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List of Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States

List of Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States: The Sixty-Seven 14ers in the Contiguous US

In the 48 continuous United States, there are 67 peaks taller than 14,000 ft. Scattered across Colorado, California, and Wyoming, they are the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states and are growing in popularity among hikers and climbers due to their small number, towering heights, and mix of challenges.

Many of these peaks, like Mount Whitney and Mount Elbert, can be hiked when the snow melts each summer. Other mountains, like Mount Rainer and Mount Shasta, require mountaineering gear and skills to safely ascend. The majority involve a mix of hiking, scrambling, or simple climbing accessible to anyone with a bit of patience and practice. This diversity adds to their mystique and the appeal to climb them all.

In this article, I’ve shared a complete list of all the tallest mountains in the contiguous United States above 14,000 feet with information on their geology, climbing difficulty, and more.





Table of Contents

About Those Alaska Fourteeners...

Denali
Denali is the tallest fourteener in the entire United States.

While there are 29 fourteeners in Alaska, they all require advanced climbing skills and special gear to survive bitter arctic cold. For example, the tallest 14er in the United States is Denali (pictured above). Its summit at 20,310 ft, one of the Seven Summits, experiences a wind chill as cold as -59 degrees Fahrenheit even in July.

Due to these extreme challenges, most of the Alaska 14ers are rarely climbed and are cost-prohibitive to all but the most committed peak-baggers. Only a few people have climbed all the 14ers in the entire United States, and the list is not a common objective for people to complete.

Instead, many focus on climbing the tallest 67 mountains in the lower 48 states, which are all a. In this article, I share a list of the 14ers in the contiguous United States, starting with the tallest (Mt Whitney) and finishing with the shortest (Sunshine Peak).

Remember to Leave No Trace Outdoors!

While the mountains appear mighty, their ecosystems are actually very fragile. Tread lightly, stay the trail, give wildlife space, and pack out your trash and waste. Leave no trace and help protect the peaks for future generations. Learn more in our complete 14er Leave No Trace guide with helpful tips and advice on this topic.

what are the classes of 14ers

What is a 14er?

There is significant debate over the number of 14ers that exist, primarily due to differences in how we define a 14er vs a sub-peak. Some use specific elevation/prominence guidelines, while others use lists based in tradition and history. Generally, the most widespread perspective applies the 300 ft prominence rule, which is what most mountain rankings use.





The 300 ft Prominence Rule

The 300-foot prominence rule, like many mountaineering criteria, evolved from the need to standardize what constitutes a distinct peak. This need arises in the context of peak bagging, where climbers aim to ascend a collection of peaks defined by certain criteria, such as elevation or geographical location. The rule is part of a broader effort to classify mountains in a way that is both meaningful and practical for climbers, geographers, and enthusiasts.

That is the standard we apply, resulting in a list of 67 peaks according to numerous sources (see our additional reading section for more links and info).

Why 300 ft?

The 300-foot prominence rule is a compromise that balances the desire to include only significant peaks with the practicalities of measuring and comparing topographic features. The choice of 300 feet (approximately 91.44 meters) is somewhat arbitrary, but it serves as a practical threshold that distinguishes major peaks from lesser ones, without being overly restrictive or too lenient.

How We Measure the Tallest Mountains: Elevation, Isolation, & Prominence

Mt Elbert is the tallest mountain in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.

Prominence is one of three metrics are helpful for understanding a mountain’s character and how it compares to others on the list or those you have visited.

Here is some background on what each of the metrics measure and how to interpret them in the list further below.

1. Elevation

The height of a point above a specific reference level, usually sea level. For mountains, it measures the height of the peak’s summit above sea level. Elevation is a fundamental metric used to compare the heights of different mountains and is often used to classify mountains (e.g., 14ers in Colorado are peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation).





2. Isolation

Refers to the distance from the summit of a mountain to the nearest point of equal elevation. It gives an idea of how “standalone” a peak is from others. A peak with a large isolation value is often the most prominent peak in its area, offering unique views and possibly being a significant navigational landmark. Isolation can highlight a mountain’s dominance in its surroundings.

3. Prominence

Measures how much a mountain stands out from its surrounding terrain. It’s defined as the elevation of the peak’s summit above the lowest contour line that encircles it and no higher summit. In simpler terms, it’s the minimum vertical drop one must descend before climbing to a higher peak.

List of the Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States (The 67 Contiguous United States 14ers)

In the table below are all 67 fourteeners in the contiguous United States with at least 300 ft of prominence. The list includes each peak’s rank, elevation, isolation, and prominence, along with the state and range where they are located.





RankPeakDifficultyElevation (ft)Isolation (mi)Prominence (ft)StateRange
1Mount WhitneyClass 114497 ft1647 mi10080 ftCASierra
2Mount ElbertClass 114433 ft670.0 mi9093 ftCOSawatch
3Mount MassiveClass 214421 ft5.1 mi1961 ftCOSawatch
4Mount HarvardClass 214420 ft15.0 mi2360 ftCOSawatch
5Mt. RainierSnow Climb14411 ft731 mi13211 ftWACascades
6Mount WilliamsonClass 314375 ft5.5 mi1678 ftCASierra
7Blanca PeakClass 214345 ft103.6 mi5326 ftCOSangre de Cristo
8La Plata PeakClass 214336 ft6.3 mi1336 ftCOSawatch
9Uncompahgre PeakClass 214309 ft85.2 mi4249 ftCOSan Juan
10Crestone PeakClass 314294 ft27.5 mi4554 ftCOSangre de Cristo
11Mount LincolnClass 214286 ft22.6 mi3866 ftCOMosquito
12Grays PeakClass 114270 ft25.0 mi2770 ftCOFront
13Mount AnteroClass 214269 ft17.8 mi2503 ftCOSawatch
14Torreys PeakClass 214267 ft0.6 mi560 ftCOFront
15Castle PeakClass 214265 ft20.9 mi2337 ftCOElk
15Quandary PeakClass 114265 ft3.2 mi1125 ftCOTenmile
17Mount Blue SkyClass 214264 ft9.8 mi2764 ftCOFront
18White Mountain PeakClass 114256 ft67.5 mi7206 ftCATrans Sierra
19Longs PeakClass 314255 ft43.7 mi2955 ftCOFront
20Mount WilsonClass 414246 ft33.0 mi4026 ftCOSan Juan
21North PalisadeClass 414242 ft39.8 mi2894 ftCASierra
22Mount ShavanoClass 214229 ft3.8 mi1619 ftCOSawatch
23Mount PrincetonClass 214197 ft5.2 mi2177 ftCOSawatch
23Mount BelfordClass 214197 ft3.3 mi1337 ftCOSawatch
23Crestone NeedleClass 314197 ft0.5 mi457 ftCOSangre de Cristo
26Mount YaleClass 214196 ft5.6 mi1896 ftCOSawatch
27Mount BrossClass 214172 ft1.1 mi312 ftCOMosquito
28Kit Carson PeakClass 314165 ft1.3 mi1025 ftCOSangre de Cristo
29Mount ShastaSnow Climb14162 ft357.1 mi9822 ftCACascades
30Maroon PeakClass 314156 ft8.1 mi2336 ftCOElk
31Tabeguache PeakClass 214155 ft0.8 mi455 ftCOSawatch
32Mount OxfordClass 214153 ft1.2 mi653 ftCOSawatch
33Mount SillClass 2/314153 ft0.6 mi413 ftCASierra
34Mount SneffelsClass 314150 ft15.7 mi3050 ftCOSan Juan
35Mount DemocratClass 214148 ft1.7 mi768 ftCOMosquito
36Capitol PeakClass 414130 ft7.5 mi1750 ftCOElk
37Liberty CapSnow Climb14112 ft1.0 mi492 ftWACascades
38Pikes PeakClass 114110 ft60.9 mi5530 ftCOFront
39Snowmass MountainClass 314092 ft2.3 mi1152 ftCOElk
40Mount RussellClass 314088 ft0.8 mi1129 ftCASierra
41Mount EolusClass 314083 ft25.2 mi2183 ftCOSan Juan
42Windom PeakClass 214082 ft1.7 mi1022 ftCOSan Juan
43Challenger PointClass 214081 ft0.2 mi301 ftCOSangre de Cristo
44Mount ColumbiaClass 214073 ft1.9 mi893 ftCOSawatch
45Missouri MountainClass 214067 ft1.3 mi847 ftCOSawatch
46Humboldt PeakClass 214064 ft1.4 mi1204 ftCOSangre de Cristo
47Mount BierstadtClass 214060 ft1.4 mi720 ftCOFront
48Sunlight PeakClass 414059 ft0.5 mi399 ftCOSan Juan
49Split MountainClass 214058 ft25.9 mi1525 ftCASierra
50Handies PeakClass 114048 ft11.2 mi1908 ftCOSan Juan
51Culebra PeakClass 214047 ft35.6 mi4827 ftCOSangre de Cristo
52Mount LindseyClass 314042 ft2.3 mi1542 ftCOSangre de Cristo
52Ellingwood PointClass 214042 ft0.5 mi342 ftCOSangre de Cristo
54Little Bear PeakClass 414037 ft1.0 mi377 ftCOSangre de Cristo
55Mount ShermanClass 214036 ft8.1 mi896 ftCOMosquito
56Redcloud PeakClass 214034 ft4.9 mi1454 ftCOSan Juan
57Mount LangleyClass 214026 ft4.8 mi1197 ftCASierra
58Pyramid PeakClass 414018 ft2.1 mi1518 ftCOElk
58Mount TyndallClass 214018 ft1.4 mi1125 ftCASierra
60Wilson PeakClass 314017 ft1.5 mi877 ftCOSan Juan
61Wetterhorn PeakClass 314015 ft2.8 mi1635 ftCOSan Juan
62San Luis PeakClass 114014 ft26.9 mi3114 ftCOSan Juan
63Middle PalisadeClass 314012 ft4.3 mi1085 ftCASierra
63Mount MuirClass 314012 ft1.0 mi331 ftCASierra
65Mount of the Holy CrossClass 214005 ft19.3 mi2105 ftCOSawatch
66Huron PeakClass 214003 ft3.2 mi1503 ftCOSawatch
67Sunshine PeakClass 214001 ft1.3 mi501 ftCOSan Juan




The Tallest Mountains of the Lower 48 States Are Hazardous!

These mountains are perilous and have claimed many lives on their slopes and summits. From avalanches and rockslides to lightning storms and blizzards, hazards are everywhere and require careful risk management to stay safe and get home in one piece. Here are some important best practices to remember if you climb any of the 14ers in the lower 48 states:

  • Pick An Appropriate Peak: Many peaks are hikes, but many require advanced gear or skill. Pick a 14er and route appropriate for your level of skill and experience.
  • Do Your Research: Look at the route map and photos in detail before you go. Check the weather and avalanche forecast in the days leading up to your trip and plan accordingly.
  • Bring the 10 Essentials: These are the key pieces of gear and equipment that help you respond to emergencies and survive an unplanned night outdoors in the mountains.
  • Make a Plan and Share It: Write down your itinerary, vehicle info, and objectives, and leave them with a trusted contact back home with a planned time to check back in with them.
  • Know Your Limits: If you are running behind, exceeding your comfort level or abilities, respect the mountains and turn back. The mountains will be there to climb another day.
  • Bring a Partner (or Guide): Going alone significantly increases your level of risk. Bring 1-2 partners when possible or consider hiring a guide for technical and high-risk terrain.
  • Consider Altitude Sickness: Take time to acclimatize before your climb and reduce your risk of AMS, especially if you are coming from low elevation or sea level. Know the symptoms and descend if they appear and get worse.

 

Learn more about the mountains and how to get home alive with our comprehensive mountain safety guide. You can also purchase a COSAR Card to support volunteer search and rescue teams around the state.

NOTE: The climbing class ratings for California 14ers are considered to under-rate difficulty compared to Colorado ratings. For example, a class 3 California fourteener should be considered more like an easy class 4 Colorado fourteener. Keep this mind when making comparisons and selecting peaks and routes.

Which 14ers Are Best for Beginners?

Mt Sherman in Colorado is a great option for beginners.

If you are new to peak bagging and want to tackle one of these 14ers, you have a lot of excellent options to choose from. However, there are also a lot of difficult and dangerous peaks you want to avoid until you have more experience and skill. 

Here are recommendations on which of the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states are best to climb, based on your location.

Easy Colorado 14ers

The best 14ers for beginners are all in Colorado, where your options include Mt Bierstadt, Grays Peak, and Torreys Peak near Denver, Handies Peak in the San Juans, Quandary Peak and Mount Sherman near Breckenridge, and Mount Elbert near Vail.





Easy California 14ers

In California, the easiest 14er is White Mountain Peak. The 15-mile route is long but is a hike along a well-maintained road leading to the summit.

Easy Washington 14ers

Those in Washington only have Mount Rainier and Liberty Cap, which are only recommended for experienced mountaineers with technical skills, gear, and experience. Your best option is to visit California or Colorado to get started.

How to Climb Your First Fourteener

To learn what you need to know for your first fourteener, check out my ultimate beginner’s guide. It has everything you need to learn, from picking a peak to packing, wilderness survival, Leave No Trace tips, and more. 

Check it out here and start planning your next summit.

How did the 14ers in the lower 48 states form?

The geology of the 14ers in the lower 48 states of the United States is as diverse as the landscapes in which they are found. These mountains are part of various geological provinces, including the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Cascade Range, each with unique geological histories and formations. 

Understanding the geology of these areas provides insight into the natural forces that have shaped the Earth’s surface over millions of years.

Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains, home to the majority of the 14ers in the lower 48, are a major mountain range stretching from the northernmost part of British Columbia in Canada to New Mexico in the southwestern United States. This range was formed primarily during the Laramide orogeny, a period of mountain building that took place from the late Cretaceous to the early Paleogene (approximately 80 to 55 million years ago).

During this time, the western part of the North American plate was subjected to compressional forces, causing the crust to thicken and form the high peaks and deep valleys characteristic of the Rockies. 

The mountains are composed of a variety of rock types, including sedimentary rocks (such as limestone and sandstone), igneous rocks (such as granite), and metamorphic rocks (such as gneiss and schist).





Sierra Nevada

Mt Whitney route guide

The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Western United States, located mostly in the state of California. This range is known for Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. The Sierra Nevada was formed during the Mesozoic Era, with much of its uplift occurring during the Cenozoic due to the subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American plate.

The range is dominated by granitic rocks formed from the cooling of magma deep within the Earth’s crust, a result of this subduction. The spectacular Yosemite Valley, for example, was carved into the range’s granitic heart by glacial action.

Cascade Range

The Cascade Range, extending from northern California to British Columbia, is a volcanic mountain range. It is part of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire and is known for its active and dormant stratovolcanoes, including Mount Rainier, the most topographically prominent peak in the lower 48.

The Cascades have been forming over the last 37 million years, with most of the major volcanoes less than 2 million years old. Volcanic activity is the result of the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath the North American plate. The range’s volcanic peaks, such as Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Rainier, are composed of andesite and dacite.





FAQS: Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States

If your questions isn’t addressed below, leave a comment below and we will get you an answer as soon as we can.

Q: Which state in the U.S. has the most 14ers?

A: Colorado has the most 14ers in the United States, with 58 peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation, according to the Colorado Geological Survey. This makes Colorado a premier destination for high-altitude mountaineering in the lower 48 states.

A: The 10 highest mountains in the lower 48 are all located in the Western United States, specifically in California, Washington, and Colorado. These include:

  1. Mt. Whitney – CA
  2. Mt. Elbert – CO
  3. Mt. Massive – CO
  4. Mt. Harvard – CO
  5. Mt. Rainier – WA
  6. Mount Williamson – CA
  7. Blanca Peak – CO
  8. La Plata Peak – CO
  9. Uncompahgre Peak – CO
  10. Crestone Peak – CO

A: Mount Blue Sky and Pikes Peak are the only Colorado 14ers where you can drive all the way to the summit, thanks to the Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway and the Pikes Peak Highway, respectively. These roads provide access to the summits for those who prefer not to or cannot hike. Pikes Peak is open year-round (weather permitting) while Mt Blue Sky’s road closes each fall through Memorial Day.

A: There are several 14ers that are potentially the most dangerous. One is Capitol Peak in Colorado, due to its notorious Knife Edge ridge and rotten, loose rock. Other contenders include Mount Rainier, due to its glaciers and the need for crampons and mountaineering skills, and Little Bear Peak, which has a dangerous couloir prone to freezing and rockfall.

A: The highest 14er in the continental United States is Mount Whitney in California, standing at 14,505 feet. It is also the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

A: The easiest 14er in California is often considered to be White Mountain Peak. Despite being over 14,000 ft tall, its most popular route follows an 8-mile, well-maintained road that nearly reaches the summit, making it accessible to fit hikers with proper preparation.

A: The easiest 14er in Colorado is often considered to be either Mt Bierstadt, Quandary Peak, Mt Sherman, or Handies Peak. Their standard routes are relatively short and have a gentle elevation gain, making them a popular choice for first-time 14er climbers.

A: There are 96 fourteeners in the United States if using the 300 ft prominence rule to define them. This includes the 67 tallest mountains in the lower 48 states, along with another 29 fourteeners in Alaska.

Additional Reading:





List of the Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States: Now You Know!

As you can see, the 67 tallest peaks in the continental United States are wonderfully varied. While they are all 14ers (taller than 14,000 ft) their similarities largely end there. Some are technical mountaineering ascents while others have roads to their summits. Many were formed through plate tectonics, while a few are volcanic in origin. The ecology, fauna and flora of the peaks share some similarities, with hundreds of unique species and processes found only on one peak or in one range.

This variability is one reason people remain attracted to the 14ers and the many different experiences you can expect while climbing them. If you decide to summit one, remember to take the risk seriously and Leave No Trace during your climb. Safe travels on the trails!

List of Tallest Mountains in the Lower 48 States: The Sixty-Seven 14ers in the Contiguous US




Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.





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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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