Mountain States

The 8 Mountain States of the United States
  • The Mountain States are eight states in the Western United States.
  • The Mountain States region is subdivided between the Northwest and Southwest.
  • The Rocky Mountain Range is the most prominent mountain range in the Mountain States, though certainly not the only one.
  • About 25 million people live in the Mountain States.
  • Arizona is the most populous of the Mountain States, while Wyoming is the least populous.

The Mountain States are eight US states in the Western United States. These states are Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Mountain States form a large swathe of territory that stretches from the US border with Canada to the US border with Mexico. Six of the eight states have parts of the Rocky Mountains within their borders. There are, however, other mountains ranges in the Mountain States, such as the San Francisco Mountains in Arizona, and the Great Basin Ranges, which are mostly in Nevada. The Mountain States are also characterized by other geographic features, including desert terrain, canyons, and plains. 

Geography Of The Mountain States

Aspen, Colorado
Skyline of Aspen, Colorado with the Rocky Mountains forming a stunning backdrop.

The Mountain States are subdivided into the Northwest and Southwest. The former consists of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, while the latter consists of the other five states. All of these states are home to the highest mean elevations in the country. Although it is certainly not the only mountain range in the Mountain States, the Rocky Mountains, or Rockies, as they are sometimes called, are the most prominent. The Rocky Mountain Range stretches from northern British Columbia, Canada’s most westerly province, all the way to northern New Mexico, for a total distance of 4,830 km. Parts of the Rockies pass through the US states of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The Rocky Mountains make up what is known as North America’s Continental Divide.

Mountain States By Highest Elevation

  1. Colorado - Mount Elbert (4401 m)
  2. Wyoming - Gannett Peak (4209 m)
  3. Utah - Kings Peak (4120 m)
  4. New Mexico - Wheeler Peak (4013 m)
  5. Nevada - Boundary Peak (4007 m)
  6. Montana - Granite Peak (3904 m)
  7. Idaho - Borah Peak (3861 m)
  8. Arizona - Humphreys Peak (3852 m)

Mountain States By Mean Elevation

  1. Colorado - 2073 m
  2. Wyoming - 2040 m
  3. Utah - 1859 m
  4. New Mexico - 1737 m
  5. Nevada - 1676 m
  6. Idaho - 1524 m
  7. Arizona - 1250 m
  8. Montana - 1036 m
Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert is the highest peak of the mountain states. It is located in Colorado.

The highest peak in the Mountain States is Mt. Elbert, located in Colorado. It has a height of 14,440 ft. Colorado has the highest mean elevation in the entire United States, at 6,800 ft. It is also the only state that sits 1000 meters above sea level in its entirety. In addition, Colorado boasts the 30 highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains. The Mountain State with the lowest mean elevation is Montana, which has a mean elevation of 3,400 ft. Montana is also the biggest state in the Mountain States region by land area, comprising 380,800 sq. km. Idaho, with a land area of 216,900 sq. km, is the smallest state.

Mountain states
The Grand Canyon is located in the mountain state of Arizona.

Although the mountains of the Mountain States may be the most imposing feature of the region, by no means are they the only geographic feature which distinguishes the region from other parts of the United States. In fact, the Mountain States region is one of the most geographically diverse parts of the country. Arizona alone, for example, has an extremely varied landscape, which contains deserts, forests, and mountain ranges, including the aforementioned San Francisco Mountains. It also includes canyons, one of which is the famous Grand Canyon.

Mountain state desert
The Sonoran Desert covers parts of the mountain state of Arizona.

The Mountain States in their entirety contain all the major deserts of North America. These include the Mohave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Great Basin Deserts, all of which are found in the Southwest Mountain States. The Great Basin Desert is the largest desert in the entire United States. Forests also cover large parts of the Mountain States. Many of them are located in the mountains themselves. Colorado’s White River National Forest, for example, contains ten mountain peaks in excess of 14,000 ft. high. Other major forests in the Mountain States include Coconino National Forest in Arizona, Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, Cibola National Forest in New Mexico, and Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho.

Demographics Of The Mountain States

Compared to other regions of the United States, the Mountain States are sparsely populated. Based on 2018 estimates, the entire population of the region is just 25 million. Arizona, with a population of over 7.17 million is the most populous state of all the Mountain States. Colorado is the second most populous, with an estimated 5.89 million people, followed by Utah (est. 3.3 million), Nevada (est. 3.18 million), New Mexico (est. 2.1 million), Idaho (est. 1.86 million), Montana (est. 1.08 million), and Wyoming (est. 577,000).

Mountain states
The skyline of Phoenix, Arizona.

The most populous city in the Mountain States is Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, which is home to more than 1.7 million people. In fact, Phoenix is the only city in the Mountain States with a population in excess of 1 million. Other major cities in the region include Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 10 Biggest Cities In The Mountain States

  1. Phoenix, Arizona - 1,537,058
  2. Denver, Colorado - 663,862
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada - 613,599
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico - 557,169
  5. Tucson, Arizona - 527,972
  6. Mesa, Arizona - 464,704
  7. Colorado Springs, Colorado - 445,830
  8. Aurora, Colorado - 353,108
  9. Henderson, Nevada - 277,440
  10. Chandler, Arizona - 254,276

The people of the Mountain States come from a wide variety of backgrounds. In the Southwest Mountain States, the Hispanic and Latino population is particularly prevalent. New Mexico, for example, has the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans (48%) in the country. Arizona is not too far behind, with 30.7% of the people in that state claiming Hispanic ancestry. About one fifth of Nevada’s population is of Hispanic or Latino descent.

Old Navajo woman in Navajo nation reservation at Monument Valley, Arizona, USA
Old Navajo woman in Navajo nation reservation at Monument Valley, Arizona, United States. Editorial credit: S-F / Shutterstock.com

The Southwest Mountain States are also home to large populations of Native Americans. Several Native American nations call the region home, including the Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Ute. The Navajo Nation has the largest Native American reserve in the entire United States. Most of this reserve is situated in Arizona, while smaller parts of it are in southern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. Arizona in particular has one of the highest numbers of Native Americans in the United States, at 391,620, making up 5.64% of the population. The state also contains 5 of the 10 biggest Native American reservations in the United States. New Mexico contains the third highest percentage of Native Americans in the United States relative to its total population, at 10.75%. Two other Mountain States, Wyoming and Montana, also have high percentages of Native Americans relative to other states.

Most of the rest of the population in the Mountain States is of European descent. The most common ethnicities among the people of European descent in the Mountain States are German, Irish, and English. Idaho’s population in particular is overwhelmingly of European descent. In fact, it is considered one of the least diverse states in the country. The state’s percentage of African Americans, for example, ranks 48th out of all 50 states. In contrast, Nevada is the Mountain State with the highest percentage of African Americans, at 12%. Scattered throughout the Mountain States are also communities of Asian Americans. Nevada contains the highest percentage of Asian Americans in the Mountain States, at 9.59%, which makes it the state with the 5th highest percentage of Asian Americans in the country.

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