Which States Are the Farthest North, South, East, and West?

The Answers May Not Be as Clear as You Think

1903 map of Alaska
Map of Alaska and Siberia, 1903. Historical Mapps LLC / Getty Images

What is the northernmost state in the U.S.? If you say Alaska, then you would be correct. What about the state that is the farthest east? This is actually a trick question and while you might guess Maine, technically, the answer might be considered Alaska as well.

Determining which state is the farthest north, south, east, and west in the United States depends on your perspective. Are you looking at all 50 states or just the lower 48?

Are you considering the way it looks on a map or judging by the lines of latitude and longitude? Let's break it down and look at the facts from all perspectives.

The Farthest Points in the Entire United States

Are you ready for a fun trivia question to trick your friends with? It is a fascinating fact that Alaska is the state that is the farthest north, east, and west while Hawaii is the southernmost state. But, how can Alaska be in both the east and the west?

The reason that Alaska is the farthest east and west is due to the fact that the Aleutian Islands cross the 180° meridian of longitude. This places some of the islands in the Eastern Hemisphere and thus degrees east of Greenwich (and the Prime Meridian). This also means that by this definition, the point farthest to the east is right next to the point farthest to the west: literally, where east meets west.

Now, to be practical and avoid the riddle, we need to look at a map.

Without taking into account the Prime Meridian, we understand that locations to the left of the map are considered to be west of any point to its right.

This makes the question of which state is the farthest east much more obvious.

  • The easternmost state is Maine at West Quoddy Head (66º 57'W).
  • The northernmost state is Alaska at Point Barrow (71° 23'N).
  • The westernmost state is also Alaska at Cape Wrangell on Attu Island (172° 27'E).
  • The southernmost state is Hawaii at Ka Lae (18° 55'N).

The Farthest Points in the Lower 48 States

If you're only considering the 48 contiguous (lower) states, then we eliminate Alaska and Hawaii from the equation.

  • The easternmost state is Maine, marked by the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse (66º 57'W).
  • The northernmost state is Minnesota at Angle Inlet (49º 23'N).
  • The westernmost state is Washington at Cape Alava (124º 44'W).
  • The southernmost state is Florida, marked by a buoy in Key West (24º 32'N). On the U.S. mainland, it is Cape Sable ( 25º 7'N)

In this case, it may appear on the map that Maine is farther north than Minnesota. However, the Angle Inlet of northern Minnesota at 49° 23'N is north of the 49° boundary between the U.S. and Canada. This is well north of any point in Maine, no matter how the map looks.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "Which States Are the Farthest North, South, East, and West?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/states-farthest-north-south-east-west-4071599. Rosenberg, Matt. (2017, March 29). Which States Are the Farthest North, South, East, and West? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/states-farthest-north-south-east-west-4071599 Rosenberg, Matt. "Which States Are the Farthest North, South, East, and West?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/states-farthest-north-south-east-west-4071599 (accessed September 21, 2017).