Spanish for "snowy mountain range."
Mountain range with a lot of granite which runs down California for 400 miles. (How much granite? The Sierra Nevada batholith encompasses 16,000 sq mi (40,000 sq km)). Formed during the Mesozoic era, the granite became exposed to the surface by 70 million years ago. However, the mountains are very young-- it was only 10 million years ago that the uplift along the eastern side began (along with a concurrent down drop of the eastern area)... making the Sierras a tilted fault block gently rising from the Central Valley in the West-- but dropping severely on the Eastern side. Erosion and glaciation have exposed much of the granite, leading Sierra wanderer and protector John Muir to give the area the nickname, "The Range of Light."
Westward bound pioneers, like the Donner party found the two mile high wall an imposing barrier, the snow on top didn't help, either. (The range traps storms from the Pacific as they travel east, which creates an extensive rain shadow in Nevada, and leaves lots of snow for skiing, and snowpack for water on the mountains).
Scenery includes Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Mammoth, Mineral King, Mount Whitney. A million people a year visit the backcountry wilderness here.