Discover The Smallest Mountain Range In The World (Right Here In The United States!)

Sutter Buttes
© S. Graue/Shutterstock.com

Written by Angie Menjivar

Updated: May 31, 2023

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In California, there are several geological hazards. Seismic hazards come to mind when you think of California, considering the San Andreas fault that runs across the state. However, California is also where landslides, mineral hazards, and volcanic hazards have taken place. Extreme disasters change the landscape of the state, sometimes creating new wonders to explore. This state is home to one such wonder in the form of the smallest mountain range in the world.

San Andreas Fault

Seismic hazards come to mind when you think of California, considering the San Andreas fault that runs across the state.

©Rainer Lesniewski/Shutterstock.com

What Is A Mountain Range?

A mountain range refers to several hills or mountains that line up side by side. Each of these is connected at a higher altitude instead of dipping back down to a low elevation to start back up again. It’s almost like a line of defense, each mountain or hill locked together at the top, creating an impenetrable force. Each mountain range develops from a single cause, often an orogeny, which is when a part of the earth gets manipulated as a result of sideways compression. On average, mountain ranges are somewhere between 70 and 150 miles wide and rise up between 2.5 and three miles.

A mountain range refers to several hills or mountains that line up side by side.

©Hike395 (talk · contribs) / Creative Commons – Original / License

The Smallest Mountain Range In The World

During the Pleistocene Epoch (a little over one million years ago), there was an active volcano in central California. Today, there are only remnants of that volcano. The very center of the area where this volcano once erupted is now comprised of lava domes, which are mounds of thick lava stacked on top of one another. This geological disaster is the singular cause of Sutter Buttes, the smallest mountain range in the world. These lava domes occasionally erupt on their own and as a result, a “debris apron” forms around the mountain range. There is a moat-like lining between the outer edges and the core of the mountain range that’s made up of uncovered sedimentary rocks.

Surrounding this unusual mountain range in the Great Valley are several agricultural fields. Some fields are tomato, almonds, and sunflower — most are rice. Sutter Buttes extends only 2,000 feet above the surrounding agricultural fields and has a diameter of 10 miles. At the bottom of the mountain range is a small town called Sutter. Both the town and the mountain range were named after John Sutter, a Swiss pioneer. This area is privately owned; however, there is some public access granted by groups, such as the Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes.

Although the surrounding ranches are privately owned and access has been restricted for many years, the Middle Mountain Foundation, owners of the interior mountain tops of Sutter Buttes decided to open the space for a series of guided hikes several years ago. Today, visitors from all over the world travel out to this area in the Sacramento Valley. They experience driving tours, and guided hikes, and check out the Sutter County Museum.

Sutter Buttes

These lava domes occasionally erupt on their own and as a result, a “debris apron” forms around the mountain range.

©AlessandraRC/Shutterstock.com

Where is Sutter Butte Located On A Map?

Sutter Butte is situated near Yuba City, in the Central Valley, in the northern part of the state. California is located in the Western United States along the Pacific Coast. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the north, Arizona and Nevada to the east, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south.


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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