Geology & Minerals

The geology of the national forests and grasslands in the Southwestern Region is one of the main attractions for the multitude of recreational visitors who come to enjoy the unique natural beauty of the southwestern landscapes. The back-drop of red sandstone mesas, black volcanic buttes, glaciated mountain ranges, dramatic canyon lands, remote caves, and historic mining ghost towns make the Southwestern national forests an exciting place to study geology and minerals. Many forest hiking trails and recreation sites are located in areas that exhibit spectacular geology, and in some instances, the geology itself is the main attraction. Whether it is the volcanic setting of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, the red rock country of Sedona, or the “Sky Island” ranges composed of billion-year old granites in southern Arizona, the geology of the region is ever present and ultimately shapes our experiences while visiting these areas.

The forests and grasslands of the Southwestern Region host a variety of mineral resources which provide needed commodity products to our society and the local economy. Some of these include oil and gas, geothermal energy, copper, gold, limestone, pumice, sand, gravel, and building stone. Taking care of the land during and following the mining process is a key element of the Forest Service’s policy with regard to mineral resource extraction activities.

National Forests
Information on the geology of the national forests in Arizona and New Mexico.


Geology Basics
Information about rock and minerals, plate tectonics, and geologic time.

Regional Geology
Information on the different geologic provinces in the Southwest Region.


Mineral Program
Information on policy, regulations and abandoned mines.

Photo Gallery
Photos of geological formations on many Southwestern Region forests.



Recreational & Hobby Collecting
Limited collection of rock, minerals and common invertebrate or plant fossils such as shells, leaf imprints, corals, etc., rocks, and minerals for personal use is allowed on most National Forest System lands.