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4 Amazing State Parks in the West

by Barbara Rogers

Jun 21, 2022

© Jonmanjeot | Dreamstime.com

Listicles

With sites such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and The Arches, it’s easy to think all the great natural wonders in the western United States are in national parks. Here are four state parks for your family travels proving that misconception wrong:

 

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

The convoluted red rocks of this deep and twisting gorge are made even more dramatic by rock spires and pillars, as well as narrow side canyons. It took tens of millions of years for wind and water to carve the layers of volcanic ash, laying hundreds of feet thick, into this fantasy landscape. The canyon walls rise at either side like the carved facades of great cathedrals, and the trail through the gorge’s floor weaves and twists between them. A good trail system allows you to explore the caves and slot canyons.

 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Giant pillars rise above the deeply carved landscape, earning the park the nickname of The Grand Canyon of Texas. The title is apt, as Palo Duro is the second-largest canyon in the country. This wide and irregular gash in the land is formed by erosion of the valley, exposing layers of rock in varying shades of red. Strangely shaped pillars of more durable rock remain, like guardians along the canyon walls and floor.

 

Hike or explore on horseback, or stay over at a cabin or one of the camping or glamping sites. Kids love the family-friendly TEXAS Outdoor Musical, where fictional characters bring to life the stories of the Texas Panhandle settlers with music, dance and exciting special light effects against the dramatic canyon backdrop.

 

Makoshika State Park, Montana

The 12,000 acres of sandstone and mudstone formations is the pure definition of “badlands.” The barren scene is made even more forbidding by the giant cone-shaped and eroded pillars, looking as though they were designed for some prehistoric stage set. This was the home of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and their contemporaries, as abundant fossils prove. Kids can learn more about them at the visitor center’s interpretive exhibits, designed for all ages.

 

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Of all these, this is the one you’ll have the hardest time prying your kids away from. Picture an enchanted valley studded with goblin-like figures in a forest of giant stone mushrooms. The best part is you can climb on them, crawl through crevices under them and play hide-and-seek among them. Called hoodoos, these top-heavy pillars result from weather erosion of the softer base layers of sandstone deposits. The erosion carves the stem, leaving the cap to weather more slowly.

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