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Mountain Ranges of the American West

Mountain Ranges of the American West: A Great Infographic

While you’ve probably heard of the Rocky Mountains before, America is home to many different individual ranges, each with their own geology and charm. Some are volcanic, like the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, while others were created through uplift over time, like the Sierra Nevada in California. This infographic highlights some of the most popular and well-known mountain ranges of the American West. They all have great opportunities for hiking, camping and other outdoor recreation.

Table of Contents

US Mountain Ranges of the West: Infographic

Learn About Each Western Mountain Range

Curious about the geology, history, and major peaks of each of these US mountain ranges? Here are some more details and information about them to help you plan a hike or visit!

Western Mountain Ranges: Olympic Range

Olympic Range:

This small Washington Range on the Olympic Peninsula includes temperate tropical rain forests. Major peaks in this US mountain range include:
  • Mount Olympus: Standing at 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in the Olympic Range. It’s noted for its glaciers, which are some of the few remaining in the U.S. outside Alaska.
  • Mount Deception: This is the second highest peak in the Olympic Range, standing at 7,788 feet. Mount Deception is considered one of the most challenging climbs in the range due to its steep and rugged terrain.
  • Mount Constance: At 7,743 feet, Mount Constance is one of the most visually striking peaks in the Olympic Range. It’s the third highest peak in the range and offers a challenging climb, with its routes requiring a combination of hiking, scrambling, and technical climbing.

Cascade Range:

The Cascades are a large range that’s volcanic in origin, spreading from Canada, through Washington, Oregon and northern California. It is home to two 14ers: Mount Shasta in the south, and its tallest peak, Mount Rainier, in the north. Here are three of the most well-known peaks in this American mountain range:
  • Mount Rainier: Standing at 14,411 feet, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range and is an iconic landmark in Washington state. It’s an active stratovolcano and is covered with glaciers, making it a popular but challenging climb for mountaineers.
  • Mount Hood: This is the highest peak in Oregon at 11,249 feet and is the second most climbed mountain in the world after Japan’s Mount Fuji. Like Mount Rainier, Mount Hood is also a potentially active stratovolcano.
  • Mount Shasta: Located in northern California, Mount Shasta stands at an elevation of 14,179 feet. It’s the second highest peak in the Cascades and is also an active volcano. The mountain is known for its scenic beauty and is popular for hiking, climbing and skiing.

Ruby Mountains:

This range in Nevada is far from population centers, offering great wilderness opportunities. The tallest summit, Ruby Dome, maxes out at a 11,387 feet. Here are a few peaks to consider climbing there:
  • Mount Gilbert: This is one of the more accessible peaks in the Ruby Mountains. At 11,120 feet, Mount Gilbert offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The hike is long but not technically difficult, making it a good choice for intermediate hikers.
  • Thomas Peak: Standing at 11,320 feet, Thomas Peak is another accessible and non-technical climb in the Ruby Mountains. The climb features beautiful wildflower-filled meadows and panoramic views of the Ruby Range and the nearby East Humboldt Range.
  • Snow Lake Peak: This peak offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience. It’s an 11,137-foot peak located deep in Lamoille Canyon and offers incredible views of Snow Lake and other surrounding areas.

North Coastal Range:

Following the Pacific mountain coast north of San Fransisco Bay, this range is lower in elevation, but includes some amazing seaviews. Mount Linn is the tallest point, around 8,098 feet. The range consists of two large belts of peaks that run parallel, with a long series of valleys between them. Popular peaks for hiking include:
  • Mount Saint Helena: One of the highest peaks in the North Coast Ranges, Mount Saint Helena stands at over 4,300 feet. Located at the border of Napa and Sonoma counties, the mountain offers trails of moderate difficulty and provides panoramic views of the wine country and, on clear days, the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Mount Konocti: Located in Lake County, Mount Konocti is an ancient, dormant volcano that stands over 4,000 feet tall. The hike to the summit provides magnificent views of Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. The climb is considered moderate, with a well-maintained trail.
  • Hood Mountain: Found in Sonoma County, Hood Mountain peaks at around 2,730 feet. The hike is challenging due to its steepness, but it offers excellent views of the Sonoma Valley and, from certain vantage points, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sierra Nevada:

California’s mightiest range, home to the tallest summit in all of the mountain ranges of the American West, is the Sierra Nevada. Home to multiple national parks and forests, you could spend a lifetime exploring this massive range. Some famous peaks include:
  • Mount Whitney: Standing at an elevation of 14,505 feet, Mount Whitney holds the title of the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. It’s located within the Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Its challenging trails and incredible views make it a popular destination for experienced climbers and hikers.
  • Half Dome: While not one of the tallest peaks in the Sierra Nevada, Half Dome is one of the most iconic. Located in Yosemite National Park, this unique granite dome stands at about 8,839 feet and is known for its sheer face. The hike to the top is strenuous and includes a famous cable section near the summit.

South Coastal Range:

This rage is similar to its northern equivalent, but is drier in nature with a lower elevation. Junipero Serra Peak is the tallest peak at 5,857 feet. Three mountains in the range popular among hikers and backpackers include:
  • Junipero Serra Peak: The highest peak in the Santa Lucia Range, a subrange of the Southern Coast Ranges, Junipero Serra Peak stands at about 5,857 feet. It offers a strenuous hike but rewards climbers with a panoramic view of the surrounding areas, extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean on clear days.
  • Cone Peak: Another major peak in the Santa Lucia Range, Cone Peak stands at around 5,155 feet. Despite its relative closeness to the ocean, it’s one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States. The hike up Cone Peak is noted for its beautiful wildflowers and views of the Big Sur coastline.
  • Mount Diablo: While not as tall as the other two at about 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo in the Diablo Range is a famous peak in the Southern Coast Ranges. On clear days, the view from the summit encompasses much of the state of California and even parts of Nevada. The trails vary in difficulty, making it accessible for a wide range of hiking abilities.

Wasatch Range:

The Wasatch peaks frame Salt Lake City, and include great ski resorts, hiking trails and more. It is capped by Mount Nebo at 11,928 feet.
  • Mount Timpanogos: Standing at approximately 11,752 feet, Mount Timpanogos is the second highest mountain in the Wasatch Range and one of the most popular hiking destinations in Utah. The trails to the summit offer hikers spectacular views of wildflower-filled meadows, rugged cliffs, and a heart-shaped lake.
  • Mount Olympus: This peak is a favorite among residents of the Salt Lake City area due to its proximity to the city. While it stands at only 9,026 feet, it offers a steep and challenging climb that rewards hikers with fantastic views of the Salt Lake Valley.
  • Lone Peak: At approximately 11,253 feet, Lone Peak is known for its dramatic granite cirque. The hike to the summit is challenging and requires a significant amount of vertical elevation gain. Those who reach the top are rewarded with expansive views of the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding wilderness.
US Mountain Ranges: Humphreys Peak

San Fransisco Peaks:

This tiny range is volcanic, the remains of a single large volcano from long ago, now heavily eroded away. The tallest remaining summit is Humphreys Peak at 12,633 feet, also the tallest point in Arizona. Here are the three most well-known peaks in this western mountain range:
  1. Humphreys Peak: Standing at 12,633 feet, Humphreys Peak is not only the highest point in the San Francisco Peaks, but also the highest point in the state of Arizona. The trail to the summit is strenuous, with significant elevation gain, but the panoramic views from the top are absolutely breathtaking.
  2. Agassiz Peak: At 12,356 feet, Agassiz Peak is the second-highest peak in Arizona. However, hiking to the summit is typically off-limits outside of the winter months to protect the habitat of the endangered San Francisco Peaks groundsel. During the winter, it’s a popular spot for backcountry skiing.
  3. Fremont Peak: Named after explorer John C. Fremont, this peak stands at 11,969 feet. There is no maintained trail to the summit, so it’s less frequently hiked than Humphreys Peak, but experienced hikers and climbers still enjoy the challenge.
Bitterroot Range: US Mountain Ranges

Bitterroot Range:

This sub-range of the Rocky Mountains forms the border of Idaho and Montana. It’s not as tall as the southern Rockies, but its tallest peaks are alpine, including the highest mountain, Scott Peak, at 11,393 feet. Here are some other prominent summits worth climbing:
  1. Trapper Peak: At 10,157 feet, Trapper Peak is the highest point in the Bitterroot Range. The trail up Trapper Peak is steep and strenuous, but those who reach the summit are rewarded with panoramic views of the Bitterroot Valley and numerous surrounding mountain ranges.
  2. El Capitan: Standing at 9,983 feet, El Capitan offers a challenging climb and is recommended for experienced hikers. The summit provides beautiful views of the surrounding wilderness, including the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to the west.
  3. St. Mary Peak: Rising to 9,351 feet, St. Mary Peak features a fire lookout at the summit. The trail to the top is considered moderately difficult, making it a popular hike for those looking to take in the stunning vistas of the Bitterroot Valley and the larger Bitterroot Range.

Crazy Mountains:

This isolated mountain range, another Rockies sub-range, is further east than most of Montana’s mountains. Its tallest mountain, Crazy Peak, is a fun climb, ranking in at 11,214 feet.
  1. Crazy Peak: This is the highest peak in the Crazy Mountains, reaching an elevation of 11,214 feet. It’s a challenging climb that requires good physical fitness, some scrambling skills, and the ability to navigate routes that aren’t always well-defined. The views from the summit are spectacular, with a panorama of the entire Crazy Mountain Range and surrounding valleys.
  2. Granite Peak: Not to be confused with the Granite Peak that is the highest point in Montana, Granite Peak in the Crazy Mountains is another challenging climb, rising to an elevation of 10,537 feet. This peak is somewhat less frequently climbed than Crazy Peak, but offers equally stunning views of the surrounding area.
  3. Iddings Peak: Standing at an elevation of 10,936 feet, Iddings Peak is another popular climb in the Crazy Mountains. The peak offers an adventurous scramble and a remote, wilderness experience. From the summit, you can see a multitude of alpine lakes and a large portion of the Crazy Mountains.

Wind River Range:

The Winds are a mountaineering paradise in Wyoming. It’s easy to find solitude among the granite peaks and icy glaciers. Wyoming’s tallest summit also the tallest point in the range, Gannett Peak, at 13,804 feet.
  1. Gannett Peak: This is the highest peak not just in the Wind River Range, but in the entire state of Wyoming. Standing at 13,804 feet, Gannett Peak is known for its rugged beauty, glacier-carved landscape, and challenging routes. It’s popular among experienced mountaineers looking for a challenging climb.
  2. Fremont Peak: At 13,745 feet, Fremont Peak is the third highest peak in Wyoming and is located in the Continental Divide of the Wind River Range. The peak provides a challenging climb with rewarding panoramic views.
  3. Titcomb Basin Peaks: While not a single peak, the Titcomb Basin is an area within the Wind River Range that includes a variety of peaks popular with climbers, including Mount Helen, Mount Sacagawea, and Mount Warren. These peaks offer incredible views of the basin’s alpine lakes and rugged wilderness.
Uinta Mountains: US Western Mountain Ranges

Uinta Mountains:

The Uintas have the distinction of being one of the few Rocky mountain sub-ranges that trend from east to west, rather than north to south. The tallest point is Kings Peak, 13,528 feet, also Utah’s tallest mountain.
  1. Kings Peak: This is the highest peak in Utah, standing at 13,528 feet. Kings Peak is a popular destination for backpackers and hikers due to its non-technical standard route and its status as a state high point.
  2. Gilbert Peak: Gilbert Peak, with an elevation of 13,442 feet, is the third highest peak in Utah and is located close to Kings Peak. The hike is non-technical but challenging due to its length and the ruggedness of the terrain.
  3. Mount Emmons: Standing at 13,440 feet, Mount Emmons is the fourth highest peak in Utah. Similar to Kings Peak and Gilbert Peak, it’s located in the High Uintas Wilderness. The peak offers a challenging climb and is less frequently visited than Kings Peak, adding to its appeal for those looking for solitude.
Colorado Front Range 14ers

Front Range:

Visible clearly from Denver, the Front Range is the most well known sub-range of America’s rocky mountain, home to famous peaks and 14ers like Longs Peak and Pikes Peak. Popular peaks include:
  1. Longs Peak: Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak stands at 14,255 feet and is a popular destination for hikers seeking to summit a “fourteener.” The most commonly used route, the Keyhole Route, is not technically challenging in good conditions, but still requires careful planning and preparation due to its length and exposure.
  2. Pikes Peak: Standing at 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak is one of the most famous mountains in the Front Range, known for its panoramic views and accessibility. It can be summited via the Barr Trail, or for those who prefer, there’s a cog railway and a road leading to the summit.
  3. Mount Evans: With an elevation of 14,265 feet, Mount Evans is another highly visited peak. Thanks to the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, you can drive to just below the summit, making it easily accessible. Hiking to the summit offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
San Juan Mountains 14ers

San Juans:

The San Juans are Colorado’s largest and most diverse mountain range, with peaks of numerous geologic backgrounds and more than a dozen fourteeners you can climb. It’s one of my favorite mountain ranges of the American West because of how rugged and large it is. Three popular peaks in the area include:
  1. Uncompahgre Peak: At 14,309 feet, Uncompahgre Peak is the highest in the San Juan Range. It is known for its distinctive shape and the broad summit plateau, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  2. Mount Sneffels: With an elevation of 14,158 feet, Mount Sneffels is often considered one of the most beautiful peaks in Colorado. Its classic mountain shape and the wildflowers that bloom in its lower meadows during the summer have inspired artists and photographers for years.
  3. El Diente Peak: Standing at 14,159 feet, El Diente Peak is known for its challenging routes, requiring scrambling and careful navigation. While it’s not the highest peak in the San Juan Range, it is popular among mountaineers for the technical climb and the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit.
Southern Colorado 14ers

Sangre de Cristo Range:

Stretching from Colorado south into New Mexico, the Sangres are home to many rugged peaks, including the famous Crestone Needle. The southern part of the range is lower in altitude, but home to many great hiking areas too. Three popular 14ers in this US mountain range include:
  1. Blanca Peak: Standing at 14,345 feet, Blanca Peak is the fourth highest peak in Colorado and the highest in the Sangre de Cristo Range. Its challenging terrain appeals to experienced hikers and climbers, while the breathtaking views from the summit provide a rewarding experience.
  2. Crestone Peak: Crestone Peak is one of the more challenging climbs in Colorado. Rising to 14,294 feet, it is known for its jagged ridges and technical routes, making it popular among experienced mountaineers.
  3. Culebra Peak: Culebra Peak stands at 14,047 feet and holds the distinction of being the southernmost “fourteener” in the United States. Unique among Colorado’s fourteeners, Culebra Peak is located on private land, so access requires permission and a fee.

Taos Range:

The Taos range is home to Philmont Scout Ranch, one of my favorite places in the mountain ranges of the American west. Here are several well known peaks in this western range:
  1. Wheeler Peak: At 13,161 feet, Wheeler Peak is the highest peak in New Mexico. There are several routes to the top, ranging from strenuous to moderately difficult. The summit offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  2. Mount Walter: Just slightly shorter than Wheeler Peak at 13,141 feet, Mount Walter is the second highest peak in New Mexico. It’s often combined with a hike to Wheeler Peak, as the two summits are only about a half mile apart.
  3. Kachina Peak: Standing at 12,481 feet, Kachina Peak is well-known as part of the Taos Ski Valley. During the winter months, it’s a popular destination for skiing. In the summer, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from the top.

Sacramento Mountains:

One of the smaller ranges on this list, the Sacramento Mountains and the neighboring smaller ranges are nearly 12,000 feet tall and don’t get much traffic due to their isolated location. Two peaks worth your time include:
  • Sierra Blanca Peak: Located in the southern part of the Sacramento Mountains, Sierra Blanca Peak is the highest summit in the range, standing at an elevation of 11,981 feet (3,652 meters). It is a popular hiking destination, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The peak is part of the Lincoln National Forest and is known for its diverse flora and fauna.
  • Lookout Mountain: Situated in the northern section of the Sacramento Mountains, Lookout Mountain is another notable peak in the area. It reaches an elevation of approximately 9,978 feet (3,041 meters). Hiking to the summit of Lookout Mountain provides panoramic views of the surrounding forests and nearby peaks. The trail leading to the top offers a moderate challenge and is popular among outdoor enthusiasts.

US Mountain Ranges of the West: Now You Know!

Now you know more about the mountain ranges of the American West. I hope you found this infographic helpful and informative. Safe travels on the trail!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Rocky Mountains: Stretching from northern British Columbia, Canada, to the southwestern United States, the Rocky Mountains are the largest and most significant mountain range in North America. They span over 3,000 miles and traverse multiple states, including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

  2. Sierra Nevada: Located primarily in eastern California, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is known for its stunning beauty and granite peaks, including the famous Yosemite National Park. The range extends over 400 miles from north to south, and also includes the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, standing at 14,505 feet.

  3. Cascade Range: This volcanic mountain range stretches from northern California to British Columbia, Canada. It’s part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of volcanic activity encircling the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Range includes famous peaks such as Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood, and is known for its diverse ecosystems and picturesque landscapes.

In the western side of North America, several notable mountain ranges span across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Some of the most prominent mountain ranges include:

  1. Rocky Mountains: The Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies, extend from northern British Columbia in Canada down to the southwestern United States. They cover multiple U.S. states, such as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

  2. Cascade Range: This volcanic mountain range stretches from northern California in the United States to British Columbia in Canada. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and includes well-known peaks like Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood.

  3. Sierra Nevada: Located mainly in eastern California, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is known for its granite peaks and stunning landscapes, such as Yosemite National Park. It also features the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney.

  4. Coast Mountains: Situated along the western coast of British Columbia, Canada, and extending into southeastern Alaska, the Coast Mountains form part of the Pacific Coast Ranges. These mountains include the highest peak in the range, Mount Waddington, and the notable Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

  5. Pacific Coast Ranges: This extensive system of mountain ranges runs along the western coast of North America, from Alaska in the United States to Baja California in Mexico. It includes several subranges, such as the Coast Mountains, the Alaska Range, the Olympic Mountains, and the Sierra Madre Occidental.

  6. Sierra Madre Occidental: This mountain range is located in western Mexico and stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border in the north to the Mexican states of Jalisco and Zacatecas in the south. It forms part of the larger American Cordillera, which encompasses all the mountain ranges in the Americas.

These mountain ranges are essential for their geographical, ecological, and cultural contributions to the region.

A: The five largest mountain ranges in the United States, by area, are:

  1. The Rocky Mountains
  2. The Appalachian Mountains
  3. The Sierra Nevada Mountains
  4. The Cascade Range
  5. The Alaska Range

A: The United States is home to hundreds of individual mountain ranges. Some of the most notable include the Rockies, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and the Alaska Range.

A: North America is home to many significant mountain ranges. The four most prominent are:

  1. The Rocky Mountains
  2. The Appalachian Mountains
  3. The Sierra Madre Occidental
  4. The Sierra Madre Oriental

A: Here are five major mountain ranges located across the globe:

  1. The Himalayas in Asia
  2. The Andes in South America
  3. The Rockies in North America
  4. The Alps in Europe
  5. The Great Dividing Range in Australia

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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