The Rocky Mountains are located at the Western side of the United States and pass from north to south through 7 US states and 2 Canadian provinces:
- New Mexico
- British Columbia (Canada)
- Alberta (Canada)
That’s the list of which states the Rocky Mountains pass through, but which of these states has the highest number of peaks? Which has the oldest national park? Which state has the highest elevation in the Rockies?
Read on to find out! Nature, geography, wildlife, and even the climate vary drastically from one state to the next. Here are some interesting facts about each one of the states the Rocky Mountains pass through.
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Map of the Rocky Mountain States
The Rocky Mountains of course don’t take up all of the seven they pass through, so here’s a map to help you visualize what the Rocky Mountains (in brown) look like as they pass from south to north through the Western United States:
You’ll notice the Rocky Mountains cut a line that starts in New Mexico and curves slightly west as it heads north through Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Then the Rocky Mountains slightly expand out through Montana and Idaho, just briefly touching on the western part of Washington State.
7 US States the Rocky Mountains Pass Through
Interestingly, the Rocky Mountains look very different in each of the 7 states they touch. Let’s take them one by one, starting with the state that is most commonly associated with the Rocky Mountains:
Did you know that Colorado is home to 78 of the 100 tallest peaks in the Rocky Mountains – including all 30 of the highest peaks?
It’s no surprise then that there is no state that is more closely associated with the Rocky Mountains than Colorado. In fact, the Rocky Mountains are one of the things that make Colorado famous.
Rusty canyons, snow-clad mountain peaks, lush green pastures, and a blue river winding through it all, justify Colorado’s nickname ‘Colorful Colorado’.
The diverse attractions of this state include the bustling towns of Boulder, the world-famous ski resorts at Aspen, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. As for the fans of historic spots, there are the Ancestral Puebloan ruins, which is a spot that’s definitely worth a visit.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to know that Colorado has the highest point among all the Mountain States. Mount Elbert stands a whooping 14,440 ft high.
The next point in line is around 600 ft less than Mount Elbert’s peak, and it lies in the State of Wyoming. Gannett Peak is 13,809 ft high, which is also quite remarkable.
Idaho is home to a wide variety of landscapes. From camping, birdwatching, nature photography, to mountain climbing, this state is an outdoors person’s dream-come-true.
Yellowstone National Park is among its many attractions, owing to its breathtaking lakes, hot springs, geysers, and rich wildlife. This spot is the oldest national park in the whole world, which gives it even more value in the eyes of naturalists.
Other vintage places in Idaho include the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Custer Ghost Town, plus a host of historical spots in Boise.
Besides the magnificent sights that you can see, there’s plenty to do in Idaho. Especially for the active folks who are always on the lookout for scenic places to enjoy their sports.
In winter, this state has the best slopes for skiing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding. While in summer, there are numerous locations for boating and some challenging whitewater rafting spots. If this is not enough, there’s always mountain biking, with terrains that vary in difficulty and characteristics.
The Eastern side of Montana has mostly spread out plains, lush meadows, and never-ending prairies. In stark contrast, the blue skies spread out on an open horizon as far as the eyes can see. That’s why the State of Montana is justifiably known as the Big Sky Country.
The Western side of Montana is totally different though, as the Rockies preside over the whole of the landscape, leaving a little space for the greyish skies.
In terms of size, Montana is one of the biggest States in the US. Much like the other Mountain States, it’s home to some of the most scenic locations in the whole country. Interestingly, it also has parts of Yellowstone National Park within its borders.
The Glacier National Park is also a destination worth visiting, with its stunning rock formations, valleys, and lakes.
❓ Trivia Time: What states are the Appalachian Mountains in? We bet you can’t guess all the states the Appalachian Mountains (and the trail) run through!
New Mexico, which lies on the Southernmost part of the Rockies, is a far cry from its lush green neighbors Colorado and Utah. This State is mostly desert and arid, but still, it boasts of some unique locations and geographic features. For example, the Rio Grande river splits it into two parts along its banks.
Canyons and ancient ruins are also abundant in this desert State, Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Because of its location and the historic events that took place in it, New Mexico is known as a hub of several cultures. There are unmistakable influences from the American, Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultures in that region.
Even though the landscape of the Southern State is mostly dry and solid, it still has some amazing cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, in addition to a host of tourist destinations. Sports are also among the attractions of New Mexico, especially rock climbing and hiking.
You can also travel parts of the now-decommissioned Route 66 through New Mexico, or visit the Four Corners Monument (New Mexico one of the four states that make up the Four Corners – do you know the others?).
Wyoming is the least populated state in the whole of the US. But rather than detracting from its importance, that actually adds to its charms. The nature in that State is barely touched by urbanization and remains almost entirely pristine. Wyoming is even one of the few states where Grizzly bears still live.
The terrain is a mashup of vast plains, open vistas, arid desert, and looming above all these, are the Rockies. The scenic parts of Wyoming are best explored on horseback, and they provide memorable camping spots. That’s pretty much how Wyoming got its nickname as the ‘Cowboy State’.
The ranches of Wyoming are among the hot tourist spots, where visitors seek rustic and authentic experiences. For a richer visit, Yellowstone National Park extends inside the lands, and there are also Grand Teton National Park and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
Despite it’s famous association with the National Park System, Wyoming actually is not the state with the most national parks.
For more trivia, see our guide to what Wyoming is known for.
Utah is a relatively small state that’s often grouped among the Southern Rockies rather than the Northern ones. Its landscapes, mountain peaks, canyons, and reefs are all fascinating. Interestingly, its history is just as amazing, if not more!
The very first transcontinental railroad became a reality in Promontory back in 1869. And at a much earlier time, the Utahraptor roamed these plains. It’s one of the largest dinosaurs ever known to humans, as it stands around 18 feet long, and looks quite a lot like Jurassic Park’s raptors.
Utah is also home to the very first KFC, which was introduced to one cafe in Salt Lake City. As it gained popularity, the unique fried chicken filled the menus of various other restaurants. From there, the food chain spread nationally and internationally.
For more interesting Utah trivia, see our article on what Utah is known for.
Of the seven states that the Rocky Mountains pass through, Washington State has the smallest portion of the Rocky Mountain range.
Washington’s Rockies are called the Columbia Mountains and are famous for dramatic mountain scenes along the Columbia River.
For more Washington trivia, see our article on what Washington state is known for.
That’s it for this guide to what states the Rocky Mountains pass through.
Before you go, let’s play a game of trivia: which states make up the Four Corners? We bet you can’t guess!