Since the late 1990s, molecular techniques have fuelled debate about the role of Pleistocene glacial cycles in structuring contemporary avian diversity in North America. The debate is still heated; however, there is widespread agreement that the Pleistocene glacial cycles forced the repeated contraction, fragmentation, and expansion of the North American biota. These demographic processes should leave genetic ‘footprints’ in modern descendants, suggesting that detailed population genetic studies of contemporary species provide the key to elucidating the impact of the late Quaternary (late Pleistocene–Holocene). We present an analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in the mountain chickadee (Poecile gambeli) in an attempt to examine the genetic evidence of the impact of the late Quaternary glacial cycles. Phylogenetic analyses reveal two strongly supported clades of P. gambeli: an Eastern Clade (Rocky Mountains and Great Basin) and a Western Clade (Sierra Nevada and Cascades). Post-glacial introgression is apparent between these two clades in the Mono Lake region of Central California. Within the Eastern Clade there is evidence of isolation-by-distance in the Rocky Mountain populations, and of limited gene flow into and around the Great Basin. Coalescent analysis of genetic variation in the Western Clade indicates that northern (Sierra Nevada/Cascades) and southern (Transverse/Peninsular Ranges) populations have been isolated and evolving independently for nearly 60 000 years.