For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit

Earth Science Concepts

Rocks and Minerals

Volcanic rocks Castile evaporites Calcite crystals Granite dike Sedimentary rock
Learning about rocks and minerals gives students a deeper appreciation of the story behind the scenery in our national parks. Photos courtesy of Heather Walborn.


Rocks and minerals are all around us! They help us to develop new technologies and are used in our everday lives. Our use of rocks and minerals extends from building material, cosmetics, cars, roads, and appliances. In order maintain a healthy lifestyle and strengthen the body, humans need to consume minerals daily. Rocks and minerals play a valuable role in natural systems such as providing habitat like the cliffs at Grand Canyon National Park where endangered condors nest, or provide soil nutrients in Redwood where the tallest trees in the world grow.

Rocks and minerals are important for learning about earth materials, structure, and systems. Studying these natural objects incorporates an understanding of earth science, chemistry, physics, and math. The learner can walk away with an understanding of crystal geometry, the ability to visualize 3-D objects, or knowing rates of crystallization.

Natural objects, such as rocks and minerals, contribute to the beauty and wonderment of the National Parks and should be left, as they were found, so that others can experience a sense of discovery.

It's All About: Minerals


Many minerals are coveted around the world for their striking beauty, rarity, and gem quality. But what is a mineral? Learn about the physical properties of a mineral and some of the most common minerals in the Earth's crust and find out where you can find some of these minerals in your nation's parks!
Learn more...

It's All About: Rocks

Acadia NP cobbles

Rocks are all around us. They make up the backbones of hills and mountains and the foundations of plains and valleys. Beneath the soil you walk on and the deep layers of soft mud that cover the ocean basins is a basement of hard rock. Learn what rocks are made of, where they come from, and how they are classified.
Learn more...

Educational Resources

Rock Cycle

Rock cycle

Rock cycle diagram showing the associated geologic processes where the three types of rock are found: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. 163 KB PDF

How Rocks are Classified

Petrified wood pile

With this handout learn how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are classified. 3.72 MB PDF

Bowen's Reaction Series

Bowens Reaction

In the early 1900's N. L. Bowen determined that different minerals crystallize at different temperatures during the cooling of magma. This chart demonstrates the reaction rates. 273 KB JPEG
Source: Trista L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, Colorado State University.

Magma Mash

Sunset Crater volcanic rock

In an exploration of magma behavior, students role-play minerals that are cooling at different rates, and then examine rock samples. For Grades 4-8. Learn more...

Webquest: The National Mall

Building stone

Through this webquest the student will discover how the many quarried stones at the National Mall not only provide the building blocks of each structure, but also strengthens the themes and ideas which are representative of the monuments and memorials as well. Learn more...

Oldest Rocks

Oldest Rocks!

Learn about the oldest rocks found in the parks that range in age from 3 billion to 600 million years old. Learn more...

Geology Field Trip Guides: Rocks & Minerals

These geology field trip guides were developed by Anabelle Foos (Professor Emeritus, University of Akron) and focus on parks with unique features associated with rocks and minerals.

  • Geology of Zion National Park [2.77 MB PDF]
  • Geology of Colorado National Monument [834 KB PDF]
  • Geology of Bryce Canyon National Park & the Grand Staircase [709 KB PDF]

Related Links

Explore Further

| Geologic Time | Plate Tectonics | Education & Outreach |

Last Updated: January 03, 2017