10 Best Mountain Ranges in the US You Must Visit in 2021

The US is a prime place to visit some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.

Mount Rainier National Park Washington
Majestic View of Mount Rainier

From rivers to canyons, there is no shortage of breath-taking spots to see.

The kings of all the natural wonders in the US are the mountains.

There is a never-ending list of awe-inspiring ranges in the US; it’s difficult to pin down exactly where you should visit!

Before you begin frantically searching through Google, check out this list of the 10 best mountain ranges in the US!

Here are the best mountain ranges in the United States:

  1. The Sawatch Range, CO
  2. The Elk Mountain Range, CO
  3. The San Juan Range, CO
  4. The Teton Range, WY
  5. The Wasatch Range, UT
  6. The Mission Range, MT
  7. The Bitterroot Range, ID
  8. The Sawtooth Mountain Range, ID
  9. The Sierra Nevada, CA
  10. The Cascade Mountain Range, WA

Each of these ranges can be found in the western US and have some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

After you read this guide, you will know what makes each one of these ranges unique, and you’ll want to pack up your car, truck, or RV and visit each one!

1. The Sawatch Range, CO

Centrally located in the state with more 14,000-foot peaks than anywhere else on this list is the Sawatch Range.

Colorado is home to 58 mountain peaks that are above 14,000 feet, and the Sawatch Range is home to 15 of those peaks.

The tallest peak in the Sawatch and the entire state of Colorado is Mount Elbert, measuring 14,433 feet tall! If you’re a peak bagger, the Sawatch Range is a must-visit spot!

If climbing 14ers isn’t your favorite thing to do, there are several ski resorts located within the Sawatch.

Vail and Beaver Creek are two of the Vail Resorts’ crown jewels and are a must-visit during the winter!

And if you’re more about getting on the river, the Sawatch is home to several excellent rivers that will be sure to delight any river rat.

Sawatch Range Near Buena Vista, Colorado
Sawatch Range Near Buena Vista, Colorado

The Eagle, Arkansas, and Colorado Rivers all flow through the Sawatch and offer world-class fly fishing and white-water rafting!

When you’re done adventuring, be sure to stop by any one of the mountain towns that are nestled in the Sawatch Range for local food and drinks.

Buena Vista, CO, is home to Eddyline Brewery, one of Colorado’s most popular breweries.

Grab a pint and their famous Hippie Fries before walking down to the Buena Vista River Park to watch kayakers play in the waves of the Arkansas River!

2. The Elk Mountain Range, CO

After your visit to the Sawatch, you’ll want to hit up the Elk Mountains next.

Have you ever heard of Aspen?

How about the Maroon Bells?

Well, both of these can’t miss destinations are located within the Elk Mountains!

Aspen Ski Resort is world-famous and hosts a multitude of A-list celebrities every year.

And if you’re not starstruck by skiing near movie stars, you’ll most definitely appreciate the champagne powder that covers the resort in over 150 inches of snow each year!

Maroon Bells, Elk Mountain Range
Maroon Bells, Elk Mountain Range

The Maroon Bells are also an excellent site to see while visiting the Elk Mountain Range.

The Maroon Bells are two of the most photographed mountains in Colorado, and they are a shining example of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see them for yourself!

3. The San Juan Range, CO

After you have spent a few days in the Elk Range, you’ll want to turn southwest to make your way to the San Juan Range.

The San Juans are some of the most rugged and breath-taking mountains in Colorado.

One of the most scenic towns to visit while touring the San Juan’s is Ouray (pronounced UR-eh).

Ouray sits at the bottom of a deep valley left after geological uplift raised the massive peaks surrounding the town.

Rock and ice climbers from around the world make it a point to visit Ouray every year to ascend the towering rock and ice faces.

If you’re seeking a more relaxed visit, Ouray is also home to a natural hot spring that is open year-round.

There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a pool of hot water while taking in the beauty of the snowcapped peaks all around you.

It’s no wonder why Ouray is known as the Switzerland of the US!

4. The Teton Range, WY

North of Colorado is one of the most dramatic and iconic ranges in the world, the Grand Tetons.

Located in northwestern Wyoming, the Grand Tetons are the most photographed mountains in Wyoming.

They also stand within Grand Teton National Park, which makes them a must-see range for any national park enthusiast!

The best time of year to visit the Grand Tetons is between May and September.

Snow and freezing temperatures make going during the winter a dangerous time of year to visit.

Be sure to hit the visitors center when going to the Grand Tetons to pick up a map and get some advice on how to climb Grand Teton, the tallest peak in the range at 13,770 feet tall!

5. The Wasatch Range, UT

After you have visited Colorado and Wyoming, it’s time to turn west and check out the Wasatch Range in Utah!

The Wasatch separate the eastern canyonlands and the western Great Salt Lake Basin.

On the western side of the Sawatch lies Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City.

The Wasatch are some of the most rugged mountains on this list.

In fact, they were the most challenging mountains to cross during the days of western settlement.

Most people heading west tended to avoid these mountains by turning north once they got to Wyoming.

Those that dared venture into them as they crossed into California were met with hardship and often death!

Today, they attract rock climbers, skiers, and mountain bikers instead of pioneers!

6. The Mission Range, MT

Heading north from Utah, you’ll want to make your next stop in western Montana to visit the Mission Range.

The Mission Range is where the second most populous town in Montana is found.

Missoula is the capital of the Mission Range as it is smack dab in the middle of it!

Missoula is an easy spot to get to in order to visit the Mission Mountains.

Located along Interstate 90, it is a very easy place to get to and full of restaurants and bars to enjoy after a long day of playing in the mountains.

One of the coolest things to do is to rent a board to surf the waves that form on the Clark Fork River!

Yes, that’s right, you can surf in the mountains.

There are several companies that you can rent river surf gear from in Missoula, which makes it easier than ever to try out a super fun new sport!

7. The Bitterroot Range, ID

West of Missoula and the Mission Mountains are the Bitterroots.

If there were ever a place where Sasquatch lived, it would be here.

The Bitterroots line the border of Idaho and Montana and are some of the most remote and beautiful mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

The Bitterroots were formed millions of years ago by a combination of glaciers and volcanic activity.

This has left the mountains with hundreds of large lakes and valleys full of rivers.

One of the largest lakes is lake Coeur d’Alene!

Lake Coeur d’Alene is gorgeous and big enough to spend the entire day paddling a kayak or canoe along the shore.

If you’re in need of more adrenaline, you can rent a boat from the local marina and go water skiing or wakeboarding!

8. The Sawtooth Mountain Range, ID

Going south of the Bitterroots, you’ll find the Sawtooth Mountains.

These mountains are home to some of the deepest valleys in the US.

In fact, Hells Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon by about 2,000 feet.

From the top of the highest point of Hells Canyon to the Snake River far below measures over 7,900 feet.

If climbing up the sides of Hells Canyon sounds like fun, you can choose to do so on foot or by 4×4 ATVs.

Kirkwood Historic Ranch is a pretty awe-inspiring place to visit inside of the Sawtooth Range.

It sits at the bottom of Hells Canyon along the Snake River.

You can access it by driving an ATV to the bottom or by booking a jet boat tour from Riggins, ID.

The original buildings that were set up during the 1930s are still standing, making this one of the coolest spots to visit in the Sawtooth Mountains!

And if ATVing and history don’t do enough for you, you can book a whitewater rafting trip on the Snake and Salmon Rivers, both of which offer world-class whitewater trips!

9. The Sierra Nevada, CA

The Sierra Nevada are some of the most beautiful mountains on this list.

Within the Sierra, there is an endless number of gorgeous spots to visit.

What are the can’t miss destinations?

Yosemite National Park is at the top of the list.

Yosemite is home to the most breathtaking valley in the US, with granite monoliths soaring high above the valley floor.

The Merced River flows gently through the valley, as it is fed by the waterfalls that tumble dramatically from the high granite walls.

Yosemite is home to two of the most recognizable natural features in the world, El Capitan and Half Dome.

Each year, climbers and tourists from around the world flock to the valley to appreciate and try their hand at climbing these natural wonders!

After visiting Yosemite, you can choose to head north to Tahoe to see one of the West’s largest lakes, Lake Tahoe.

Or you can choose to head south and hit up the town of Mammoth, CA.

Don’t forget to bring your skis and snowboards when you visit Mammoth.

Mammoth Mountain Resort boasts an average of 204 inches of snowfall each year, making it one of the snowiest spots on this list!

10. Cascade Mountain Range, WA

Last, but certainly not least, is the Cascade Range.

The Cascades are home to some of the most dramatic scenery in the US.

The height of the peaks mixed with the famous amount of moisture that showers the mountains constantly with precipitation with over 100 inches of rain and snowfall every year!

It’s no wonder why the Cascades are home to some of the most diverse climates in the US.

On the western side, the Cascades are covered in temperate rainforests that are constantly green year-round.

At the tops of the mountains, you’ll find glacier-filled valleys and snow-capped peaks.

One of the most visited and recognizable mountains in the Cascades is Mount Rainier.

Standing at 14,411 feet, climbing to the top is not for the faint of heart.

Be sure to thoroughly prepare and consult a few guides before braving this peak!

The Cascades are also home to the deepest lake in the US!

Crater Lake has been measured to be 1,996 feet deep in the deepest spots.

It’s so deep that the US Navy has used it to test out submarine capabilities.

But you don’t need to be a submariner to visit.

You just need to go in through the national park gates that mark the entrances to the park.

Final Thoughts

The western US is full of spectacular mountain ranges that offer so many different recreational opportunities.

Colorado is often thought of as THE destination for mountains, and there is a lot of truth to that.

With world-class skiing, rafting, and fishing, you will find something for everyone to enjoy when you visit!

The Pacific Northwest is home to several mountain ranges that also offer some spectacular views and recreational opportunities.

The proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes these mountains some of the most diverse in the world as they have both snow AND rainforests to explore.

Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho all have some of the most remote mountain destinations in the country.

If you’re seeking beautiful views and solitude, you won’t be disappointed when you visit any one of the ranges located within each of those states!