The World’s Highest Concentration of Hoodoos

Caitlin Dempsey

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Hoodoos are tall, thin rock spires that occur all around the world.  Irregularly shaped, these rock formations protrude from the bottoms of arid drainage basins or badlands.  

Where do Hoodoos Occur?

Hoodoos can occur in regions around the world, mainly in hot, dry desert areas but are also found in other landscapes such as in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in France, along the northern coast of Taiwan, and the Awa Sand Pillars in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan.  

Formed by weathering and stream erosion, hoodoos can also be known as tent rocks, fairy chimneys, or earth pyramids.

Thor's Hammer from Sunset Point in late afternoon. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.
Hoodoo known as Thor’s Hammer from Sunset Point in late afternoon. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.

The highest concentration of hoodoos can be found in Bryce National Park in southwestern Utah. The density of these rock formations, made from limestones, dolostones, mudstones, siltstones and sandstones, gives the landscape an otherworldly feel.


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Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, Public domain.
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, Public domain.

Layers in a hoodoo

Hoodoos have different layers of rock — some of the layers jut out and some are recessed. These varying layers are the result of different amounts of calcium carbonate in the rock material that make up hoodoos. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) reacts with rainfall which is slightly acidic — the more calcium carbonate in the rock layer, the more that layer dissolves upon contact with rain.

Coupled with that is the weathering and erosion created by water in the rocks freezing on nights where the temperature drops below freezing. Frozen water expands in the crevices of the hoodoo, creating cracks which eventually break off pieces of the rock. The end result of these forms of weathering and erosion is the striations that appear in the hoodoos as they are formed by a combination of chemical and physical weathering over time.

A view of red rock colored hoodoos on a sunny day.
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyons have layers of rock. Photo: Alex Demas, USGS, public domain.

Natural Amphitheaters

Despite its name, Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls carved into the Paunsaugunt Plateau that extend 20 miles (30 km) north-to-south.  Headward erosion (erosion at the origin of a stream channel) carved out these large amphitheater-like features into the plateau.  

What has resulted are stunning views of orange, red, and white rocks. Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon can be up to 200 feet (60 m) high.

Strange shaped hoodoo taken along the trail near the Hatshop. Photo: Bryce Canon NPS, public domain.
Strange shaped hoodoo taken along the trail near the Hatshop. Photo: Bryce Canon NPS, public domain.

Bryce Amphitheater

Snow and fog cover the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon main amphitheater. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.
Snow and fog cover the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon main amphitheater. Photo: Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.

The most iconic area of the park is Bryce Amphitheater.  Of the series of amphitheaters, it is the largest at 12 miles (19 km) long, 3 miles (5 km) wide and 800 feet (240 m) deep.

Bryce Amphitheater. Photo: Peter Densmore, Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.
Bryce Amphitheater. Photo: Peter Densmore, Bryce Canyon NPS, public domain.

Watch: The Unworldly Vistas of Bryce Canyon Park

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.