Sometimes the best art is rocks.
Rock formations are truly Mother Nature’s art. These ancient sculptures were formed by thousands of years of weather and erosion—they’re too weird and wonderful to have been made by the human mind. This list came straight from the Earth herself. From giant rocks that resemble elephants to whole national parks made up of rocks that look an awful lot like goblins, here are some of the most incredibly strange rock formations in the world.
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Goblin Valley State Park
With a name like “Goblin Valley,” you know there’s gonna be some rock formations that make you go, “Whoa! What?”—and that there are. The whole park is made up of “hoodoos,” or goblins, which are mushroom-shaped sandstone rocks—some of which are several yards tall. The whole place looks a lot like Mars—some parts of the park feature rocks formed in such a way that it turns the area into sort of a maze, which makes for a fun adventure for visitors. Hollywood agrees that the park resembles outer space landscapes—scenes from the movie Galaxy Quest were filmed here.
Turnip Rock is a relatively small stacked rock formation located in the shallow waters off the shore of Lake Huron, in Michigan’s Thumb. The area around the rock is considered one of the most beautiful spots in all of Michigan (and an excellent place for kayaking or canoeing, which is the only way to reach Turnip Rock, itself). The rock, which looks like a small upside-down mountain, was formed over time by waves eroding at the soft limestone, until, frankly, the whole bottom of it was gone.
The Eye of the Sahara
Sure, this rock formation formally known as Richat Structure can only be seen from space, but does that make it any less bonkers? Absolutely not. Looking like a bonafide bullseye (as well as a regular eye) the size of a country, the eye of the Sahara is a prominent circular feature located in the massive Sahara desert that has been observed by fellows up there in space (astronauts, not aliens) for many years. In actuality, it’s a 30-mile dome-shaped structure formed by uplifted rock that eroded over time (and not from a meteorite, as originally presumed).
Elephant Rock at Valley of Fire State Park
Millions of years ago, Valley of Fire State Park was submerged under the sea, and now? Well, now it’s: rocks! And interesting rocks, at that—a sea of rocks, if you will. And one of the most interesting of these rock formations is located right next to the east entrance of the park and it is shaped like a gigantic elephant. The most prominent element to this formation is the “trunk,” as it’s the easiest thing to make out initially, however, if you look closely enough, you will be able to see the body and legs, as well.
The Giant’s Causeway
WHERE: Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, located on its North Coast, and was voted the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom by a radio station, so you know this thing is good. It is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, formed by an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. The tops of the columns are little hexagonal stepping stones that lead off the cliff and into the sea, disappearing under it.
The Devil’s Postpile is located in the Mammoth Mountains of eastern California and is made up of around 400 oddly clumped-together basalt columns formed around 100,000 years ago by a cooling lava flow cracking the rocks into multi-sided formations, in the valley of the San Joaquin River. The columns come in all sorts of varying heights and sizes and appear quite polished and shiny due to glacial action over the years. It actually used to be much taller than it is now and continues to erode, the river below eating away at pieces that fall into the water.
One of the most well-known strange rock formations in the world, Skull Rock is located in the serene desert of Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, just outside of Palm Springs. It is, clearly, a rock in the shape of a huge skull. The skull was formed over the years by rain eroding its surface, including the eye sockets, where water became trapped long enough to erode the rock into little pits. The large skull is a favorite among desert hikers and walkers visiting Joshua Tree National Park.
Wave Rock is exactly what it sounds like, but dear god, looking at it is…something else. The thing looks like an actual huge, curved wave, about to crash on top of you, except it’s made of granite rocks dating back around 2.63 billion years. And although it looks menacing, it’s actually just the side of Hyden Rock, a hill located in Hyden Wildlife Park, which is a nature preserve in Australia.
Shilin Stone Forest
WHERE: Kunming, China
Stone Forest, located in Kunming, China, is another rock formation that looks exactly as it is described. The tall limestone formations creep up into the sky from the ground like petrified trees—hence the name—and almost resemble stalagmites (a.k.a. those pointy rocks found in caves). The stone forest dates back around 270 million years and covers about 186 miles altogether. One of the stones in particular, the Ashima Stone, has a legend attached to it: It is said that the rock was formed after a woman, Ashima, ran into the forest after being told that she was unable to be with the man she loved.
Goreme Fairy Chimneys
Have you ever wanted to see hundreds of rocks that resemble chimneys, all clumped together in one convenient location? Well, friend, then you are in luck. Located in the city of Goreme, in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey, these “fairy chimneys” were formed by millions of years of water and wind erosion over two volcanic layers. Perhaps the weirdest thing about these rock formations is that many of them are hollowed out and have been turned into homes or rentals where tourists can sleep in the chimneys as a hotel of sorts.