The Whipple and South mountains of the southwestern United States have undergone a strikingly similar sequence of deformations. In both ranges, gently dipping mylonitic fabrics have been overprinted by successively more brittle structures associated with a low-angle detachment fault. Kinematic indicators reveal that the mylonitic rocks, brittle structures, and detachment faults are kinematically coordinated and were all formed by top-to-the-northeast shear. The structural evolution of both areas can be explained in terms of major, shallow-dipping shear zones that accommodated Tertiary crustal extension. We suggest that detachment faults and associated zones of brecciation, cataclasis, and seismic slip were originally continuous downdip along the low-angle shear zones into mylonitic gneisses formed below or near the ductile-brittle transition. As the mylonites were drawn out from beneath the brittlely extending upper plate, they were progressively uplifted above the ductile-brittle transition and were overprinted by successively more brittle structures.