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Intermountain West

Range TypeMiscellaneous physical or political Feature
Highest PointWhite Mountain Peak (14,246 ft/4342 m)
CountriesUnited States (72%), Canada (21%), Mexico (7%)
(numbers are approximate percentage of range area)
Area797,565 sq mi / 2,065,692 sq km
Area may include lowland areas
Extent2,298 mi / 3,699 km North-South
1,555 mi / 2,503 km East-West
Center Lat/Long44° 10' N; 117° 2' W
Map LinkMicrosoft Bing Map

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The ranges of the Intermountain West are truly the forgotten mountains of North America. Even though the large, mostly dry territory between the Rockies to the east and the Pacific Ranges (Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada and Cascades) to the west covers a far larger area than any of those ranges, the general assumption is that this vast area is just boring, flat desert, with maybe a few canyons and arches down in the Southwest the only items of scenic interest.

Unknown to even many veteran outdoorsmen is that the intermountain west is studded with hundreds of mountain ranges, many of them just as high and scenic as parts of the Rockies or Sierra. For example, the Deep Creek Mountains out in the Utah desert are higher than the celebrated Wasatch Front; the White Mountains in California rise to over 14,000 feet; the Columbia Mountains of Canada were more of a challenge to the railway engineers than the Rockies; and Nevada's Ruby Range, with its lakes, meadows, forests, and tundra, is as beautiful as any range in the west.

The one thing these ranges lack is a sizeable, sustained, high mountain mass, like you find in the Sierra Nevada or central Colorado (although in Canada the mountains are much denser). Instead, virtually all the ranges of the Intermountain West are relatively small, and separated by large, flat expanses. The Rockies, too, are separate ranges separated by flatland, but in the Rockies the mountains predominate, while in the intermountain area, the opposite is generally true.

And the entire area is essentailly a desert, especially the parched valleys and basins separating the scattered mountain ranges. However, the mountains do a good job of catching the little moisture that comes by, and once you get above about 6500 feet in the Great Basin there are pleasant, dry forests in a horizonal band that extends up to about 11,000 feet.

Perhaps the main allure of outdoor recreation in the intermountain west is that it is by far less visited than the Rockies or the coastal ranges of North America. Phoenix and Salt Lake City are the only large cities in the entire area, and many of the more remote ranges in the Great Basin see maybe only a few parties a year penetrate their fastness. While the popular areas--Great Basin National Park, the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, the Rogers Pass area in the Selkirks, or the Ruby Range--can get a fair amount of use, on the whole things are pretty quiet.

Map of Intermountain West
Click on red triangle icons for links to other ranges.

Note: Range borders shown on map are an approximation and are not authoritative.
Click Here for a Full Screen Map

Other Ranges: To go to pages for other ranges either click on the map above, or on range names in the hierarchy snapshot below, which show the parent, siblings, and children of the Intermountain West.
North AmericaLevel 1 (Parent)
         Alaska-Yukon RangesLevel 2 (Sibling)
         North America Arctic IslandsLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Pacific RangesLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Intermountain WestLevel 2
                 British Columbia InteriorLevel 3 (Child)
                 Columbia MountainsLevel 3 (Child)
                 Columbia PlateauLevel 3 (Child)
                 Great Basin RangesLevel 3 (Child)
                 Colorado PlateauLevel 3 (Child)
                 Southwest Basins and RangesLevel 3 (Child)
         Rocky MountainsLevel 2 (Sibling)
         North America PlainsLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Appalachian MountainsLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Central Mexican RangesLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Central America RangesLevel 2 (Sibling)
         Caribbean AreaLevel 2 (Sibling)

Major Peaks of the Intermountain West

Ten Highest Peaks
RankPeak NameftmRange3
1.White Mountain Peak14,2464342Great Basin Ranges
2.White Mountains Peak 1390813,9084239Great Basin Ranges
3.White Mountains Peak 1361513,6154150Great Basin Ranges
4.Mount Dubois13,5594133Great Basin Ranges
5.The Jumpoff13,480+4109+Great Basin Ranges
6.Montgomery Peak13,4414097Great Basin Ranges
7.Boundary Peak13,1404005Great Basin Ranges
8.Wheeler Peak13,0633982Great Basin Ranges
9.Mount Barcroft13,0403975Great Basin Ranges
10.Jeff Davis Peak12,7713893Great Basin Ranges
Sub-peaks are excluded from this list. List may not be complete, since only summits in the PBC Database are included.
Child Range High Points
RankPeak NameftmRange3
1.White Mountain Peak14,2464342Great Basin Ranges
2.Mount Peale12,7213877Colorado Plateau
3.Sierra Blanca Peak11,9733649Southwest Basins and Ranges
4.Mount Sir Sandford11,5453519Columbia Mountains
5.Sacajawea Peak98382999Columbia Plateau
6.Thudaka Mountain90162748British Columbia Interior

Photos of Peaks in the Intermountain West

White Mountain Peak
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Bicycles can be used to approach White Mountain Peak, a major California fourteener (2011-09-10).
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Montgomery Peak

From Boundary Peak in Nevada, craggy Mount Montgomery rises higher, just across the California border to the south (1989-06-10).
Boundary Peak

Boundary Peak in the White Mountains lives up to the name of its range as late as June in some years, although the snow is rarely very deep in the driest high mountains in the United States (1989-06-10).
Wheeler Peak

The dark, craggy silhouette of Wheeler Peak (1992-08).
Mount Barcroft
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Mount Barcroft as seen from the road leading to White Mountain summit. View looking south (2014-07-19). Photo by Dan Baxter.
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Jeff Davis Peak
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Jeff Davis from Wheeler Peak (2014-04-03). Photo by Josh Lingbloom.
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Mount Peale
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Tukunikivatz, Peale, Mellenthin from left to right from the south (1981-08-03). Photo by John Vitz.
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Mount Mellenthin
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Tukunikivatz, Peale, Mellenthin from left to right from the south (1981-08-03). Photo by John Vitz.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Humphreys Peak

Looking up to Humphreys Peak (left) and Mount Agassiz (right) from Hart Prairie (1989-05-04).
Mount Tukuhnikivatz
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Tukunikivatz, Peale, Mellenthin from left to right from the south (1981-08-03). Photo by John Vitz.
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