Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mountains: Rockies vs Cascades

I love mountains.  I plan to hike "my" mountain next year.  Actually, I planned to hike it this year, but then I went to Oregon instead.

"My" mountain is Mount Timpanogos.  This is my view from the front yard:

Mount Timpanogos
And from the "back" (east) side of the mountain, on a very popular canyon road, taken in the fall:
East view of Mount Timpanogos from Alpine Loop
Elevation 11,749 ft
Prominence 5,269 ft
2nd Tallest peak in the Wasatch range after King's Peak, but the most popular one to climb.
Right in my back yard (yup, pretty much literally)
Timp's highest point
Big Baldy is the hill in the foreground left- looks so big because it's much closer.
Big baldy is 8,756 ft

I love the mountains and canyons of Utah County and I explore them often.  See this older post if you want to see labeled pictures of the canyons.

Geology of the Wasatch Mountains
The mountains are made of sedimentary rock mostly, including a great deal of limestone, which was formed when Utah was mostly a shallow inland sea.  Limestone is mostly calcium carbonate which is the substance in shells and other parts of sea organisms.
Take a look at those layers!  This was a rainy day and I've never seen the layers on Timp look so prominent

Continued dropping of the valley floor with the regular Wasatch Fault created this mountain range from the lithified marine deposits.


The cascades are incredible mountains that are really volcanoes.  There are a number of awesome peaks in this range that extends from northern California into Canada, but here are some of those I saw in Oregon.

Mount Washington is a deeply eroded shield volcano, the main peak is a volcanic plug. Elevation 7,794 ft, prominence 2,554 ft.

Mount Washington - elevation 7,794 ft

Belknap Crater (6,877 ft) on left, Mount Washington on right

Three Sisters
Three Sisters (l to r) - Charity, Hope, Faith
North Sister "Faith" - elevation 10,085 ft, prominence 2,725 ft
  • Oldest and most eroded of the 3
  • Shield volcano
  • Last erupted over 100,000 years ago
  • Considered extinct
Middle Sister "Hope" - elevation 10,047 ft, prominence 1,127 ft
  • Stratovolcano
  • Last erupted 50,000 years ago
  • Considered extinct
 South Sister "Charity" - elevation 10,358 ft, prominence 5,598 ft
  • Youngest and tallest of the 3
  • Stratovolcano atop a shield volcano
  • Last erupted 2,000 years ago
  • Has a summit crater holding a small lake called Teardrop Pool - highest lake in Oregon

3 Sisters with Broken Top to the left
Broken Top is an eroded, extinct stratovolcano- elevation 9,177 ft, prominence 2,175 ft.

The beautiful Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake's elevation (of the surface of the water) is 6,178 ft
Lake depth is 1,148 ft - deepest lake in the US
Wizard Island is a cinder cone at elevation 6,932 ft
Wizard Island cinder cone in Crater Lake
Mount Scott is the highest peak at Crater Lake at elevation 8,926 ft.  It has what looks like its own crater, but this is actually a glacier-cut cirque.

Mount Scott, highest peak around Crater Lake

Geology of the Cascade Mountains
This awesome mountain range is formed by plate tectonics!  As the Juan de Fuca plate dives under the North American plate, that crust is destroyed by the heat of the inner layers of the earth.  That molten rock (magma), comes up to the surface creating a line of volcanoes parallel to the coast.
 The melting on the right where it rises to the surface is how the Cascades ^^ were formed

Plate tectonics of the cascades


  1. did you enjoy your trip to the Cascade Range? My Geology professor is planning a trip out there this July. Is Northern Cali/ Oregon/ Washington worth paying >1000 dollars to see?

    Specifically Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake, Mt Ranier, Mt St Helens etc


    My plan B is a road trip with a couple buddies to Colorado and Utah to visit many national parks including Rocky Mountain, Gunnison, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion.

  2. I would never turn down a trip with a Geologist in tow to teach me all about what I'm seeing. Wish I'd had that in Oregon. I'd say it's totally worth it! In fact, I'm jealous, that sounds like a killer trip. Your plan B also sounds fantastic, I love Utah's National Parks and they are very worth the trip as well. All fantastic places to enjoy the beauty of the earth and learn lots of geology! Have fun with whatever you choose.

  3. I love the Cascade Range! My all-time favorite volcanoes her, in terms of scenic beauty, are in this order:
    1. Mount Rainier (14,411 ft) in WA
    2. Mount Adams (12,276 ft) in WA
    3. Mount Baker (~10,200 ft) in WA
    4. Glacier Peak (~10,000 ft) also in WA
    5. Mt Jefferson (~10,200 ft) in OR, and lastly
    6. Mt Shasta (~14,200 ft) In CA

    I would have to say that Hwy 20 (North Cascades Highway) in northern Washington's North Cascades National Park is by far the most scenic road in all of Oregon and Washington. The North Cascades are known as "America's Alps," and for good reason. The highway traverses below towering, granite peaks soaring over 7,000 feet, over deep, glacial canyons. Hundreds of icy, crackling glaciers descend from the numerous rugged peaks that line this area of the Cascades. You pass by two large and beautiful glacial lakes, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake, as well. They provide a dramatic backdrop for the mountains rising immediately from the lakeshores. The highway reaches it's scenic climax at Washington Pass, where the road descends the mountainside in a large switchback. East of the pass, the Cascades dramatically change into a drier, east side climate.

    One day I plan on visiting the grand Rockies! Maybe next year, on a HUGE trip south from Portland (my home) to the Sierras in CA, east to the Grand Canyon and surrounding area, northeast to the Colorado and Utah Rockies, north to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier NPs, north into the Canadian Rockies up to Banff and Jasper NPs, west over the Canadian Coast Ranges over to Vancouver, BC, and back to Happy Valley (Portland area).