Travel tips and advice for the US: The 10 most amazing canyons you must visit

1. Bighorn Canyon, Wyoming

The most overlooked tourist attraction in Wyoming, Bighorn Canyon is the third largest is the US, after Utah's Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Chug along on a boat through its huge, 60-million-year-old sandstone walls and then peer across it to get a better idea of its size from an outlook.  Fun fact: the fossilised remains of ancient animals including a sabre-toothed tiger have been found in a sinkhole here. Now, you have a better chance of seeing swimming bears, wild horses and bighorn sheep. nps.gov/bica

2. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Wyoming

One of the most photographed corners of  America's first National Park, the Yellowstone River, the longest river in the US that isn't dammed – has carved an enormous canyon. Cutting a huge sandy swathe out of the otherwise verdant green landscape of the park's most traversed area, the river's Lower Yellowstone Falls are a massive 94 metres high – twice the height of Niagara Falls. It's also the largest volume waterfall in the Rockies. You can view the falls from various points along the road, including right beside the point it tumbles into the Grand Canyon. nps.gov/thingstodo/yell-grand-canyon-of-the-yellowstone.htm

3. Bryce Canyon, Utah

Winning the prize for the most unusual of America's canyons, Bryce is actually a series of amphitheatres filled with irregular, crimson-coloured rock spires called hoodoos. It's the largest collection of these sandstone rock spires in the world, which you can walk among or admire from a number of viewpoints around the canyon's walls. Its red, orange and white colours glow spectacularly during sunrise and sunset. nps.gov/brca/index.htm

4. Zion National Park, Utah

An hour's drive from Bryce, Zion's striking green valley slices across sandstone walls of pink and orange hues which attracts visitors not only for its beauty, but fors its thrilling hikes. The first of these hikes, The Narrows, takes hikers through a water-filled slot canyon and the second, Angel's Landing, is a terrifying kilometre-long hike over a narrow fin of rock with 1700-metre sheer drop on either side. The fearless will be amply rewarded with first-class, sweeping views through the entire canyon. There are also less fearsome hikes in the national park. nps.gov/zion/index.htm

5. Antelope Canyon, Arizona

A favourite for photographers, this slot canyon in Page, Arizona, opens up just enough to let in rays from the sun, which highlight the canyon's brilliant orange and red tones and the spectacular shapes caused by erosion. Prone to flash floods, you must book a tour to visit the canyon, and special trips for photographers are run in the middle of the day, when the beams of light are at their peak. antelopecanyon.az

6. Canyonlands, Utah

The king of all canyons, Canyonlands is filled with a staggering 136 hectares of canyons and other rock structures carved by the magnificent Green River and its estuaries. There are four districts, but most head to Island in the Sky to admire the canyons from overlooks such as Mesa Arch and Dead Horse Point, where those famous final scenes from Thelma and Louise were actually filmed (not the Grand Canyon). nps.gov/cany/index.htm

7. Columbia River Gorge, Washington and Oregon

The Columbia River separates the states of Washington and Oregon in spectacular style. A huge 1200 metres deep and 130 kilometres long, the gorge passes through the picturesque Cascade Ranges and is thus a popular recreation area, particularly on the Oregon side with viewpoints and waterfall trails (including the iconic Multnomah Falls), plus it's an easy commute to Mount Hood and windsurfer haven Hood River. columbiarivergorge.info/

8. Goosenecks State Park, Utah

This tiny state park serves a single purpose – to give tourists a view over the incredible  300-metre high view over the San Juan River, which has carved a eye-popping canyon called an "entrenched meander", flowing  9.6 kilometres over a distance of 2.4 kilometres  through a series of gooseneck-like turns. stateparks.utah.gov/parks/goosenecks/

9. Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Not to be confused with Horseshoe Canyon in Utah, Horseshoe Bend is the work of the Colorado River curving around Tower Butte for almost 360 degrees, creating an island in the red-rock desert. Visitors can walk right up to the edge of the canyon for Insta-friendly, uninterrupted snaps of the butte, which at 1605 metres, is twice the size of the world's largest skyscraper. Those unsatisfied with the visitor outlook can charter a chopper to land on top. horseshoebend.com

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10. The Wave in Marble Canyon, Arizona

Some serious weather must have gone down to create what is now known as The Wave, a series of red lineated rocks that were largely undiscovered until the 1990s, when they somehow appeared on a travel brochure in Europe. The rocks were once sand dunes, hardened in time by slow wind and rain erosion. Its bizarre shape means that walking The Wave can be surreal and vertigo-inducing to some visitors. It can also be unlikely for the casual tourist, as only 20 passes are available  each day in a bid to prevent further erosion. thewave.info/

The writer paid for most of the travel, with the exception of Wyoming (visitwyoming.com) and Oregon (traveloregon.com)

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