The Highest Peaks in the United States

Mount McKinley.
Two men look at the view from Camp 3 on Mount McKinley. Alasdair Turner / Getty Images

When the United States’ Congress added Alaska as a state, the country grew cumulatively a lot taller, as the 10 highest mountains in the country are all in the largest state. The highest point in the contiguous (lower) 48 states is Mt. Whitney in California, and that one doesn’t show up in the list until No. 12.

Many of the elevations below are derived from the United States Geological Survey; differences among sources may be because listed elevations come from the point of a triangulation station or other benchmark. Denali’s elevation was surveyed most recently in 2015.

01
of 20

Denali

  • Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) Peak: 20,310 feet (6,190 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Alaska Range

The jewel of Denali National Park north of Anchorage, this peak might not be easy to get to, but you go because it’s there. In 2015, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park System, the name was changed to Denali from Mount McKinley. Back in 1916, naturalists were hoping the name of the park would be Denali National Park, but government officials went for consistency, naming it after the contemporaneous name of the mountain. 

02
of 20

Mount Saint Elias

  • Mount Saint Elias Peak: 18,008 feet (5,489 m)
  • States: Alaska and the Yukon Territory
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

The second tallest peak in the United States sits on the Alaska/Canada border and was first ascended in 1897. In a 2009 documentary, three mountaineers tell the story of their attempt to summit and then ski down the mountain.

03
of 20

Mount Foraker

  • Mount Foraker Peak: 17,400 feet (5,304 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Alaska Range

Mount Foraker is the second-highest peak in Denali National Park and was named for Senator Joseph B. Foraker. Its alternate name of Sultana means “woman” or “wife” (of Denali).

04
of 20

Mount Bona

  • Mount Bona Peak: 16,550 feet (5,044 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Wrangell Mountains

Alaska’s Mount Bona is actually the highest volcano in the United States. No need to worry about eruptions, however, as the volcano is dormant.

05
of 20

Mount Blackburn

  • Mount Blackburn Peak: 16,390 feet (4,996 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Wrangell Mountains

Dormant volcano Mount Blackburn is also in the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, the largest National Park in the United States, along with Mount Saint Elias and Mount Sanford.

06
of 20

Mount Sanford

  • Mount Sanford Peak: 16,237 feet (4,949 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Wrangell Mountains

Plumes were seen coming from dormant volcano Mount Sanford in 2010, but the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported that they likely weren’t a result of internal heat but warming of the face or rock and/or ice fall activity.

07
of 20

Mount Vancouver

  • Mount Vancouver Peak: 15,979 feet (4,870 m)
  • States: Alaska/Yukon Territory
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Straddling national parks in both Alaska and Canada, Mount Vancouver’s highest peak was first reached in 1949, but it reportedly retains one peak that hasn’t been mastered, the highest unclimbed peak in Canada.

08
of 20

Mount Fairweather

  •  Mount Fairweather Peak: 15,300 feet (4,671 m)
  • States: Alaska and British Columbia
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

The highest summit in Glacier National Park and Preserve, Mount Fairweather belies its name. It can receive more than 100 inches of precipitation per year, and its unpredictable storms make it one of the least visited peaks of its size in North America.

09
of 20

Mount Hubbard

  • Mount Hubbard Peak: 14,950 feet (4,557 m)
  • States: Alaska and the Yukon Territory
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Mount Hubbard, another peak that straddles two countries’ national parks, was named for the founder and first president of the National Geographic Society, Gardiner G. Hubbard.

10
of 20

Mount Bear

  • Mount Bear Peak: 14,831 feet (4,520 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Mount Bear lies at the head of the Anderson Glacier and was named by Alaska and Canada boundary surveyors back in 1912–13. It became the officially approved name in 1917.

11
of 20

Mount Hunter

  • Mount Hunter Peak: 14,573 feet (4,442 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Alaska Range

Rounding out the Denali family is Mount Hunter, reportedly called Begguya, or “Denali’s child,” by the native population of the area. Some in Captain James Cook’s expedition in 1906 called it “Little McKinley,” though it was also called “Mount Roosevelt,” after Theodore Roosevelt, by prospectors.

12
of 20

Mount Alverstone

  • Mount Alverstone Peak: 14,500 feet (4,420 m)
  • States: Alaska and the Yukon Territory
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Following a controversy about whether Mount Alverstone was in Canada or Alaska, the mountain was named after the boundary commissioner who cast the deciding vote that it resided in the United States.

13
of 20

Mount Whitney

  • Mount Whitney Peak: 14,494 feet (4,417 m)
  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada

Mount Whitney is the highest elevation in California and thus in the lower 48 states and is on the eastern border of Sequoia National Park.

14
of 20

University Peak

  • University Peak: 14,470 feet (4,410 m)
  • State: Alaska
  • Range: Saint Elias Mountains

This peak, near Mount Bona, was named in honor of the University of Alaska by its president. In 1955 a University of Alaska team became the first to summit this peak.

15
of 20

Mount Elbert

  • Mount Elbert Peak: 14,433 feet (4,399 m)
  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range

The Rocky Mountains range finally makes the list with the highest peak in Colorado, Mount Elbert. It was named after Samuel Elbert, a former territorial governor of Colorado, Colorado State Supreme Court Justice and a conservationist.

16
of 20

Mount Massive

  • Mount Massive Peak: 14,421 feet (4,385 m)
  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range

Mount Massive has five summits above 14,000 feet and is part of the Mount Massive Wilderness area.

17
of 20

Mount Harvard

  • Mount Harvard Peak: 14,420 feet (4,391 m)
  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Collegiate Peaks

As you might have guessed, Mount Harvard was named for the school, so done by members of the Harvard Mining School in 1869. Can you believe they were inspecting the Collegiate Peaks at the time?

18
of 20

Mount Rainier

  • Mount Rainier Peak: 14,410 feet (4,392 m)
  • State: Washington
  • Range: Cascade Range

The highest peak in the Cascades and in Washington state, Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano and among the most seismically active in the Cascades after Mount St. Helens, boasting around 20 small earthquakes a year. However, in September 2017, there were a couple dozen in just a weeks' time.

19
of 20

Mount Williamson

  • Mount Williamson Peak: 14,370 feet (4,380 m)
  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada

Even though Mount Williamson isn’t the tallest in California, it's known for having a difficult ascent.

20
of 20

La Plata Peak

  • La Plata Peak: 14,361 feet (4,377 m)
  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Collegiate Peaks

La Plata Peak, part of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area, means “silver” in Spanish, though presumably, that is just a reference to its color rather than any riches.

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Briney, Amanda. "The Highest Peaks in the United States." ThoughtCo, Mar. 16, 2018, thoughtco.com/highest-us-peaks-4157734. Briney, Amanda. (2018, March 16). The Highest Peaks in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/highest-us-peaks-4157734 Briney, Amanda. "The Highest Peaks in the United States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/highest-us-peaks-4157734 (accessed April 25, 2018).