Top 10 Famous Mountains In California

The U.S. state of California offers a wide diversity of natural attractions. These range from majestic mountains such as the Sierra Nevada range to extremely arid regions such as Death Valley.

This in combination with sprawling cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco makes this state on the West Coast of the United States one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous mountains in California, incredible peaks that can be enjoyed by experienced climbers but which are also popular as hiking destinations due to the mesmerizing landscapes in the areas nearby.

1. Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney is not only the highest mountain in California but also the highest mountain in the entire contiguous United States. The peak reaches a height of 14,505 feet (4,421 meters) above sea level and is located in the east-central part of the state in the Sierra Nevada range.

What’s incredible is that the mountain is located just 84.6 miles (136.2 kilometers) west-northwest from the lowest point in the United States, Badwater Basin in Dead Valley National Park. The mountain is a popular tourist attraction and can be viewed from the Whitney Portal, the end of the road leading up to it.

Most famous mountains in California Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney / Geographer /

2. Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is a famous volcano in California which could potentially become active. It’s located in the southern part of the Cascade mountain range and is pretty high as well, reaching an elevation of 14,179 feet (4,322 meters) above sea level.

As you can surely tell from the image below, the volume of this mountain is enormous. It has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles (350 cubic kilometers) which makes it the most voluminous mountain in the Cascade mountain range.

Mount Shasta California
Mount Shasta / Frank Schulenburg /

3. Mount Ritter

Mount Ritter reaches an elevation of 13,149 feet (4,008 meters) which makes it the highest mountain in Madera County. The mountain is also the centerpiece of the mountain range with the same name called the Ritter Range which is a subrange of the extensive Sierra Nevada.

The mountain is surrounded by other famous peaks such as Banner Peak and the Minarets, all of which are composed of a distinctive dark type of rock. The mountain was named after Carl Ritter, a man considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern geography.

Mount Ritter
Mount Ritter / Dcjsr /

4. Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak is another active volcano and is located in the utmost southern part of the Cascade mountain range in the northern part of California. It stands 10,457 feet (3,187 meters and towers above the North Sacramento Valley.

One of the most remarkable facts about Lassen Peak is that it features the largest lava dome in the world with a volume of 0.6 cubic miles (2.5 cubic kilometers). It also has a distinctive rounded shape, the result of glacial activity that has eroded it in the past 25,000 years.

Lassen Peak Caifornia
Lassen Peak / Frank Schulenburg /

5. Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo is the centerpiece of Mount Diablo State Park and a prominent peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. It can be seen from most parts of this region as its main peak reaches an elevation of 3,849 feet (1,173 meters) above sea level.

It’s also the main mountain of the Diablo Range, one of the many subranges of the much larger Pacific Coast ranges in northern California. The state park in which the mountain is located is a popular place to hike and covers an area of 20,000 acres (8,000 hectares).

Mount Diablo Summit
Summit of Mount Diablo / Oleg Alexandrov /

6. North Palisade

North Palisade is the third-highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and stands 14,248 feet (4343 meters) above sea level. It’s the most prominent peak in a group of peaks referred to as the “Palisades Group” in the central part of the Sierra Nevada.

One of the most remarkable features of the North Palisade is that it features a great glacier at its base known as the “Palisade Glacier.” Apart from being one of the most fascinating natural landmarks in California, it’s also a popular location for rock climbers.

North Palisade California
North Palisade / Jonathan Fox /

7. Mount San Jacinto

Mount San Jacinto or San Jacinto Peak is one of the most imposing mountains in California. It’s located in Riverside County in the utmost southern part of the state and is the centerpiece of Mount San Jacinto State Park, not too far from the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.

The mountain reaches a height of 10,834 feet (3,302 meters) and the view from its summit is so amazing that famous naturalist John Muir wrote that it’s the “most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!” That is mainly because it rises an incredible 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above the valley floor below.

Mount San Jacinto California
Mount San Jacinto / Wattewyl /

8. San Gorgonio Mountain

San Gorgonio Mountain is located within the vicinity of Mount San Jacinto and is taller than its spectacular neighbor, reaching an elevation of 11,503 feet (3,506 meters). Because it’s pretty rounded it not only appears to be higher but also earned itself the nickname “Old Greyback.”

It’s the highest peak in Southern California and is one of the only peaks that features a summit significantly above the tree line. This makes the mountain a fascinating spectacle in the winter months when its snow-covered summit is visible from many miles away.

Mount San Gorgonio California
Mount San Gorgonio / Redlands /

9. Mount Williamson

Mount Williamson looks like one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, and it’s also the second-highest mountain in California after Mount Whitney. It’s significantly less high than the highest mountain range on the planet, though, reaching an elevation of 14,379 feet (4,383 meters).

It’s not too far away from its higher neighbor as well. Mount Whitney’s peak is located just 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Mount Williamson’s summit. The mountain was named after Lt. Robert Stockton Williamson, a man who was involved in the survey for the Pacific Railroad in Southern California.

Mount Williamson
Mount Williamson / Mark Gunn /

10. Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain is a lava dome that is situated in and around the town of Mammoth Lakes. It’s one of the main attractions of the Inyo National Forest which covers areas in both the Madera and Mono Counties in East-Central California.

The mountain was formed because of multiple eruptions that suddenly ended about 57,000 years ago. This doesn’t mean that the coast is clear, though, because it still produces gases that kill trees and the emitted carbon dioxide can cause casualties as well. Regardless, the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is a popular winter sports location in California.

Mammoth Mountain California
Mammoth Mountain / Ricardo Pimentel /