The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin. The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California, although the Carson Range spur lies primarily in Nevada. The Sierra Nevada is part of the American Cordillera, an almost continuous chain of mountain ranges that forms the western "backbone" of the Americas.
The Sierra runs 400 miles north-south and is approximately 70 miles across east-west. Notable Sierra features include General Sherman, the largest tree in the world by volume; Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America; Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft, the highest point in the contiguous United States; and Yosemite Valley sculpted by glaciers from one-hundred-million-year-old granite, containing high waterfalls. The Sierra is home to three national parks, twenty wilderness areas, and two national monuments. These areas include Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks; and Devils Postpile National Monument.
More than one hundred million years ago during the Nevadan orogeny, granite formed deep underground.