9 Rocky Views Surrounding the Grand Canyon

Publish date:

So, you're going to see the Grand Canyon, the most famous natural wonder in America. Since a Grand Canyon vacation is a bit of a road trip, don't forget to stop at some of the  hoodoos, arches, natural bridges and caverns along the way.  

Here's a sampling of the unique rock formations that can be seen within a day's drive of the Grand Canyon.

Rock Formations near the Grand Canyon

1. Monument Valley

Monument Valley near the Arizona - Utah border

Sunrise at Monument Valley's "Mittens"

The valley is in both Arizona and Utah and is a famous and iconic landscape. Featured in movies and advertisements, Monument Valley is a stark, red desert landscape that is interrupted only by huge, towering monolithic red rocks or "monuments" that jut upright throughout the valley. Some of these monuments stand over 1,000 feet tall. 

To get to Monument Valley, take Highway 163 from Kayenta, Ariz. In addition to red rock monuments, more mesas and buttes can be seen by entering the Navajo Tribal Park. The cost to enter in 2018 is: 

  • $20 per non-commercial vehicle up to 4 people ($6 each additional passenger)
  • Per Individual Pass: $10 per walk-in, bicycle, or motorcycle

Once in,  you'll get to enjoy views of the often-photographed East and West Mitten Buttes, and Merrick Butte.

2. Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon

The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs in the Paria Wilderness.

The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs in the Paria Wilderness. 

Located north of Grand Canyon's North Rim, this area is protected as a national monument. Access this unique landscape at Bitter Springs, Ariz. From there, travel through Marble Canyon to Jacob Lake, then to Fredonia on Highways 89 and 89A. Visitors will enjoy the reddish, or vermilion-colored cliffs that jut out of the landscape. Popular highlights of this region include The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Lee's Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and others.

3. Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona

Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona

Many refer to Chiricahua National Monument as "Wonderland of Rocks" and it's an apt description. Located 120 miles southeast of Tucson, this forest of rock spires was eroded from layers of ash deposited by the Turkey Creek Volcano eruption 27 million years ago. Visitors will enjoy rock formations such as The Organ Pipe. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 18 miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 11,985-acre site.

4. Tonto Natural Bridge

Tonto Natural Bridge in Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge in Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge, located about 10 miles north of Payson, Ariz., in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. It is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world.

5. Wrather Arch

Wrather Arch in Arizona.

Wrather Arch in Arizona

Wrather Arch is a 246-foot-wide arch located in northern Arizona. Although among the most impressive of arches in the U.S., and believed to be the longest natural arch outside of Utah, it's not exactly accessible. Situated in Wrather Canyon, a small tributary of Paria Canyon, this arch is reached after hiking about 20 miles. (Good luck with that. The reward will be great to those who embark on the journey, though?)

6. Mogollon Rim

Arizona's Mogollon Rim at the point where Forest Roads 321 and 321C intersect. Just beyond the ridge is a small community called Rim Trail Estates.

Arizona's Mogollon Rim at the point where Forest Roads 321 and 321C intersect. 

A massive escarpment that drops 2,000 feet in places. Forming the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the rim provides some of the most far-reaching views in all of Arizona. Views stretch all the way from its rocky precipice to Four Peaks of the Mazatzals, northeast of Phoenix. Mogollin Rim Country can be found in Payson, Ariz., about mid-way between Scottsdale and Flagstaff, Ariz. (Tip: To sound like a local who knows what you're talking about: Mogollon is actually pronounced: mug-ee-yun)

7. Grand Canyon Caverns

Grand Canyon Caverns was designated a fallout shelter in 1961.

Grand Canyon Caverns was designated a fallout shelter in 1961.

Located along Historic Route 66 in northwestern Arizona, this is home to a natural limestone cavern that is 210 feet underground, and is the largest dry cavern in the U. S. There are five tours available for visitors. Enjoy a 45-minute, three-quarters-of-a-mile guided walking tour. Or, for visitors who have less time, there is a 25-minute tour. 

Tours begin by riding an elevator some 21 stories to the base of the "Chapel of the Ages" cavern, the scene of numerous weddings throughout the years and a cave that's large enough to hold two football fields! Immerse yourself as your guide teaches you the history about these natural wonders. An extra bonus: Visitors will see a variety of unique crystals. To get to Grand Canyon Caverns, take Interstate 40 to Seligman, at which point, head north on Historic Route 66 for about 20 miles, then turn left.

8. Kartchner Caverns State Park

The Big Room at Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns

Located in Kartchner State Park in southeastern Arizona, this state park is home to caverns with world-class features. This "live" cave was discovered in 1974 and is host to a variety of formations. Water trickles from the surface where calcite formations continue to grow. Many of the features have been growing for tens of thousands of years. Visitors will see stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground, and more, during a one-and-a-half guided tour through this intriguing underground landscape. (Total distance for the tour is about one half mile.)

To get to Kartchner Caverns State Park from Tucson, head south and travel about about 40 miles east on Interstate 10, before turning right on AZ-90 for about eight-and-a-half miles. The state park will be on your left.

(For safety reasons, children age six or under are not allowed on the cavern tour)

9. Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Colossal Cave near Tucson Arizona.

Colossal Cave near Tucson Arizona

Located 22 miles southeast of Tucson in southern Arizona, this cave is estimated to have almost 40 miles of cave tunnels. Currently two miles of them are mapped. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the natural wonder that will take them through six stories.


Toroweap Outlook

Fantastic Sights Beyond Grand Canyon

It's just a short jont to Toroweap (also called Tuweep) Overlook, Monument Valley, Goosenecks State Park, San Francisco Peaks, Oak Creek Canyon, Vermiliion Cliffs, Hoover Dam, Lake Powell, and London Bridge.

Monument Valley at the Utah Arizona border

Take a Scenic Drive Near the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park region is one big road trip. There are so many scenic drives, it's hard to limit our favorites.

Hiker at Bright Angel Point on the Grand Canyon's North Rim

10 Best Things to do in the Grand Canyon

What to do and see on your Grand Canyon vacation. Go hiking, ride a train or a mule, raft down the Colorado River, and more.

Upper Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona. Photo by Joshua Benally

Canyons in Arizona Beyond the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is the ultimate canyon, but it's only one of many canyons that are worthy of seeing and experiencing during your Arizona vacation.

Drinking Water Filling Station at the 1.5 mile resthouse on the Bright Angel Trail.

10 Best Things to Do with Kids in the Grand Canyon

Ride a bike, take a hike, attend a ranger program, become a Junior Ranger, watch the stars and more things to do with kids in the canyon.

Grand Canyon South Rim

The Sounds of the Grand Canyon

Expect a quite trip, filled with moments of introspective thought, but at times the silence might be interrupted by a helicopter tour.

Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Arizona

10 Nearest Arizona State Parks to the Grand Canyon

Visit Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, right in the heart of Flagstaff, and Homolovi State Park, just outside of Winslow.

Condor #87 turned 16-years-old in 2014. He was released into the Grand Canyon in 1998.

California Condors in The Grand Canyon

Catch a glimpse of this majestic bird as it soars high above the canyon floor scanning the rocky terrain for its next meal.


Rivers in the Grand Canyon Region

So many river options on a hot day in the Grand Canyon!