With hiking, water sports, scenic drives, and more, these U.S. mountain ranges have something for everyone.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
July 27, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

There is something undeniably peaceful about going out into the wilderness and exploring the mountain ranges in the U.S., whether you’re visiting the fog-covered Great Smoky Mountains or the sharp, snowy peaks of the Alaska Range. We’ve rounded up 13 scenic U.S. mountain ranges that have great hiking and even better views for your next trip into the great outdoors. So, grab your hiking boots and a water bottle, and get ready to explore some of the most breathtaking places our country has to offer.

1. Rocky Mountains

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The Rocky Mountains cover 3,000 miles across North America, from British Columbia to New Mexico. Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles of stunning natural beauty with 300 miles of hiking trails — spring and summer are ideal seasons to visit due to the colorful wildflower blooms. Equally picturesque Grand Teton National Park protects the stunning Teton Range, also part of the larger Rocky Mountains.

2. Great Smoky Mountains

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A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains are known for the fog that usually hovers around the tops of the peaks, creating the namesake “smoky” effect. Located primarily in North Carolina and Tennessee, these mountains are protected by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the United States. Millions of visitors flock to this park every year to hike, camp, and enjoy the incredible mountain views.

3. Alaska Range 

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While it might be more remote than other mountain ranges on this list, the Alaska Range includes some of the country’s most incredible peaks, and some of the most beautiful national parks protect these mountains. Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Denali National Park and Preserve, and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve all encompass parts of the Alaska Range. Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, reaching an elevation of 20,310 feet, is also located within this stunning mountain range.

4. Sierra Nevada 

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The Sierra Nevada mountain range stretches from the Central Valley of California to the Great Basin, with many mountains located within the Golden State. There are three national parks in the Sierra Nevada range — Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park — and each offers unique experiences, wildlife sightings, hiking, and stunning views.

5. Cascade Range

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The Cascade Mountains are located in western North America, crossing parts of Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California. This range has beautiful snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, including Mount Rainier, the range’s highest point, which reaches an elevation of 14,411 feet, and Mount Saint Helens, the active stratovolcano that last erupted in 2008.

6. Uinta Mountains

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Found primarily in northeastern Utah, the Uinta Mountains have plenty of outdoor activities, including rafting, fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. This range is also home to Dinosaur National Monument, where guests can see dinosaur fossils and historic petroglyphs.

7. Olympic Mountains

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Located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, the Olympic Mountains are primarily set within Olympic National Park. Known for its rocky coastline, a lush rain forest, and of course, its beautiful mountain peaks, this is a popular destination for avid hikers and people looking to explore the great outdoors. Mount Olympus is the range’s highest peak, reaching 7,962 feet in elevation.

8. Blue Ridge Mountains

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The Blue Ridge Mountains span most of the eastern United States, going from Pennsylvania to Georgia. That means there are plenty of places to get out and explore this beautiful range, with many destinations located just a short drive from East Coast cities. Notably, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a scenic drive through a section of the mountains, and Shenandoah National Park provides hiking and other outdoor activities in Virginia’s part of the Blue Ridge.

9. California Coast Ranges

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As the name implies, this mountain range is located on the Californian coast, covering some of the most scenic parts of the state. The Santa Lucia Range is situated within this range, and it includes the incredible Big Sur region. Taking a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway is a great way to take in the sights, but there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, too.

10. Adirondack Mountains

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Located in northeastern New York, the Adirondack Mountains are a perfect getaway for New Yorkers wanting to escape the city and relax in nature. This area is beautiful year-round — you can ski during the winter, enjoy colorful foliage in the fall, and go kayaking and hiking in the spring and summer. The area also has lovely scenic drives and several charming small towns.

11. Sawtooth Range

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Known for their jagged peaks, Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains are uniquely beautiful. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area offers hiking trails, rock climbing, camping, kayaking, mountain biking, and more, making it a perfect destination for those looking for outdoor adventure.

12. Bighorn Mountains

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Crossing parts of Wyoming and Montana, the Bighorn Mountains are another great mountain destination for outdoor adventurers, with opportunities for biking, camping, hiking, fishing, and more at Bighorn National Forest. Cloud Peak Wilderness, located within the forest, is one of the most picturesque areas in the range, known for its beautiful alpine landscape.

13. White Mountains

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Located in New Hampshire and part of Maine, the White Mountains are another beautiful mountain escape with outdoor activities everyone will love. In addition to activities like hiking and camping, you can also take in the mountain views from tramways, alpine coasters, vintage railroads, and more.