A prolonged era of uplift resulted in dramatic peaks that had much of their surface materials eroded down slope into the valleys. This is still the typical topography of the region today. Some areas of the Rocky Mountain Region consist of gently rolling hills and broad valleys, but these areas are outside the norm. The constant forces of uplift and erosion have created topography in the region where steep slopes and narrow valleys are typical. Glaciation has created picturesque and dramatic peaks and u-shaped valleys, adding to the spectacular scenic nature of this region. Volcanic activity has also played a part in forming the peaks and valleys we now witness in the Rocky Mountain Region.
The Rocky Mountain Region can be further divided into several sub-regions based on the geomorphology of the mountains. These regions include the Southern Rockies, the Middle Rockies, the Northern Rockies, the Columbia Mountains and the Canadian Rockies. Each sub-region is defined by how it was formed and how it is slightly unique from the other sub-regions. For example, Southern Rockies are fond mostly in Colorado. The peaks here reach the greatest altitude of the entire mountain system. The Middle Rockies are found in Utah and feature the only significant range of mountains, the Unitas, that run from east-to west. The Northern Rockies of western Montana run in great linear ranges with broad valleys in between. The Columbia Mountains of Canada follow a similar pattern of topography as the Northern Rockies, but many of the valleys are occupied by long, narrow lakes. Finally, the Canadian Rockies are geologically different than all the other regions. They are mostly uplifted sedimentary rocks that have been glaciated. This geomorphic activity has created many spectacular mountain peaks and valleys. The Canadian Rockies is still home to many mountain top glaciers. These sub-regions help geographers to better understand the Rocky Mountain Region by classifying the differences present within the mountain system while recognizing the overarching themes of the region, namely a dramatic and varied topography and sparse human settlement.
Topography plays a key role in the climate of the Rocky Mountain Region. Vertical zonation is a greater factor in how climate affects the vegetation and settlement of the region more than latitude. Other factors such as the direction of the prevailing wind in relation to the windward or lee slope of the mountains also greatly affect climatic determinants such as seasonal precipitation and native vegetation.
The region of the Rocky Mountains is basically forest. Coniferous forest predominates but some regions are associated with other types of trees and vegetation. The Wyoming Basin of the Middle Rockies is well known for its sage, resulting in the ubiquitous imagery of the tumbleweed blowing through towns of the American West. The vertical nature of climate in the Rocky Mountain Region results in bands or zones of vegetation that change with altitude. Many of the mountains in this region extend above the tree line, resulting in barren peaks that are snow covered throughout the year. Botanists and evolutionary biologists have done much to differentiate between the flora of these roughly horizontal bands in the Rocky Mountain Region. Of recent interest is the migration upslope of certain plant and animal species as a result of