Are these the youngest mountains in North America?

As a geographer, I am always on the look-out for strange and unusual facts about our world. A Ranger in the visitor center by Mono Lake threw a surprising one out at me a few weeks ago. Pointing at a series of craters extending south of Mono Lake he announced that they made up the youngest mountain range in North America — with the last eruption happening about 500 years ago.

Mono Inyo Craters -- the youngest mountains in north America?
Mono Inyo Craters — the youngest mountains in north America?

I wonder.

I realize I don’t fully understand what constitutes a mountain in America, and hence a range. Does it matter when it started to build or when it stopped? A quick check of the internet has articles from wikipedia on mega-mountains — the Appalachians, the Tetons, and such — all with justifiable claims to being the youngest.

Regardless, this chain of craters — the Mono-Inyo craters — looked fascinating from afar and I can’t wait to go back.

What do you think? Accurate claim or bogus?

4 thoughts on “Are these the youngest mountains in North America?”

  1. I know it has been a while since your original post but I stumbled upon your blog while searching for the name of the mountain range I have also seen in person. To offer an answer to your questions, a mountain is formed by tectonic and or volcanic forces. The heights and slopes that constitute a mountain are subjective but are typically above 1000 feet over surrounding area. Since this range of craters and mountains formed about 700 years ago, it would be the youngest in North America. Rockies are younger than the Appalachians but even the youngest parts of the Rockies are 40 million years old. Hope this helps if you haven’t resolved it already.

    1. My last backcountry mountain guide said that the San Juans (in Rockies) are the youngest, least eroded (steepest south face) in n America. Hence the highest avalanche records. I doubt he was considering 1000’ hills elsewhere.

  2. The youngest mountains in North America are likely to be the mountains in the areas that still active today. So,(excluding volcanic features like these craters) I’d guess the youngest mountains in North America are either in Alaska or California. My vote would go to the Transverse ranges North if Los Angeles……they have risen considerably even on a human time scale (6 feet in an earthquake in 1971 & another 1.5 feet during an earthquake in 1994) . I don’t think the Tetons come close.

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