In the Pacific Northwest of the US, in between Washington and California, the state of Oregon encompasses a diverse mix of landscapes and topographies. The ninth largest state, its borders hold within them both desert and rainforest. While almost its entire eastern half is part of the Columbia Plateau, the state is also a place of gargantuan drops, including North America’s deepest river gorge and America’s deepest lake.
Balancing out these impressive lows are the highs of Oregon’s mountains. Several ranges are scattered around the state, the Coast, Klamath and Wallowa Mountains among them. As for the highest mountains in Oregon, these are found in the western Cascade Range. And that’s where we’ll begin our exploration of the 33rd state’s tallest peaks.
The Cascade Mountains are spread over more than 700 miles from northern California to southern British Columbia in Canada. With many peaks exceeding 10,000 feet, the tallest of the range is Washington’s Mount Rainier at 14,410 feet. The fourth highest peak of the Cascades is Mount Hood. And, at around 11,239 feet, this is the highest mountain in Oregon.
A segment of the Cascades is known as the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a reference to the fact that many of its mountains are volcanic. And, with its vast snowy white cone looming high above its surroundings, Mount Hood is indeed a volcano. Specifically, it’s a composite or stratovolcano, and one covered in no fewer than twelve glaciers and snowfields. Having last significantly erupted in 1865, it is formally active, although many informally consider it dormant. Located approximately 50 miles southeast of Portland, it’s set within Mount Hood National Forest and is named after a British Admiral.
Second of Oregon’s highest mountains is another stratovolcano of the Cascades, Mount Jefferson. Some 290,000 years in the making, it reaches around 10,495 feet in elevation and, like Mount Hood, is covered in several glaciers. On 30 March 1806, the famous explorers Lewis and Clark spotted the mountain and named it after the 3rd President of the United States.
The list of the top five biggest mountains of Oregon is rounded off by a trio known as the Three Sisters. These three volcanoes are all part of the Cascades and were formed sometime towards the end of the Pleistocene Epoch atop earlier volcanoes. These factors, together with their close proximity, has grouped the sisters together. They’re even located within the Three Sisters Wilderness, a UNESCO Biosphere. Nevertheless, they are entirely separate entities with their own histories.
The tallest sister is a stratovolcano, and the third of the tallest mountains in Oregon, rising to around 10,363 feet. When early settlers named each of the trio, they called it Charity, although it’s now known as the South Sister.
The oldest “sibling” is North Sister, a shield volcano that early settlers named Faith. Fourth among the tallest mountains in Oregon, it rises to some 10,090 feet.
The Middle Sister or “Hope,” is a stratovolcano and, at 10,052 feet high, reaches number five on the list of the highest mountains in Oregon.
More of Oregon's Highest Mountains
The sixth and seventh tallest mountains in Oregon are located beyond the Cascades. Sacajawea Peak is the tallest of the Wallowa Mountains in the northeast of the state, reaching 9,843 feet. Meanwhile Steens Mountain isn’t even part of a range. It’s a 30-mile-long mountain in southeastern Harney County, where it rises to an elevation of 9,773 feet.
The Biggest Mountains of Oregon
As we’ve seen Oregon’s highest mountains are part of a powerful volcanic arc. More than this, they form tremendous highs to compliment a landscape that also includes staggering lows.