Giant Rocks in the West

Plan a pilgrimage to one of these 4 massive stone formations that rise to the sky in Utah, Oregon, Alaska, and California.

Temple of the Sun in Cathedral Valley, Utah, image

Temple of the Sun, a sandstone tower in Cathedral Valley, is in Capitol Reef National Park.

Morro Rock, California, image

Morro Rock, a volcanic plug, sits in Morro Bay on the California coast.

New Eddystone Rock, Misty Fjords National Monument, image

New
Eddystone Rock rises from the water in Alaska's Misty Fjords National Monument.

Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon Utah
Named for its inspiring array of sandstone towers, spires, and ridges, Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park, east of Torrey, Utah, is home to two massive stone formations: the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. Drivers of high-clearance vehicles make pilgrimages to the valley on a 60-mile loop road that’s open year-round, except after extreme weather. Check at the visitor center on Highway 24 for an update on road conditions. (435) 425-3791, nps.gov/care.

Morro Rock California
Morro Rock, nicknamed the Gibraltar of the Pacific, looms over the mouth of a small-craft harbor in Morro Bay, Calif. The 576-foot-tall volcanic plug was once an island; a man-made spit now connects the rock to the mainland. You can find it just north of Morro Bay State Park off Highway 1. (805) 772-2694, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=594.

New Eddystone Rock Alaska
New Eddystone Rock, a waterbound monolith in Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument, towers 200 feet over Behm Canal 50 miles from Ketchikan. Captain George Vancouver christened it in 1793, likening it to the Eddystone Rocks off Plymouth, England. (800) 770-3300, visit-ketchikan.com/thingstodo/mistyfjords.aspx.

Elephant and Table Rocks Oregon
Among the sea stacks dotting Oregon’s coast are the huge Elephant and Table rocks at Coquille Point in Bandon. The rocks, part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, provide habitat for murres, puffins, cormorants, and other seabirds. You can reach them from Beach Loop Drive. (541) 867-4550, fws.gov/oregoncoast/oregonislands.

Photography courtesy of National Park Service (Temple of the Sun); Kjklob/Wikipedia (Morro Rock); courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (New Eddystone Rock)

This article was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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