It's time of year when skiers and snowboarders start thinking of the slopes. If you've got the itch to gain some elevation, maybe your winter travels should bring you to one of the five states with the most mountains in the U.S.
Plenty of people travel to California for the beach. But after that relaxation by the water, why not take to the mountains? California has a ton of them. The Sierra Nevada is the primary mountain range running north to south through the state. The tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states is located there — the beautiful Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet. Visitors access Mount Whitney from Sequoia National Park or Inyo National Forest as it is right on the border of the two parks.
But if climbing fourteeners (14,000+ foot peaks) isn't quite your thing, there are still many ways to enjoy the mountains in California. Whether you're taking a scenic drive through Kings Canyon National Park or soaking in the views from a paddleboard on Lake Tahoe, the mountains in California offer something exciting and breathtaking for all visitors.
While Wyoming is known for its open plains, you'll also find plenty of mountains there. The Rocky Mountains run right through Wyoming, with the Continental Divide cutting through the middle of them. (The Continental Divide is remarkable in that water to the east of it generally flows east and water to the west of it generally flows west.) For those looking for a remote mountain experience, you are sure to find it in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming.
Of course, if you want to see the most famous mountain features in Wyoming, you have to go to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. These back-to-back parks are in the northwest corner of the state. The Grand Teton feature breathtaking glaciers and jagged peaks high above the tree line. You can also visit nearby Jackson Hole to ski, snowboard, or just relax at its world-famous resorts.
Colorado is also home to the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide, and many fourteeners. People flock to Colorado every year for the great skiing. Rocky Mountain National Park is the most famous section of mountains in Colorado. There, you can drive Trail Ridge Road, which feels like you are truly at the top of the world. You can also hike, backpack, and camp, although some of these activities do require a permit. But RMNP is far from the only place you can go to enjoy all kinds of mountainous recreation.
To see the red sand that gave Colorado its name, you can visit the red-faced canyons in Glenwood Springs. Or you can visit the red rock formations in the mountains of Colorado Springs at the Garden of the Gods. These amazing sandstone formations are accessible to all, so you don't need to worry about wearing out your legs or purchasing a pair of hiking boots. Whether you want to go on a multiple-day backpacking trip through the Rockies or take a leisurely drive up I-70 to see the aspen leaves changing colors, the Colorado mountains are a sight to behold.
The mountains in Utah are a major destination for those who love winter sports, as well as hikers, campers, and rock climbers. The Rocky Mountains go right through Utah, and most of the population of Utah lives in the mountainous region of the metropolitan Salt Lake City Area. Of course, when you have a major city so close to the mountains, there is ample opportunity for residents and visitors alike to explore the towering peaks.
Park City is another mountain hot spot, with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the nation. The park gets tons of snow but is also a summer destination for mountain lovers due to its sheer beauty. Moab and the La Sal Mountains are also popular because of the incredible rock formations and towering mountain peaks among the desert mesas. The clear starry sky, breathtaking canyons, and stark contrast between the red desert and the green peaks in the La Sal range are reason alone to come to Utah. And if you're looking for a more remote mountain experience, you can find that too. Utah is one of the three highest states in the U.S. with a mean elevation of 6,100 feet, so you're bound to be in the mountains most places you visit.
It almost doesn't even seem fair to include Alaska in this list — the state is in a league of its own when it comes to mountains. For starters, Alaska's landmass is enormous. It's two times the size of Texas. Considering a good majority of it is mountainous, of course it takes home the trophy of the most mountainous state.
The Alaskan Range, the Brooks Range, and the Aleutian Range are the three major mountain ranges in Alaska. Alaska is home to Mount Denali, the tallest mountain peak in all of North America at an astounding 20,310 feet tall. The mountains in Alaska are less accessible than other U.S. mountains simply because you have to get to Alaska first. But if you do, you'll find it is well worth it to see the glaciers, the wildlife, the jagged peaks, and the endless summer days.