US Mountain Ranges

Mountain Ranges in the US

Women Enjoying the Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges

The United States is home to exceptional natural beauty found in different ranges of varying landscapes. Much of this beauty can be seen within the many mountain ranges of the country.

The three most prominent mountain ranges within the US are the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Each mountain range boasts a dizzying array of mountains of various heights as well as spectacular biodiversity among its flora and fauna.

Map of 3 largest US mountain ranges
US Mountain Ranges

The Appalachian Mountains

Found in the northeast of America, the Appalachian Mountains stretch across an astounding 1,500 miles along the east coast from Alabama to Maine (and even into Quebec in Canada!). The Appalachians are widely known for their heavy forest cover and rugged terrain. A vast range of trees can be found here — from oak to maple to spruce-fir and many more. In the early history of the US, the Appalachians served a vital role — they provided a natural barrier to the westward expansion of the British colonists. Today, they boast an impressive portfolio of flora and fauna and are home to a whopping 1,870 peaks, some of which are mentioned below.

Mount Mitchell

The highest peak within the Appalachian Mountains, Mount Mitchell rises to an impressive 6,684 feet — the highest peak in all of mainland eastern North America. It is located in Yancey County, North Carolina. The original inhabitants of this mountain, the Cherokee people, referred to Mount Mitchell as Attakulla. Dotted with wildflowers all year round, it is a popular destination for hikers and families looking for a fun day of adventure.

Mount Katahdin

This mountain was named Katahdin, meaning ‘Great Mountain’ by the Penobscot Native Americans. At a height of a whopping 5,269 feet, it is the highest peak in the entire state of Maine. Being steep, tall and weathered, it paints a foreboding picture, but it is another popular destination for hikers, backpackers and campers. It is also the centerpiece of Baxter State Park.

Mount Washington

Another dizzyingly tall peak, Mount Washington comes in at 6,288 feet, making it the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. The mountain is notorious for its unpredictable weather and extremely fast wind speeds. It is located within the White Mountains subrange in Coos County, New Hampshire. Mount Washington is a popular spot not just for hiking, but also for skiing, running, gliding and cycling.

Grandfather Mountain

The Grandfather Mountain rises to a sharp 5,964 feet, one of the tallest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountain subrange. Located in North Carolina it’s notorious for its severe weather and incredibly challenging hiking terrain, but it also offers unmatched scenery and biodiversity. Hikers and backpackers enjoy the Grandfather Mountain for the rugged beauty it offers.

Other mountains that fall within the Appalachian Mountains: 

•Cheaha Mountain

•Mount Le Conte

•Camelback Mountain

•Whitetop Mountain

•Old Rag Mountain

The Rocky Mountains

Located in the western part of the United States, the Rocky Mountains (or Rockies) cross over a vast area of 3,000 miles from Canada all the way to New Mexico. It is estimated that this mountain range was formed between 55 to 80 million years ago. It is an important range for the economy of the US, as it not only attracts millions of tourists, backpackers and hikers every year, but also contains large deposits of important minerals These include zinc, copper, gold and silver. Additionally, significant reserves of petroleum, coal, natural gas and oil have been found here — in fact, the Climax Mine near Colorado was once the largest producer of molybdenum (Molybdenum is a chemical element with the symbol Mo and atomic number 42)  in the world. Similar to the Appalachian Mountains, the Rockies boast an impressive collection of peaks. Some of the popular ones are highlighted below.

Mount Elbert

Coming in at an astounding 14,400 feet, Mount Elbert is not only the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains but also the highest in the state of Colorado. It is the second-highest mountain in the contiguous United States. The mountain is popularly referred to as the “Gentle Giant” due to its vastly popular and easy mountain trails. It is heavily forested below tree line level, mainly with fir, spruce, pine and aspen. The fauna of the mountain is extensive and there have been sightings of black bear, mule deer, turkey, elk, grouse and many other animals.

Cloud Peak

Rising to a height of 13,171 feet, Cloud Peak is the highest summit within the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. Tourists enjoy the Cloud Peak due to the impressive views it offers as well as the ease of accessing and climbing it (particularly from the western side).

Gannett Peak

Gannett Peak is the highest mountain within the entirety of Wyoming, rising up to 13,810 feet. However, it is not as welcoming as the other peaks — in fact, it is notorious for being one of the most difficult peaks to climb, with many dangers present at every turn. It is smack-dab in the middle of an isolated and challenging wilderness and hikers should be wary of the extreme weather, bears and wildfires that the peak is home to. There have been many fatal accidents and missteps on this formidable peak.

Grand Teton

At 13,775 feet, the Grand Teton peak is the second highest peak in all of Wyoming (after Gannett) and the highest in the Teton range. It is located within the Snake River drainage basin and is popular as being one of the classic destinations for climbing. It is fairly accessible via the Upper Exum Ridge Route.

Other mountains that fall within the Rocky Mountains: 

•Pikes Peak

•Mount Evans

•Mount Massive

•Blanca Peak

The Sierra Nevada Mountains

Unlike most other mountain ranges within the US, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are considered to be relatively young, estimated to have emerged only 5 to 20 million years ago. They are located on the western side of the United States and run along the eastern edge of California for about 400 miles. These mountains offer rich opportunities for outdoor activities and are home to Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake of the United States, and to Giant Sequoias, the largest trees in the world. Protected wilderness areas and parks located in this range such as Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, draw in millions of tourists every year, not just from the US but from around the world. Finally, it has impressive range of peaks. The most prominent of which are mentioned below.

Mount Whitney

At an elevation of 14,505 feet, Mount Whitney is not just the highest peak within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but the highest in all of the contiguous United States. It is located in California on the border of the Inyo and Tulare counties. Mount Whitney is another popular destination for hikers and mountaineers.

Mount Tallac

Mount Tallac is located near Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County, California. The name Tallac roughly translates to ‘big mountain’ which is very apt for this mountain as it rises to a height of 9,739 feet. Although it is necessary to obtain a permit for hiking on Mount Tallac, these permits are usually easy and cheap to come by, especially during the day. An estimated 10,000 people climb Mount Tallac every year.

Mount Langley

Rising to 14,032 feet, Mount Langley is also situated on the border of the Inyo and Tulare counties in California and is only 4.8 miles to the northwest of Mount Whitney. It is a popular destination as it is known to be relatively easy to climb and because it offers scenic and tranquil views for all hikers and mountaineers.

Pyramid Peak

Pyramid Peak rises to an elevation of 4,100 feet. It is located near Lake Tahoe in the Crystal Range and is the highest peak within the Desolation Wilderness in El Dorado County, California. The most popular route for climbing Pyramid Peak is the Rocky Canyon route but due to the rugged terrain, it proves to be quite challenging even for the most seasoned mountaineers. 

Other mountains that fall within the Sierra Nevadas:

•Middle Palisade

•Split Mountain

•Mt. Sill

•Mt. Muir