Tallest Mountains in the Continental United States
Alaska is well-known for its marvelous mountain views, but if you step outside of the state, there are many other impressively high peaks found in mountain ranges throughout the country.
Fun Facts About the Highest Mountains in the Continental United States for Kids
- There are very few plants and animals that can live near the summits of these tall peaks. The sky pilot is a blooming plant that grows near the summit of Mount Whitney. Animals do not live at the summit, but some, such as butterflies, do pass by it.
- Mount Massive is a neighboring mounting to Mount Elbert and only 12 feet shorter. There were people who, in order to claim the tallest peak title, would create mounds of huge stones on the summit of Mount Massive to raise its height. Supporters of Mount Elbert would then go along and tear them down.
- Though third on the highest peak list Mount Massive ranks number one in the continental United States for the most area above 14,000 feet.
- Mount Harvard received its name from the very first Mining School class of Harvard College in 1869.
- During Superbowl weekend of 2014 (January 31st to February 3rd) Washington state legislature temporarily changed the name of Mount Rainier to Mount Seattle Seahawks in honor of the team’s accomplishment in reaching the championship game.
- La Plata Peak is named for all of the silver deposits found in and around the area. Plata is ‘silver’ in Spanish.
In this article, we are going to cover the 10 highest mountains in the continental United States, which includes all of the lower 48 states, but not Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories. Let’s start with number 10 on the list:
10. Crestone Peak: You can find this peak near the town of Crestone, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, a short region of the Rocky Mountain range. At its highest point, this mountain is 14,295 feet above sea level and is the seventh highest peak in all of the Rockies. This peak is a popular challenge among avid mountain climbers.
9. Uncompahgre Peak: This peak stands 14,321 feet above sea level, and is the sixth highest peak in Colorado. It is located in the San Juan Mountain Range, another range that is part of the Rocky Mountains.
Uncompahgre Peak is a volcanic mountain, meaning it was built through volcanic activity, but it is not itself a volcano. The name of this mountain, Uncompahgre, is a Ute (Native American tribe) word that means “dirty water” or “red water spring.”
8. La Plata Peak: La Plata Peak is located also located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and is the fifth highest peak in the state. It measures 14,336 feet tall and is a part of the Sawatch Range of the Rockies. In Spanish, la platameans “the silver,” and this peak was named for its many silver deposits in the area.
The nearby ghost towns of Winfield and Hamilton used to be important silver mining towns in the 1900s. The trailhead of this peak can be reached by a paved road.
7. Blanca Peak: This mountain is another one located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and measures to be 14,351 feet tall. It is sandwiched between the San Isabel National Forest to the east and the Rio Grande National Forest to the west.
Blanca Peak in the highest point in the entire drainage basin of the Rio Grande and is known to the Navajo people as Tsisnaasjinior “Sacred Mountain to the East.”
6. Mount Williamson: Mount Williamson is located in the Sierra Nevada range in California. At its highest point, it stands at 14,379 feet above sea level, making it the second highest peak in the state. With a total elevation gain of more than 8,000 feet, climbing this peak can be quite the adventure.
If you do choose to climb it, you may just get lucky enough to see a rare bighorn sheep since this mountain is located in the California Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area.
5. Mount Rainier: This mountain is located in the state of Washington in the Cascade Mountain Range. With a height of 14,411 feet, it is one of the world’s most massive volcanoes, but it is the fifth highest mountain in the continental U.S.
Though this mountain is technically a volcano, it has not erupted since the late 1800s. Because of its massive size, if it were to erupt, it would cause drastic damage to surrounding areas and potentially kill thousands of people.
4. Mount Harvard: This mountain stands 14,421 feet tall and this height makes it the third highest peak in Colorado. That’s right, this mountain is located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, but it is associated with Ivy League University in Massachusetts.
In 1869, the first members of the Harvard School of Mining climbed to the top of this peak, which they then named for their college. They also climbed the peak next to Mount Harvard, and named it Mount Yale. This mountain is usually climbed in combination with its neighbor, Mount Columbia.
Because so many of the peaks in this region were named after colleges, they are known as the Collegiate Peaks.
3. Mount Massive: This peak is the second highest in the state of Colorado, and like its name suggests, it is massive. At its highest point, this mountain measures to be 14,428 feet tall. However, there are a total of five peaks, all of which are above 14,000 feet, with a summit ridge that is more than 3 miles long!
This makes it the mountain with the greatest area above 14,000 feet in the contiguous (another word for continental) U.S. It is a part of the Sawatch Range in the middle of the state.
2. Mount Elbert: Located right next door to Mount Massive, Mount Elbert is also located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This mountain measures 14,440 feet in height, which you may have noticed is just 12 feet higher than its neighbor.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, there was a bit of an argument over whether Mount Massive or Mount Elbert was taller. When it was announced that Mount Elbert is taller, fans of Mount Massive stacked big rocks at its peak to make it taller, only to have these rocks knocked down by supporters of Mount Elbert.
1. Mount Whitney: Finally, at the peak of our highest mountains in the continental U.S. list is Mount Whitney. This peak is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of east-central California. It is 14,505 feet above sea level and highest mountain in the lower 48 states.
It lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Additionally, it is the highest point in the Great Basin Divide, and was known to Paiute Native Americans as Tumanguya, or “the very old man.”
Tallest Mountains in the Continental United States Vocabulary
- Summit: Top of a mountain; peak
- Sea level: Nominal height of the surface of the oceans
- Blooming: Opening in blossoms; flowering
- Silver: white, lustrous, metallic element, atomic number 47
- Officially: In a manner approved by authority
- Mounds: artificial elevation of earth
All About Tallest Mountains in the Continental United States Video for Kids
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Tallest Mountains in the Continental United States Q&A
Ques: Who cares how tall mountains are?
Ans: Knowing the location of the highest mountain is important to people other than scientists. The sport of high pointing is all about reaching the highest elevations of any given area, such as the fifty United States.
As of 2006 there were only 155 people who had successfully reached all of the highest elevations in each of the fifty states.
Ques: Are all of the really tall mountains always covered with snow and ice?
Ans: Yes. Even if the base of a mountain is a warm climate the peak is at such a high elevation it is cold. The air is thin at those heights too and so cold that it does not hang on to much moisture. Instead it releases that moisture as snow or sleet and instead of floating down to warmer air it gets caught on the top of the mountain and stays there.
Ques. Where is Mount Whitney located?
Ans. It is located in East–Central California in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
Ques. Mount Elbert is named after whom?
Ans. This mountain was named after a Colorado statesman, Samuel Hitt Elbert. Mr. Elbert played a major role in the history of forming the state of Colorado.
Ques. Mount Massive is located in which national forest?
Ans. Mount Massive is located in San Isabel National Forest of Colorado.
Ques. From where did Mount Harvard get its name?
Ans. It was named in honor of Harvard University because its first documented ascent was completed by a group of mining students from the university.
Ques. What are the other names of Mount Rainier?
Ans. It is also known as Tahoma or Tacoma by the local Salishan people.
Ques. Mount Williamson is a part of which national forest?
Ans. This mountain is a part of the Inyo National Forest.
Ques. Blanca Peak is located in which mountain range?
Ans. The Sangre de Cristo Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains.
Ques. Blanca Peak is located in which mountain range?
Ans. The peak is located in the Sangre de Cristo Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains.
Ques. La Plata Peak is a part of which wilderness?
Ans. This mountain is part of the wilderness area known as the Collegiate Peaks.
Ques. Which is the most popular route to climb Uncompaghre Peak?
Ans. The most popular route to the top of this mountain is the Uncompahgre National Forest Service Trail Number 239
Ques. Crestone Peak is a part of which national forest?
Ans. It is a part of Rio Grande National Forest.
Tallest Mountains in the Continental US Fact Sheet: –
|Mount Whitney||14,505 feet|
|Mount Elbert||14,440 feet|
|Mount Massive||14,428 feet|
|Mount Harvard of Colorado||14,421 feet|
|Mount Rainier||14,411 feet|
|Mount Williamson||14,379 feet|
|Blanca Peak||14,351 feet|
|La Plata Peak||14,366 feet|
|Uncompaghre Peak||14,321 feet|
|Crestone Peak||14,295 feet|
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Declan, Tobin. " The Highest Peaks in the Continental United States (US) ." Easy Science for Kids, Oct 2020. Web. 24 Oct 2020. < https://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-tallest-mountains-in-the-continental-united-states/ >.
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Tobin, Declan. (2020). The Highest Peaks in the Continental United States (US). Easy Science for Kids. Retrieved from https://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-tallest-mountains-in-the-continental-united-states/
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