The United States is home to some of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring canyons in the world. These natural wonders are carved by rivers, glaciers, and erosion over millions of years, creating deep valleys, towering cliffs, and colorful rock formations. Whether you want to hike, raft, or simply admire the scenery, there is a canyon for every taste and adventure level. In this article, we will explore the top 10 biggest canyons in the US, based on their length, depth, and area.
1. Grand Canyon: Top 10 Biggest Canyons in the US
The Grand Canyon is undoubtedly the most famous and visited canyon in the US, and for good reason. It is one of the largest and deepest canyons in the world, stretching for 277 miles along the Colorado River in Arizona. The canyon reaches a depth of over 6,000 feet and a width of up to 18 miles, exposing layers of ancient rocks that date back to 2 billion years ago. The Grand Canyon offers stunning views from various rims and trails, as well as opportunities for rafting, camping, and wildlife watching.
2. Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon is actually a system of six interconnected canyons that span over 25,000 square miles in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Mexico. The name comes from the greenish copper hue of the canyon walls, which contrast with the blue skies and lush vegetation. Copper Canyon is deeper and larger than the Grand Canyon, reaching a depth of up to 10,000 feet and a width of up to 37 miles. The canyon is home to the indigenous Rarámuri people, who live in caves and small villages along the cliffs. Copper Canyon is a popular destination for hiking, biking, zip-lining, and riding the scenic Chihuahua al Pacifico railway.
3. Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the US, located in the Texas Panhandle. The canyon was formed by the erosion of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River over millions of years, creating a colorful landscape of red, orange, yellow, and white rocks. The canyon is about 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. Palo Duro Canyon is a state park that offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, and historical sites. It is also known for its annual outdoor musical drama “Texas”, which tells the story of the early settlers of the region.
4. Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America carved by the Snake River along the border of Idaho and Oregon. The canyon reaches a depth of over 7,900 feet below the surrounding mountains, and a width of up to 10 miles. Hells Canyon is a national recreation area that offers rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking, and wildlife viewing. The canyon is rich in history and culture, as it was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years and explored by fur traders, miners, and settlers in the 19th century.
5. Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon is a majestic canyon in southwestern Utah that is part of Zion National Park. The canyon was formed by the Virgin River cutting through layers of sandstone over millions of years, creating sheer cliffs that rise up to 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The canyon is about 15 miles long and half a mile wide at its narrowest point. Zion Canyon is known for its diverse and scenic landscapes, ranging from desert to forest to waterfalls. The canyon offers hiking trails for all levels, including the famous Angels Landing and The Narrows.
6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a dramatic canyon in western Colorado that is part of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The canyon was formed by the Gunnison River eroding through hard metamorphic rocks over millions of years, creating steep walls that plunge up to 2,700 feet into the dark depths. The canyon is about 48 miles long and 2 miles wide at its widest point. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a paradise for rock climbers, who can challenge themselves on some of the most difficult routes in North America. The canyon also offers hiking, fishing, and scenic drives.
7. Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is a stunning canyon on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The canyon was formed by the Waimea River cutting through the volcanic rock over millions of years, creating a colorful landscape of red, green, and brown hues. The canyon is about 10 miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep. Waimea Canyon is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” for its impressive size and beauty. The canyon offers hiking trails, lookout points, and waterfalls. The canyon is also home to many native plants and animals, such as the endangered nene goose and the rare Kauai o’o bird.
8. Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon is a spectacular canyon in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California that is part of Kings Canyon National Park. The canyon was formed by the Kings River carving through granite rocks over millions of years, creating a deep and narrow valley with sheer walls. The canyon is about 20 miles long and up to 8,200 feet deep. Kings Canyon is known for its giant sequoia trees, some of which are over 3,000 years old and among the largest living things on Earth. The canyon also offers hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
9. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a unique and mesmerizing canyon in northern Arizona that is part of the Navajo Nation. The canyon was formed by flash floods eroding through soft sandstone over thousands of years, creating smooth and curvy walls that twist and turn. The canyon is divided into two sections: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Both sections are about a quarter mile long and up to 120 feet deep. Antelope Canyon is famous for its light beams that shine through the cracks and create stunning effects. The canyon is a popular destination for photography but requires a guided tour to enter.
10. Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters along the edge of a high plateau in southern Utah that is part of Bryce Canyon National Park. The amphitheaters are filled with thousands of rock formations called hoodoos, which are spires of various shapes and colors that were formed by erosion over millions of years. The hoodoos range from a few feet to over 200 feet tall. Bryce Canyon is one of the most scenic and colorful places in the US, especially at sunrise and sunset when the hoodoos glow with different hues. The park offers hiking trails, scenic drives, and stargazing.
The US has some of the most amazing and diverse canyons in the world, each with its own charm and character. Whether you want to explore them by foot, boat, car, or air, you will surely be amazed by their beauty and history. These are just some of the biggest canyons in the US, but there are many more to discover and enjoy.