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10 Of The Most Scenic U.S. Mountain Ranges For Your Bucket List Adventure

Aug 19, 2023

Featuring lofty summits and scenic views, these are some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the U.S.

The majestic beauty of a towering mountain piercing clean through the clouds is simply indescribable. The striking features dominate landscapes on every continent, soaring high above trees and hills below, and can even be found at the darkest depths, making themselves comfortable on the sea floor below.

Whether volcanic, fold, plateau, fault-block, or dome mountains, the rocky masses make up about 25 percent of all land area around the world, according to the United Nations. The U.S., in particular, is home to three major mountain ranges, the Appalachian Mountains in the East, and the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, colloquially known as the Rockies, in the West.

Each expansive mountain system is teeming with subranges, offering adventurers the chance to explore lush alpine greenery, lofty summits, peaks and ridges, a wondrous array of native wildlife, and much more. For those seeking a good thrill, here are some of the most scenic and iconic mountain ranges to visit in the U.S.

Related: 10 Toughest Mountain Biking Destinations That Will Make Your Stomach Drop

Also known as the Cascades, the Cascade Range spans nearly 700 miles, running parallel to the coast of northern California, Oregon, and Washington State. This sweeping mountain chain also extends outside the U.S., stretching up throughout British Columbia in Canada.

The Cascade Range, which features both volcanoes and non-volcanic mountains, is located in the Ring of Fire, a region that encompasses much of the Pacific Ocean's rim and is dotted with active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

The narrow, 600-mile-long stretch of the Alaska Range isn't your average chain of mountains. Situated in the shape of an arc, the range spans from the Alaska-Canada border up into the Alaska Peninsula and is known for its mammoth glaciers and being the home of the highest mountain in the U.S., which towers at 20,310 feet tall.

For more bearable weather ranging from about 60 to 70 degrees, as opposed to temperature dips below -30 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, the best time to visit the Alaska Range is during the summer.

Home to the iconic Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada is an asymmetric mountain range that stretches predominantly along the eastern border of California. A large portion of the Carson Range also lies in western Nevada near the freshwater of Lake Tahoe.

Related: From Mountains To Sea Views: 10 Hotels With The Best Views In The World

Spanning only 45 miles in length and about 10 miles wide, this coastal mountain range lies right along the Pacific Ocean in sunny Southern California. Famed for its incredible hiking trails, the transverse mountain range is notable for its distinct rocky and rugged slopes and canyons.

If hiking in this region, especially with small children or dogs, the National Park Service warns to be on the lookout for poison oak and critters like rattlesnakes and ticks.

Nestled largely in the Olympic National Park, this mountain range is one of the most magical places in Washington State. It's surrounded by waters on three sides via the Puget Sound to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.

Featuring snow-capped peaks and glaciers and lush scenery, the 40 million-year-old range is nothing short of a nature lover's dream.

Check the website for alerts that are currently in effect in Olympic National Park, such as closures.

There are many awesome things to do in Utah, and visiting the mountains is one of them. A small portion of this stunning mountain range can also be found in northwest Colorado and southwestern Wyoming.

A subrange of the Rocky Mountain system, it stretches east to west for more than 100 miles and is popular for its numerous outdoor adventures.

Related: Where Mountains Meet Ocean: 10 Best Beaches In Maine To Visit

One of the U.S.'s most treasured gems, the Appalachians span nearly 2,000 miles from Alabama way up to the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition to Alabama, the mighty range can be found in Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Nestled in the southeastern region of the U.S., the Great Smoky Mountains can be found along the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, the region is prized for its abundance of wildlife, lush scenery, and iconic mountain culture.

Like many other wild spaces, black bears are common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so visitors should use caution when exploring the area. Check the website for all other advisory warnings.

Brimming with more than 34,500 square miles of pure wilderness, from thick forests to shimmering rivers, the Blue Ridge Mountains is deserving of a spot on any adventurer's bucket list.

The range, which is a segment of the Appalachians, can be found in parts of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

The mountain range, which is more than one billion years old, is one of the oldest ranges in the world.

Related: These Are The 10 Most Beautiful Hikes In The White Mountains

The Rocky Mountains are perfection in mountain form. The expansive range, which spans 3,000 miles in six different states, features upwards of 100 ranges, which are divided into four main regions: the Canadian Rockies, Northern Rockies, Middle Rockies, and Southern Rockies.

No matter where travelers are headed in the U.S., these scenic mountain ranges make for great places to begin exploring.

Audrey Enjoli is a writer and editor residing in Los Angeles. She covers food, culture, travel, and entertainment, among other topics. Her work has appeared in Evie Magazine, Food Republic, Ethos, and other publications.

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