The best books on geology and landscapes of the American Southwest and Colorado Plateau

Wayne Ranney Author Of Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories, and Mystery
By Wayne Ranney

The Books I Picked & Why

Hiking the Grand Canyon's Geology

By Lon Abbott, Terri Cook

Hiking the Grand Canyon's Geology

Why this book?

Okay, not everyone can hike the steep trails in Grand Canyon. However, you can do the next best thing and learn geology too by reading this wonderfully crafted book. Crisp and engaging writing makes the blisters fade away. The geologic descriptions reflect the most current theories. Nearly all Grand Canyon trails are covered allowing the authors to cover all aspects of the canyon’s geology.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Volcanoes of Northern Arizona

By Wendell A. Duffield, Michael Collier

Volcanoes of Northern Arizona

Why this book?

Who knew there were volcanoes in northern Arizona? Wendell Duffield takes readers on a visual and literary tour de force of this amazing region. The San Francisco Volcanic Field contains over 600 vents and cones with one large stratovolcano, a half a dozen or more silicic dome volcanoes, and hundreds of basalt cinder cones. All are explained in clear, concise prose. And who knew the Grand Canyon had volcanoes too, some of which spilled cascading lava flows into the canyon, damming the river at least 17 times. It’s all here in this little book that has a big impact.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Desert Heat, Volcanic Fire: The Geologic History of the Tucson Mountains and Southern Arizona

By David A. Kring

Desert Heat, Volcanic Fire: The Geologic History of the Tucson Mountains and Southern Arizona

Why this book?

I used to teach Topics in Regional Geology at Yavapai College (Prescott) and when preparing for field trips in the Santa Catalina and Tucson Mountains, I leaned heavily on this clearly written and engaging book with a fascinating storyline. Dr. Kring brings readers of all levels on a wondrous journey through time in the desert southwest. I think one of the most amazing aspects of the book is that none of the main parts of the story are readily obvious to anyone. Only geologic sleuthing has unearthed them.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Geology of the Canyons of the San Juan River

By Four Corners Geological Society

Geology of the Canyons of the San Juan River

Why this book?

I’ve been fortunate to have “stumbled” into a geologic writing career and if I had to put my finger on a single book that has the greatest effect on me choosing this path, it would be this little river guidebook. Maybe you will not run the San Juan River (but you should!). Nevertheless, the introductory chapters to the rocks and landscape of Monument Valley and the San Juan River will have you planning a trip there in no time. The chapter called “Permianland” was especially enlightening to me - I have read the first two paragraphs in it innumerable times. Great book!


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Geology of the American Southwest: A Journey Through Two Billion Years of Plate-Tectonic History

By W. Scott Baldridge

Geology of the American Southwest: A Journey Through Two Billion Years of Plate-Tectonic History

Why this book?

Of all the books I am recommending, this might the one that may be a bit more technical for the average reader. But after reading the other four, I think you will be ready for this comprehensive look at the evolution and development of the Southwestern landscape. Baldridge has written the complete reference to how the very ancient rocks play a role in how the modern landscape looks. Most folks I talk to who have read this were very happy they did so.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Random Book Lists