Few things inspire as much awe as seeing the “behind the scenes” elements that going into the formation of this beautiful planet on which we all reside. From the cliffs of the Oregon coast to the mighty Redwood National forest, there is much – even within only the U.S. – to inspire awe and generate gratitude, however few things do this as well as seeing the literal under-pinnings of the land on which we reside.

The Painted Canyon is a stretch of land about approximately 2 hours southeast of L.A. where one can easily view certain “behind the scenes” elements of the formation of North America as a land mass. Here, squarely centered on the San Andreas Fault – where the North American and Pacific tectonic plates meet – lies a beautiful display of this type of background display which is rarely otherwise seen.

The canyon is a 3 mile hike through some of the most breath-taking natural rock formations one might find in the U.S. It has been dubbed the “painted” canyon due in large part to the visible layers of various types of rock through the wind, water, and otherwise weather-worn pathways that form the canyon. Here you can see hard lines of separation between vividly emerald-colored limestone, streaked with veins of marble and other sediment such as sandstone and granite or chalky white stone. This myriad of geological offerings is the culprit behind the tapestry of colors that has inspired the very name “Painted Canyon.” And as one ventures further and further up the canyon hike, one becomes visually informed of the reasons for said name by way of the various layers and streaks of colored rock that make up this masterpiece of mother nature’s own artistry.

With the hike being only 3 miles – and with little challenge, aside from the occasional ladder or rope (which there are options allowing either choice) – the canyon is easily surmounted by even the most novice of hiker. Its also, beneficially, the hike is shaded from the brutal desert sun outside any time-frame but noon aside from the brief summit. We were able to take on its entirety without much challenge and only a few buckets of sweat (only partially a joke).

I would encourage anyone already in the area to consider adding this to their itinerary as it isn’t time-consuming but allots for a variety of photo ops and viewing locations that are rarely afforded anywhere else. We were able to capture some of the most beautiful images of our entire trip here, but I won’t attempt to sell you on it – see for yourself in the gallery provided below.