4 Lesser-Known U.S. Mountain Ranges

When we think of mountain ranges in the United States, a couple names come to mind: the stately Cascades of the West Coast, the intimidating Rockies towering above Colorado and its neighbors, the rolling Appalachian Mountains in the east. But did you realize that the U.S. is dotted with several smaller mountain ranges, and that the larger mountain ranges you know and love are made up of multiple smaller ones?

Here are four mountain ranges in the United States that you may not have heard of.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

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The White Mountains are in New Hampshire and are only 60 miles away from Boston. They are a northern arm of the larger Appalachian Range, and the peaks in the White Mountain range are some of the most rugged in the whole thing. The mountains are at least 100 million years old and were formed as the Northern American tectonic plate moved over the New England hotspot.

The White Mountains are home to the highest peak in the Appalachians, Mount Washington, which was named for the first president of the United States. Mount Washington is known for extreme weather conditions and held the fastest recorded surface wind in the world—231 mph—for 76 years, from 1934 to 2010.

Brooks Range, Alaska

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The Brooks Range is a massive yet not well-known mountain range that stretches 700 miles across Alaska and northern Canada. The highest peak in the range is Mount Isto at 8,976 feet, and the mountain range is quite old. Geologists estimate that the peaks were formed over 126 million years ago.

One interesting thing about the Brooks Range is the scholarly debate that is held between American and Canadian geologists. American geologists consider the Brooks Range to be a part of the Rockies while Canadian geologists consider it to be a separate formation from the large mountain range that bisects Northern America.

The Brooks Range is difficult to reach, and only one highway crosses through the range, the Dalton Highway.

Olympic Mountains, Washington

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The Olympic Mountains in Washington are often mistaken as a part of the much better-known Cascades, which feature the stunning Mount Rainer. However, the Olympics are a branch of the Coast Range, which features peaks down the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.

The Olympics are, in fact, much younger than the Cascades, and geologists estimate that the Olympics began to form as the San Juan tectonic plate subducted under the Northern American plate around 10 to 20 million years ago. The Olympic Mountains are also much shorter than the nearby Cascades. The highest peak is Mount Olympus, which rises to 7,962 feet.

Sawatch Range, Colorado

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This high mountain range is a part of the famous Rocky Mountains but is significant because it contains eight of the 20 highest peaks in the range. In fact, 15 of the mountains in the Sawatch Range are over 14,000 feet, including Mount Elbert, the highest peak in all the Rocky Mountains at 14,493 feet. By comparison, Mount Rainier, which towers over Seattle and is often used by mountain climbers to train for Everest, is only 14,400 feet.

While the mountains in the Sawatch Range commonly reach heights of over 10,000 feet, in general they are gentle slopes instead of sheer cliffs. This means that while some of the peaks in the Sawatch Range require technical training and equipment to ascend safely, many of the mountains can be summited in the summer months by hiking to the top.

Do you have a favorite obscure mountain range in your area? Let us know!

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