Rock-itecture, from natural bridges to columns, add drama to the Western landscape.
Utah’s Arches National Park
Talk about arch rivals: This park near Moab, Utah, is home to some 2,400 natural arches, among them easy-to-reach Turret Arch. The span is colossal—65 feet high and 35 feet wide. Photo buffs make pilgrimages to it. “You can play with fun perspectives, like holding the arch in the palm of your hand,” says park ranger Karen Henker. Look for two distinct rock layers, a smooth upper one and a lower, lumpier “lasagna layer” named for its rippled margins. (435) 719-2299, nps.gov/arch .
California’s Alabama Hills
Amid golden-brown granite boulders in the Alabama Hills of California’s eastern Sierra Nevada, Alabama Hills Arch dramatically frames Mount Whitney. Take a short trail west of Lone Pine to nature’s window on the lower 48’s tallest peak. (760) 876-6222, blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bishop/topten.html .
Oregon’s Pillars of Rome
North of U.S. Highway 95 in southeastern Oregon stand the Pillars of Rome, chalk-colored bluffs that are said to have looked like ruined Roman temples to pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The fantastic cliffs are 100 feet high, five miles long, and two miles wide. (800) 547-7842, traveloregon.com .
Wyoming’s Ayres Natural Bridge
Ayres Natural Bridge, a grand stone arch carved by water over millennia, crosses La Prele Creek west of Douglas, Wyo. Cast a fly beneath the bridge, stroll its 100-foot length, or picnic under a shady cottonwood. (307) 358-3532, conversecountytourism.com/douglas.html .
Photography courtesy of pdphoto.org  (Arches National Park); Cacaphony/Wikipedia (Pillars of Rome); Haberstr/Wikipedia (Ayres Natural Bridge)
This article was first published in September 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.