The Highest 11 Mountains in the United States

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When it comes to mountains, no other state contains as many of the highest peaks as Alaska. Due to their remote setting in the Last Frontier, some of these mountains are rarely visited but maintain their daunting status as iconic features of the landscape.

Of the top 11 highest mountains in the United States, 10 are located in Alaska and the last, Mount Whitney, is part of the Sierra Nevada range in California. 

Read on for more information about the highest 11 mountains in the United States.

1. Denali- Alaska – The Highest Mountain in the United States

Denali seen from backcountry Unit 13 on June 14, 2019. Photo: NPS / Emily Mesner
Denali seen from backcountry Unit 13 on June 14, 2019. Photo: NPS / Emily Mesner, public domain.

Rising 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) , Denali is the United States’ highest mountain. Denali is also the highest mountain in North America and is the third highest mountain of the Seven Summits (a hiking term for the tallest mountain on each continent) after Mount Everest and Aconcagua.

Located in the Alaska Range, Denali and the mountains around it were formed from dramatic tectonic activity that continues to increase the mountain’s elevation little by little every year.

A view of Denali from Wonder Lake. Photo: NPS, public domain.
A view of Denali from Wonder Lake. Photo: NPS, public domain.

Denali is the Koyukon Athabaskan word meaning ‘the tall one,’ and the mountain holds great significance for indigenous Alaskans who have resided around it since time immemorial.

Additionally, Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the most visited locations in Alaska, bringing tourists in from around the world during the summer months. Many animals including wolves, moose, caribou, black bear and grizzly bear can be seen from the park’s singular road. 

Caribou in Denali National Park.  Photo: NPS / Daniel Leifheit
Caribou in Denali National Park. Photo: NPS / Daniel Leifheit

2. Mount Saint Elias – Alaska Yukon

Mount Saint Elias straddles the Alaska/Canadian border in the Saint Elias Mountain Range in northern southeast Alaska. At 18,009 feet (5,489 meters), it is the second highest mountain in the United States and in Canada behind Mount Logan.

A snow-covered Mt. St. Elias towers over the Icy Bay. Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service
A snow-covered Mt. St. Elias towers over the Icy Bay. Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service

Mount Saint Elias, on the US side is part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest National Park in the United States. Nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States are found in this National Park.

This mountain range is located near Glacier Bay, which has a high density of glaciers and icefields as well as tectonic and volcanic activity that has helped make this mountain range popular for modern and past exploration.

St Elias Mountains, Agassiz Lakes, Libby Glacier and Agassiz Glacier Confluence.  Photo: NPS / J. Frank, public domain.
St Elias Mountains, Agassiz Lakes, Libby Glacier and Agassiz Glacier Confluence. Photo: NPS / J. Frank, public domain.

Mount Saint Elias is called Yasʼéitʼaa Shaa or Shaa Tlein by the indigenous Yakutat Tlingit people who have lived in the area for thousands of years. Mount Saint Elias saw its first recorded summit in 1897 by an Italian expedition. 

3. Mount Foraker – Alaska

On a clear day, Mount Foraker can be seen in tandem with Denali in the Alaska Range.

Mount Foraker is the third highest peak in the United States with an elevation of 17,400 feet (5304 meters).

View down the Kahiltna Glacier, witih Mount Crosson and Mount Foraker to the right. In the center of the image is the confluence of the main Kahiltna and the Northeast Fork, which is the more crevassed leg on the bottom left. NPS Photo/Tucker Chenoweth, public domain.
View down the Kahiltna Glacier, witih Mount Crosson and Mount Foraker to the right. In the center of the image is the confluence of the main Kahiltna and the Northeast Fork, which is the more crevassed leg on the bottom left. Photo: NPS /Tucker Chenoweth, public domain.

The indigenous Dena’ina names for Mount Foraker are Sultana, meaning ‘the woman,’ or Menlale, meaning ‘Denali’s wife’ due to its close proximity to Denali.

The first recorded successful summiting of the north and south peaks occurred in 1934. The mountain is located on a fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, the longest glacier in the Alaska Range, across from Denali and Mount Hunter. 

4. Mount Bona – Alaska

Mount Bona is a dormant stratovolcano located in the Saint Elias Mountains in eastern Alaska

At 16,550 feet (5,040 meters), Mount Bona is the highest volcano in the United States as well as the fourth highest mountain in the US. Mount Bona is also the fifth-highest independent peak in the United States.

Mount Bona, Alaska.  Photo: Nwchica85, public domain via MediaWiki Commons.
Mount Bona, Alaska. Photo: Nwchica85, public domain via MediaWiki Commons.

Covered by glaciers and ice fields, the Klutlan Glacier flows into the Yukon Territory of Canada and is an important contributor to the Russell Glacier complex.

5. Mount Blackburn – Alaska

Mount Blackburn is an old, eroded shield volcano that tops out at 16,390 feet (4996 meters). Located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, it is the second highest volcano in the United States as well as the fifth highest mountain in the country.

Nabesna Glacier in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve with Mt. Blackburn in the background. Photo: NPS/Bev Goad, public domain.
Nabesna Glacier in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve with Mt. Blackburn in the background. Photo: NPS/Bev Goad, public domain.

Mount Blackburn is the main source of ice that flows into the Kennicott Glacier, which is a draw for visitors seeking out the mining ghost town of Kennecott and the jumping off point of McCarthy. The mountain also contributes ice to the Nabesna Glacier and the Kuskulana Glacier.

6. Mount Sanford – Alaska

Mount Sanford is another dormant shield volcano in the Wrangell Mountains. At 16,237 feet 4,949 meters) high, Mount Sanford is the third highest volcano in the United States.

The ice that comes from the mountain contributes to the aptly named Sanford Glacier.

View, looking southeast, of 4,949-m (16,237 ft)-high Mount Sanford (left) and 4,317-m (14,163 ft)-high Mount Wrangell (right) on the skyline. Photograph by D. Richter, U.S. Geological Survey, August 1981, public domain.
View, looking southeast, of 4,949-m (16,237 ft)-high Mount Sanford (left) and 4,317-m (14,163 ft)-high Mount Wrangell (right) on the skyline. Photograph by D. Richter, U.S. Geological Survey, August 1981, public domain.

The volcano hasn’t been active since before the historical record began in the 1700s; however, vapor, rock and ice fall from near the summit often look like smoke or ash rising from the summit. The first recorded ascent of the mountain occurred in 1938, and mountaineers continue to make Mount Sanford a go-to mountain for expeditions. 

7. Mount Fairweather – Alaska, British Columbia

Glacier Bay is one of the most popular tourist locations in Alaska, drawing millions of visitors each year to view the tidewater glaciers, wildlife, and remote beauty of this part of the world.

Mt. Fairweather.  Photo: NPS, public domain.
Mt. Fairweather. Photo: NPS, public domain.

For thousands of years, indigenous Alaskans have lived at the foot of these mountains and glaciers. In the Tlingit language, Mount Fairweather is called Tsalxhaan or Tanaku, and the mountains between it and Mount Saint Elias are known as Tsalxhaan Yatx’i, or the Children of Tsalxhaan.

Mount Fairweather clocks in at 15,325 feet (4671 meters) and lies in Glacier Bay and the City and Borough of Yakutat in Alaska, and British Columbia in Canada. 

8. Mount Hubbard – Alaska, Yukon Territory

Mount Hubbard is located in the Saint Elias Range and straddles the border of Alaska and the Yukon.

Rising 14,951 feet (4557 meters), Mount Hubbard was named in 1890 after Gardiner Hubbard, the first president of the National Geographic Society who sponsored the Russell Expedition to its flanks.

A view of Mount Hubbard.  Photo: NPS
A view of Mount Hubbard. Photo: NPS

Mount Hubbard has three summits; the other two named summits are Mount Alverstone and Mount Kennedy.

9. Mount Bear – Alaska

Mount Bear is 14,831 feet (4520 meters) tall and is located in the Wrangell-Saint Elias Mountains in Alaska, just four rugged miles away from the Canadian border.

View of Mount Bear from an airplane.  Photo: Mebbing, MediaWiki, public domain.
View of Mount Bear from an airplane. Photo: Mebbing, MediaWiki, public domain.

Mount Bear contributes ice to the Barnard Glacier and the Klutlan Glacier complexes. Mount Bear is a little-climbed peak often overlooked for mountaineering expeditions because of the nearby Mount Logan, Mount Bona, and Mount Lucania. 

10. Mount Hunter – Alaska

 Mount Hunter is a 14,573 foot peak within Denali National Park. Located about eight miles away from Denali, Mount Hunter was named Begguya by the Dena’ina people. Begguya means ‘child of Denali.’

West Ridge of Mount Hunter, NPS Photo/Dan Corn.
West Ridge of Mount Hunter, NPS Photo/Dan Corn.

Mount Hunter has a North Summit, which is considered the main summit, and a South Summit known as Mount Stevens after a former Alaska state senator. The first recorded ascent of Mount Hunter happened in 1954. 

11. Mount Whitney – California

Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the United States that isn’t located in Alaska.

Mount Whitney from space.  Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-17326 was acquired on December 19, 2016, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.
Mount Whitney from space. Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-17326 was acquired on December 19, 2016, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.

At 14,505 feet (4,421 meters), Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental United States and is a much sought after hike for day hikers as well as backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mount Whitney is known as Too-man-i-goo-yah in the indigenous Paiute language. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Mount Whitney is along the border of Sequoia National Park and the John Muir Trail. 

References

Alaska Collection. Mount Hunter: Steep and Serious. Retrieved from https://www.alaskacollection.com/denali-national-park-interior/stories/mount-hunter-steep-and-serious/#

Alaska Volcano Observatory. Mount Sanford Description and Information. Retrieved from https://avo.alaska.edu/volcanoes/volcinfo.php?volcname=Sanford

Glaciers of Alaska. USGS. Retrieved from https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/p1386k/pdf/05_1386K_stelias.pdf

National Park Service. Mount Fairweather. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/glba/learn/historyculture/fairweather.htm

Roadtrippers. Mount Hubbard, Alaska. Retrieved from https://maps.roadtrippers.com/us/ak/nature/mount-hubbard-ak

Saint Elias Alpine Guides. Mt. Bear Expedition Itinerary. Retrieved from https://www.steliasguides.com/trips/mt-bear-expedition/itinerary/

Summit Post. Mount Foraker. Retrieved from https://www.summitpost.org/mount-foraker/150636

Summit Post. Mount Whitney. Retrieved from https://www.summitpost.org/mount-whitney/150227

Wikipedia. List of the Highest Major Summits of the United States. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_highest_major_summits_of_the_United_States

Wikipedia. Mount Saint Elias. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Saint_Elias

Zimmerman, Kim Ann. Denali: Facts About North America’s Tallest Mountain. 16 May 2017. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/40595-denali-mount-mckinley.html

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