Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Whether you’re from the Rockies or the Appalachians, the West Coast or the Midwest, you’ve probably pined after mountains at some point in your life. If you live far away, it’s easy to forget about these behemoths, and you live right in them, it’s easy to take them for granted. Here are some reminders of why mountains rock.
1. Mountains come in all shapes and sizes. From the rolling green hills of the Ozarks to the jagged, snowcapped peaks of the Cascades, mountain ranges can be incredibly unique.
2. They provide 60-80 percent of freshwater worldwide. Many cities, like those in the Colorado River Basin and California’s Central Valley, depend on mountain runoff for their drinking water.
3. Mountains are home to 13 percent of the world’s population. That’s almost one billion people!
4. They are hotspots of biodiversity, often home to endemic species that only live on a certain mountain. Mountains host about 25 percent of all the terrestrial biodiversity in the world.
5. They are havens for wildlife that’s threatened by human development. When lower elevations become dangerous and space becomes scarce, animals like mountain lions, brown bears, and golden eagles can thrive up high.
6. They have the coolest sports. Snowboarding, skiing, rock climbing. What’s not to love?
7. They might make you healthier. Studies have linked living at high altitudes to lower body weight and better cardiovascular health.
8. They have a major role to play in producing renewable energy. Mountains are prime locations for tapping solar and wind energy. High elevation makes it easier to harvest more solar power, and the topography of valleys and mountains makes for powerful wind corridors.
9. They’re formed by movement of the earth’s crust. When tectonic plates clash, a few different processes can make mountains. The Rockies rose up when two tectonic plates crashed, buckled, and folded, pushing rock upward. They’re still rising slowly today. The Sierra Nevada formed when faults in the Earth’s crust allowed rocks to push past each other, some of them rising up to form mountains and others dropping down to form valleys.
10. Some of them are volcanoes (but not all volcanoes are mountains). Volcanoes are formed differently from non-volcanic mountains, growing upwards as molten rock rises from below the Earth’s surface and accumulates at the top.
11. Some of them are underwater—like the mountains of the Mid-Ocean Ridge, a massive undersea system that forms the largest and longest mountain range on the planet, as well as the longest chain of volcanoes. We’ve explored less of the Mid-Ocean Ridge than Venus, Mars, or the dark side of the Moon.
12. They do weird things to the weather. Ever seen the Sierra Nevadas on a map? Notice how the west side is thick forest and the east side is desert? It’s because the warm, moist air moving up the west side of the mountains drops rain as it gets higher and cooler. Once the air passes the peaks and moves on to the east side, it’s dry. As it descends, it warms up and sucks all the moisture from the environment.
13. They have gorgeous lakes and rivers. Jumping in a cool, blue mountain lake is the best interlude for a long hike.
14. There’s nothing like a breath of fresh mountain air. It just feels so clean.
15. That feeling when you get to the summit is absolutely unbeatable.
Have we convinced you? Join us for National Summit Day on August 4!