The Rocky Mountains (or Rockies) are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3,000 miles (4,830 km) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. The range's highest peak is Mount Elbert located in Colorado at 14,440 feet (4,401 m) above sea level. Though part of North America's Pacific Cordillera, the Rockies are distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges (as named in Canada) or the Coast Range (as it is known in the United States) which are located directly adjacent to the Pacific coast, as well as, the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada which lie further inland from the coast.
The Rockies were formed from 80 to 55 million years ago by the Laramide orogeny. Since then, erosion by water and glaciers have sculpted the mountain range into dramatic valleys and peaks. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range. After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander MacKenzie and the Lewis and Clark expedition, started to explore the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range never became densely populated.
Currently, much of the mountain range is protected by public parks and forest lands, and is a popular tourist destination, especially for hiking, camping, mountaineering, fishing, hunting, skiing, and snowboarding.
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