Mountain States

Mountain States
Regional definitions vary from source to source. The states shown in dark red are always included, while the striped states are usually considered part of the same region called the Mountain States.
An enlargeable map of the Rocky Mountains of western North America.

The Mountain States (also known as the Mountain West and the Interior West) form one of the nine geographic divisions of the United States that are officially recognized by the United States Census Bureau. It is a subregion of the Western United States. The Mountain States are usually split up into two other regions known as the Northwest and Southwest. Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are considered part of the northwest, while Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah are considered part of the southwest.

The division consists of eight states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. These eight states have the highest mean elevations of all 50 U.S. states. Together with the Pacific States of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, the Mountain States constitute the broader region of the West, one of the four regions the United States Census Bureau formally recognizes (the Northeast, South and Midwest being the other three). The word "Mountain" refers to the Rocky Mountains, which run north-south throughout Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, parts of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Arizona and Nevada, as well as most other parts of Utah and New Mexico have other mountain ranges and scattered mountains located in them as well.

Mountain Time is observed in nearly the entire division, except Nevada (all but the stateline city of West Wendover) and the Idaho panhandle. Daylight saving time is not observed in Arizona, except for lands within the Navajo Nation (Northeast corner of the state) which observe daylight saving time due to the Nation traversing state lines. For this reason, most of Arizona is one hour behind the rest of the Mountain Time Zone from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.[1]

Phoenix is the largest city and metropolitan area of the Mountain States, followed by Denver and Las Vegas.


Regional Geography

The Mountain West is one of the largest and most diverse regions in the United States. Most regional boundaries of the Mountain West are often looked at as the area from the High Plains to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Cascade Mountains. Although, the southern and northern portions of the Mountain West are often split into two separate regions. The Southern portion (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada) are often called the greater Southwest region. Meanwhile, the northern portion (Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana) are often either called Northwest states or the Northern Mountain West region.[2]


The bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in Arizona.

The terrain of the Mountain West is more diverse than any other region in the United States. Its physical geography range from the highest mountain peaks in the United States, to large desert lands, and flat rolling plains in the eastern portion of the region. The mountain west states contain all of the major deserts found in North America. The Great Basin Desert is located in most all of the Nevada, Western Utah, Southern Idaho, and Southern Oregon. Wyoming also has a vast amount of desert land in the southwestern portion of their state, which is known as the Red Desert. The Mojave Desert is mainly located in California, but over half of the desert is located in southern Nevada, in the mountain west. Meanwhile, the Sonoran Desert is located in most all of Arizona and the Chihuahuan Desert is also located in most of Southwestern and Southern New Mexico.

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona also have other smaller desert lands, which are part of the Colorado Plateau desert lands. The Painted Desert is located in Northern and Northeastern Arizona, and the San Rafael Desert is also located all over Eastern Utah. New Mexico also has other desert lands located in Northern and Northwestern New Mexico. Also, Colorado has large desert lands on the Colorado plateau in Northwester, Western, and Southwestern Colorado. Colorado also has scattered desert lands in Southern Colorado, off the Colorado plateau. These desert lands in Colorado are located in and around areas such as, the Royal Gorge, Great Sand Dunes, Pueblo, San Luis Valley, Cortez, Dove Creek, Delta, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Roan Plateau, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado National Monument, and the Grand Mesa. [3] The San Luis Valley is well known as the largest high valley desert in the world.

In the far eastern portions of the Mountain West, there are the High Plains area of the Great Plains. These plains mainly consist of flat rolling land, with some Butte's and scattered forests located in these areas. Even though these plains areas are part of the Great Plains, they are not part of the same region. Reasons for this is that the High Plains receive very little rainfall and sit at high elevations usually about 3,000 feet. Many people view the High Plains as the point where you begin to enter the greater Mountain West region.[4]

The Mountain West also has some of the highest mountain peaks in America. Some of the more famous mountains in the Mountain West are Mount Elbert, Pikes Peak, Mount Evans, Longs Peak, Kings Peak, Wind River Peak, Cloud Peak, Wheeler Peak, Truchas Peak, Granite Peak, Borah Peak, and Humphreys Peak.[5]


Snow on the Great Basin Desert of Nevada.
The Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona.

The climate of the Mountain West is also one of the more diverse climates in the United States. The entire region generally features a semi-arid to arid climate, with some alpine climates in the mountains of each state. Some parts of the tall mountains can receive very large amounts of snow and rain, while other parts of the region receive very little rain and virtually no snow at all. The High Plains in the eastern portion of the region receive moderate snow falls, but virtually very little rain at all.

The states of Nevada and Arizona are generally filled with desert lands and scattered mountain ranges. Much of Nevada receives little to no snow in the southern portion of the state, while Northern Nevada can receive large amounts of snow in and around the mountains, and even in the desert lands in Nevada. Arizona generally receives little rain or snow, but high elevations in and near mountains receive extremely large amounts of rain and snow. Northern and Northeastern Arizona display characteristics of a "High Desert", where the summers are very hot and dry, while the winters can become very cold and it can snow as well.

Utah is also generally large desert lands with mountains as well. However, the desert lands in Utah receive significant snow falls in the desert lands, and also large snow falls in and around the mountains. Colorado and New Mexico have very similar climates. Both states can receive significant snow falls off the mountains, while the mountains in both states receive extremely large amounts of snow. However, southern and southwestern New Mexico generally does not receive much snow at all, similar to southern Nevada and southern Arizona. The desert lands found in northeastern Arizona, eastern Utah, northern New Mexico, western and southern Colorado are also generally referred to as the "High Desert" lands.

The Northern portion of the Mountain West tends to be a bit cooler than the southwestern areas. Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana all receive significant snow falls off the mountains and very large snow falls in the mountains as well. The High Desert also exists in the northern mountain west. Southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and southwestern Wyoming have the Great Basin Desert lands located in them, which is part of the high desert.[6]


Mount Elbert in the Sawatch Range of Colorado is the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains and the Mountain States.
The Mountain States by Population[7]

Rank State 2010 pop 2000 pop Change Capital Most populous city
1 Arizona !B9843294395740 6,392,017 !B9845492605935 5,130,632 !D0014030185248 +24.59% Phoenix Phoenix
2 Colorado !B9845692293116 5,029,196 !B9847255812065 4,301,261 !D0017764517560 +16.92% Denver Denver
3 Utah !B9851678521433 2,763,885 !B9853810677891 2,233,169 !D0014369498936 +23.77% Salt Lake City Salt Lake City
4 Nevada !B9851910336157 2,700,551 !B9854922141414 1,998,257 !D0010456784597 +35.15% Carson City Las Vegas
5 New Mexico !B9854621820823 2,059,179 !B9855861772541 1,819,046 !D0020248745303 +13.20% Santa Fe Albuquerque
6 Idaho !B9857349551372 1,567,582 !B9859267875681 1,293,953 !D0015536839786 +21.15% Boise City Boise City
7 Montana !B9861951308616 989,415 !B9862874140380 902,195 !D0023363970205 +9.67% Helena Billings
8 Wyoming !B9867578538100 563,626 !B9868901505967 493,782 !D0019558299405 +14.14% Cheyenne Cheyenne
Mountain States !B9830904763599 22,065,451 !B9832845912605 18,172,295 !D0015406780417 +21.42% Phoenix
The Mountain States by Mean Elevation[8]

Rank State Highest point Highest elevation Lowest point Lowest elevation Mean elevation Elevation span
1 Colorado Mount Elbert[9] !B9916103674900 14,440 ft
4401 m
Arikaree River at Kansas border !B9930813047809 3,317 ft
1011 m
!B9923634215640 6,800 ft
2073 m
!B9918713558043 11,123 ft
3390 m
2 Wyoming Gannett Peak[10] !B9916549958728 13,809 ft
4209 m
Belle Fourche River at South Dakota border !B9931492646973 3,099 ft
945 m
!B9923782366497 6,700 ft
2042 m
!B9919091305125 10,710 ft
3265 m
3 Utah Kings Peak[11] !B9916763187447 13,518 ft
4120 m
Beaver Dam Wash at Arizona border !B9935011156222 2,180 ft
664 m
!B9924720554050 6,100 ft
1859 m
!B9918521618056 11,338 ft
3456 m
4 New Mexico Wheeler Peak[12] !B9917026308754 13,167 ft
4013 m
Red Bluff Reservoir on Texas border !B9932358361465 2,842 ft
866 m
!B9925398780013 5,700 ft
1737 m
!B9919457765457 10,325 ft
3147 m
5 Nevada Boundary Peak[13] !B9917041769333 13,147 ft
4007 m
Colorado River at California border !B9950163988577 479 ft
146 m
!B9925755960839 5,500 ft
1676 m
!B9917412923968 12,668 ft
3861 m
6 Idaho Borah Peak[14] !B9917412667050 12,668 ft
3861 m
Snake River at Washington border !B9946228344851 710 ft
216 m
!B9926709062637 5,000 ft
1524 m
!B9917989454216 11,958 ft
3645 m
7 Arizona Humphreys Peak[15] !B9917437041495 12,637 ft
3852 m
Colorado River at Sonora border !B9969396042131 70 ft
21 m
!B9928693572024 4,100 ft
1250 m
!B9917492587763 12,567 ft
3830 m
8 Montana Granite Peak[16] !B9917303711344 12,807 ft
3904 m
Kootenai River at Idaho border !B9936925575112 1,800 ft
549 m
!B9930565687445 3,400 ft
1036 m
!B9918818346802 11,007 ft
3355 m
Mountain States Mount Elbert[9] !B9916103674900 14,440 ft
4401 m
Colorado River at Sonora border !B9969396042131 70 ft
21 m
!B9925939452226 5,400 ft
1646 m
!B9916152270473 14,370 ft
4380 m


Midtown Phoenix.
The 30 Most Populous Municipalities of the Mountain States[7]

Rank Municipality State 2010 pop 2000 pop Change
1 Phoenix Arizona !B9858159428458 1,445,632 !B9859060663519 1,321,045 !D0023611741020 +9.43%
2 Denver Colorado !B9866950517671 600,158 !B9867739326782 554,636 !D0025001163171 +8.21%
3 Las Vegas Nevada !B9867227616337 583,756 !B9869217264506 478,434 !D0015134959461 +22.01%
4 Albuquerque New Mexico !B9867898968442 545,852 !B9869860974949 448,607 !D0015289136587 +21.68%
5 Tucson Arizona !B9868381928573 520,116 !B9869045988588 486,699 !D0026785811096 +6.87%
6 Mesa Arizona !B9870076519182 439,041 !B9871098839881 396,375 !D0022289583827 +10.76%
7 Colorado Springs Colorado !B9870605335448 416,427 !B9872036715182 360,890 !D0018715237374 +15.39%
8 Aurora Colorado !B9873081795674 325,078 !B9874704209550 276,393 !D0017364527915 +17.61%
9 Henderson Nevada !B9875403360757 257,729 !B9879252839707 175,381 !D0007560065804 +46.95%
10 Chandler Arizona !B9876278918653 236,123 !B9879184650264 176,581 !D0010870977487 +33.72%
11 Glendale Arizona !B9876685245343 226,721 !B9877040318073 218,812 !D0033202115621 +3.61%
12 Reno Nevada !B9876751625786 225,221 !B9878966247527 180,480 !D0013947296611 +24.79%
13 Scottsdale Arizona !B9877105747459 217,385 !B9877804930008 202,705 !D0026252656969 +7.24%
14 North Las Vegas Nevada !B9877125271071 216,961 !B9883430780925 115,488 !D0001293738752 +87.86%
15 Gilbert Arizona !B9877525311248 208,453 !B9883945227014 109,697 !D0001050698581 +90.03%
16 Boise City Idaho !B9877659669163 205,671 !B9878676438647 185,787 !D0022346854679 +10.70%
17 Salt Lake City Utah !B9878641352495 186,440 !B9878896511197 181,743 !D0036556695941 +2.58%
18 Tempe Arizona !B9880063844597 161,719 !B9880257017949 158,625 !D0039370781738 +1.95%
19 Peoria Arizona !B9880548701297 154,065 !B9884067487904 108,364 !D0008633757510 +42.17%
20 Fort Collins Colorado !B9881225286483 143,986 !B9883160498819 118,652 !D0015440474719 +21.35%
21 Lakewood Colorado !B9881295399606 142,980 !B9881215568040 144,126 !H9951655897013 −0.80%
22 West Valley City Utah !B9882287182919 129,480 !B9884018514226 108,896 !D0016658792233 +18.90%
23 Thornton Colorado !B9883150390321 118,772 !B9886808534777 82,384 !D0008171521933 +44.17%
24 Surprise Arizona !B9883256617170 117,517 !O NA !O NA
25 Provo Utah !B9883693981717 112,488 !B9884367046668 105,166 !D0026646565394 +6.96%
26 Pueblo Colorado !B9884232081147 106,595 !B9884660863362 102,121 !D0031278755216 +4.38%
27 Arvada Colorado !B9884247290418 106,433 !B9884657730316 102,153 !D0031725186798 +4.19%
28 Westminster Colorado !B9884277307331 106,114 !B9884777184401 100,940 !D0029708801971 +5.13%
29 West Jordan Utah !B9884506268940 103,712 !B9888678080069 68,336 !D0006584030899 +51.77%
30 Centennial Colorado !B9884833116236 100,377 !O NA !O NA

Urban Areas

The evening skyline of downtown Denver with Speer Boulevard in the foreground
The skyline of Salt Lake City.
Evening comes to Tucson.
An aerial view of Colorado Springs with snow covered Pikes Peak in background.
The 31 Most Populous Core Based Statistical Areas of the Mountain States[17][7]

Rank CBSA 2010 pop 2000 pop Change
1 Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ MSA !B9847510999238 4,192,887 !B9850052573814 3,251,876 !D0012400325103 +28.94%
2 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO MSA !B9852509554336 2,543,482 !B9854055132498 2,179,240 !D0017889129892 +16.71%
3 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA !B9855160095118 1,951,269 !B9858654795019 1,375,765 !D0008715190404 +41.83%
4 Salt Lake City, UT MSA !B9860674204390 1,124,197 !B9862161266626 968,858 !D0018305082328 +16.03%
5 Tucson, AZ MSA !B9862044238180 980,263 !B9863543932195 843,746 !D0018214023524 +16.18%
6 Albuquerque, NM MSA !B9863043129330 887,077 !B9864996811244 729,649 !D0015335953857 +21.58%
7 Colorado Springs, CO MSA !B9866220444679 645,613 !B9868053457289 537,484 !D0016035740333 +20.12%
8 Boise City-Nampa, ID MSA !B9866680874576 616,561 !B9869505514606 464,840 !D0011196499524 +32.64%
9 Ogden-Clearfield, UT MSA !B9867874595949 547,184 !B9869994517763 442,656 !D0014433379665 +23.61%
10 Provo-Orem, UT MSA !B9868254047687 526,810 !B9871605991828 376,774 !D0009207702728 +39.82%
11 Reno-Sparks, NV MSA !B9870391748566 425,417 !B9872548496070 342,885 !D0014242090170 +24.07%
12 Fort Collins-Loveland, CO MSA !B9873896963408 299,630 !B9875648255886 251,494 !D0016533887944 +19.14%
13 Boulder, CO MSA !B9874067382395 294,567 !B9874945118883 269,814 !D0023887861389 +9.17%
14 Greeley, CO MSA !B9875595471712 252,825 !B9878941566131 180,926 !D0009228257514 +39.74%
15 Prescott, AZ MSA !B9877402302016 211,033 !B9879711598823 167,517 !D0013479561520 +25.98%
16 Las Cruces, NM MSA !B9877487962574 209,233 !B9879292775429 174,682 !D0016205306847 +19.78%
17 Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ MSA !B9877929977866 200,186 !B9880486131737 155,032 !D0012335526777 +29.13%
18 Yuma, AZ MSA !B9878154012776 195,751 !B9880169084189 160,026 !D0014994855782 +22.32%
19 Pueblo, CO MSA !B9880229443708 159,063 !B9881401429033 141,472 !D0020847144100 +12.43%
20 Billings, MT MSA !B9880293332823 158,050 !B9881584616739 138,904 !D0019816892305 +13.78%
21 Grand Junction, CO MSA !B9881036982656 146,723 !B9883364586667 116,255 !D0013391091017 +26.21%
22 Santa Fe, NM MSA !B9881212515621 144,170 !B9882301713087 129,292 !D0021621898004 +11.51%
23 Coeur d'Alene, ID MSA !B9881614177176 138,494 !B9884037909308 108,685 !D0012936434287 +27.43%
24 Saint George, UT MSA !B9881641580495 138,115 !B9885885094326 90,354 !D0006375258814 +52.86%
25 Flagstaff, AZ MSA !B9881912680551 134,421 !B9883358997072 116,320 !D0018603778284 +15.56%
26 Sierra Vista-Douglas, AZ μSA !B9882144096583 131,346 !B9883236385261 117,755 !D0021591983858 +11.54%
27 Idaho Falls, ID MSA !B9882218374779 130,374 !B9884704435988 101,677 !D0012650085344 +28.22%
28 Farmington, NM MSA !B9882243718662 130,044 !B9883577934120 113,801 !D0019467892622 +14.27%
29 Logan, UT-ID MSA !B9882604012206 125,442 !B9884602378810 102,720 !D0015086732217 +22.12%
30 Missoula, MT MSA !B9883981574750 109,299 !B9885299611594 95,802 !D0019598161230 +14.09%
31 Show Low, AZ μSA !B9884152284046 107,449 !B9885127000826 97,470 !D0022790617534 +10.24%
The Six Combined Statistical Areas of the Mountain States[17][7][18]

CSA 2010 pop 2000 pop Change Component CBSAs
Denver-Aurora-Boulder, CO CSA !B9850560355432 3,090,874 !B9852175132004 2,629,980 !D0017415634389 +17.52% Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO MSA
Boulder, CO MSA
Greeley, CO MSA
Las Vegas-Paradise-Pahrump, NV CSA !B9854937376280 1,995,215 !B9858421416432 1,408,250 !D0008751378849 +41.68% Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA
Pahrump, NV µSA
Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT CSA !B9856278002180 1,744,886 !B9857995849284 1,469,474 !D0016743916342 +18.74% Salt Lake City, UT MSA
Ogden-Clearfield, UT MSA
Brigham City, UT µSA
Heber, UT µSA
Reno-Sparks-Fernley, NV CSA !B9869238962911 477,397 !B9871589761846 377,386 !D0013279883563 +26.50% Reno-Sparks, NV MSA
Fernley, NV µSA
Santa Fe-Espanola, NM CSA !B9878750506457 184,416 !B9879536150017 170,482 !D0025042978226 +8.17% Santa Fe, NM MSA
Espanola, NM µSA
Clovis-Portales, NM CSA !B9888694776275 68,222 !B9889481263515 63,062 !D0025031817899 +8.18% Clovis, NM µSA
Portales, NM µSA


See also


  1. ^ Infoplease: Daylight Saving Time, A trip around the world reveals that time isn't a synchronized science
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d "The American FactFinder". 2010 United States Census. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  8. ^ See the List of U.S. states by elevation.
  9. ^ a b "Mount Elbert". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Gannett Peak Cairn". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Kings Peak Target". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Wheeler". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Boundary". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Beauty Reset". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Frisco". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Granite Peak". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "OMB Bulletin No. 10-02: Update of Statistical Area Definitions and Guidance on Their Uses". United States Office of Management and Budget. December 1, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  18. ^ The Sacramento—Arden-Arcade—Yuba City, CA-NV Combined Statistical Area includes the Gardnerville Ranchos, NV Micropolitan Statistical Area, but is located primarily in the State of California.

External links

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