RVing allows you to see all sorts of locations. While collecting rock and fossil samples is forbidden in most state and national parks, looking at formations and the types of rocks and minerals is encouraged.

Every park you visit has some sort of story. Many parks will have a display explaining the geological history of the land, or you can ask a ranger for information.

Keep in mind there are three types of rocks.

Sedimentary rocks form from a deposit of particles. This most often happens when the land was underwater. These rocks include sandstone, limestone, gypsum, chert, conglomerates, and shale. Many canyons are formed when water eroded this soft stone, giving us a great view of the layers.

Igneous rocks are formed from magma or lava. This can be deep underground or above ground…think volcanoes! These types of rocks include basalt, granite, tuff, pumice, and obsidian.

Basalt / lava at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona

Metamorphic rocks are formed from sedimentary or igneous rocks using the heat or high pressure of the earth. For example, limestone is changed into marble, shale changes into slate, and sandstone changes into quartzite.

The ultimate metamorphic rock is diamond and the ultimate park is Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Diamonds are found almost every day and you can bring them home. That said, I’ve never found a diamond, but there are other rocks can you bring home that are quite interesting, like agates.

Wet sifting at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas

Sometimes fossils can be found within rocks. Caesar Creek State Park in Ohio allows you to collect samples of fossils such as brachiopods and crinoids.

You can’t collect fossils in most parks, but some of the most spectacular places to view fossils include the Petrified Forest National Monument, the Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee, and seeing dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas.

Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah

Another way of studying geology is to look at mines. Some are open mines on the surface like Kinnecott Copper Mine in Utah. Many open mines have a viewing area and some type of museum. Some underground mines have tours where you have the excitement of riding into the mine and using headlamps.

Some examples include several coal mines in Pennsylvania, Old Hundred Gold Mine in Colorado, and the Queen Mine Tours in Bisbee, Arizona. Some mines are still being worked, while others like Flint Ridge State Memorial in Ohio were used by Native Americans.

Visiting museums is another method to study geology. Many museums have sections on geology. Some of my favorites are Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Finally, browsing and/or buying at gem and mineral shows can be fun. The biggest include shows in Tucson, Quartzite, Santa Ana, Springfield, Denver, and Las Vegas. You can easily spend days seeing the different types of gems, minerals, rocks, and fossils that are for sale.

RVing gives you a great chance to study geology close-up. What stories or areas can you share?

Petrified wood at Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona