red rock butes and spire
Colorado National Monument, Colorado.

NPS photo by Victoria Stauffenberg.


[site under development]

Rocks and Minerals | Geologic Time | Mountain Building | Erosion and Weathering

Landscapes are Dynamic

  1. Plateaus
    Plateaus are an extensive, raised, flat-surfaced area.
  2. Mesas
    Mesas are isolated, broad flat-topped mountains with at least one steep side. Mesas are abundant in the southwestern states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.
  3. Buttes
    Buttes are smaller flat topped mountains or hills with steep slopes on all sides. They are typically topped by a hard cap rock that is resistant to erosion protects the softer lower layers beneath.
  4. Pillars or Spires (also towers, needles, and balanced rock)
    Pillars and spires are slender isolated columns of rock, that form as the erosional remnant of a butte.

Rock Formations

Erosion on flat-lying rock strata

  • Arches

  • Buttes

  • Fins
  • Inselbergs
  • Natural Bridges

  • Needles

  • Pinnacles

  • Plateaus

Glacier Carved Features

Rocky Coastal Features

Volcanic Features

Last updated: February 18, 2020