile hike is a wilderness wonderland.
Keystone Canyon, Alaska
Situated near Valdez in Alaska, the Keystone Canyon features almost perpendicular walls, at an elevation of 307 feet. The geological vista is wondrous to witness, as the steep-sided walls meet the mesmerizing waterfalls. If not hiking, it is possible to explore the canyon by a thrilling rafting adventure in the Lowe River. A good rule of thumb is to check the water level before choosing to explore by water as the river is subject to frequent changes.
Santa Elena Canyon, Texas
A feature of the Big Bend National Park in Texas, Santa Elena is one of the few canyons that are accessible by car and one of the most spectacular as well. Filled with vegetation and rugged walls, the cliffs stand at an altitude of 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. Santa Elena Canyon's long meanders bring together the desert and riparian natural contrasts and exhibit the sharp bends of the Rio Grande.
Zebra Slot Canyon, Utah
Taking its name and distinct stripes from the animal, the Zebra Slot Canyon in southern Utah includes a complicated climb through narrow walls. While the trail itself is not long, the challenging journey requires time, a few hours marvelously spent venturing through the beautiful and vivid canyon. The passageways varry in different spots, at some points accutely narrow, and at others opening to dry chambers
Named as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon is nestled on the western part of Kaua’i island in Hawaii. The canyon's name refers to the erosion of its red soil, the term in Hawaiian standing for "reddish water". The fascinating views of the canyon capture the island’s deep valley gorges, buttes and crags, fading into the mountains and eventually the charming Kōke’e State Park.
Each unique in its own natural architecture, these canyons are thrilling to visit and explore, by small boats, flight tours or hiking trips. The impressive curves, colors and shapes make the canyons geological works of art taking the breath away.