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Elle Ossello | 04.29.2019

On July 19, 2018, native Oregonian Colin O’Brady stood atop Mount Hood and claimed the world record for the fastest time to summit all 50 of the highest points in each U.S. state. His journey had begun on Denali in Alaska just 21 days, nine hours, and 48 minutes earlier, smashing the already impressive standing world record of 41 days.

At the outset of his mission, Colin released a video, urging us to join him in breaking this world record. "This project is an open invitation for everyone to come explore what’s in your own backyard; to celebrate public lands,” he said. “Of course we’ve got big snowy mountains out west, but the highest mountain in Florida is a 300-foot hill on the side of the road. There’s really something in this project for everyone.”

This piqued our interest, and even though Colin is taking a highly deserved moment to rest his bones, we’re inspired to put together a tick list of the best of the 50 peaks.

More so than shattering world records and earning notoriety and fame along the way, we admire Colin for reminding us that there’s big adventure in everyone’s backyard, and an epic trip need not necessarily include crampons, mountaineering skills, and a guide service. So find your home state in the list below, pack the car, and resolve to stand proudly atop your local tallest peak this weekend—even if it’s just a 300-foot jaunt in Florida.

 


The summit of Brasstown Bald (4,783 ft) at sunrise. Jesse Weber.

The Drive-Ups

Feeling like a Sunday drive? Want to check a state highpoint off your list while you’re at it? This list of casual drive-up adventures will get you within half-mile’s walking distance from the highest point in the state, and you’ll most likely be able to stop for a beer before you make it home for dinner on time.

While we’re all for the heavy-planning, big-time-training, technically fraught missions, there’s something about enjoying a simpler excursion that can’t be beat.

Georgia: Brasstown Bald

One mile round trip, 450 feet of elevation gain, and a shuttle is available to access the 4,783-foot summit.

Kansas: Mount Sunflower

Just 100 feet round trip with very little elevation gain, summit hikers can still see for miles and miles from 4,039 feet.

Massachusetts: Mount Greylock

You can park at the summit (there is very little room for RVs) and soak in views that inspired Moby Dick.

North Carolina: Mount Mitchell

Park at the summit or hike to the top for stunning views of the Pisgah National Forest at 6,684 feet.

 


Big vistas over Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. Nick Catania.

The Moderate Hikes

Tucked into the middle of those snowy West-coast expeditions and Midwest drive-ups are a number of moderate hikes, making for excellent day expeditions that feel like a normal weekend hike. The bonus: At the turnaround point, you’ll feel the immense satisfaction of having stood atop the tallest peak in the state.

One of the more notable peaks is Eagle Mountain in Minnesota, which measures in at 2,301 feet and is characterized by a sheer 1,321-foot prominence, resulting in stunning summit views. Check out the following stunners as well:

New York: Mount Marcy

At 15.4 miles round trip with 3,149 feet of elevation gain, Marcy is one of the most popular peaks on the East Coast. Its summit sits at 5,343 feet.

Oklahoma: Black Mesa

Black Mesa is 8.2 miles round trip with 700’ elevation gain in a stunning nature preserve in a remote corner of the state. The peak stands at 4,975 feet.

South Dakota: Black Elk Peak 

The tallest peak east of the Rockies rises to 7,242 feet at the end of a 10-mile round-trip hike with 2,200 feet of elevation gain.

Vermont: Mount Mansfield 

Nothing to shake your fist at, the hike to the summit rises 2,600 feet over 5.5 miles round trip for spectacular views at 4,393 feet.

Virginia: Mount Rogers 

Catch sweeping Blue Ridge Mountain vistas from 5,729 feet. The hike is 10 miles round trip with 1,900 feet of elevation gain.

 


A snowy ascent of Arizona's Humphrey's Peak offers desert canyon views, a rarity on the 50 high points. Jesse Weber.

The Challenging Climbs

Though these are not the peaks you’ll want to attempt off the couch, they’re a perfect middle ground between moderate hiking and technical mountaineering. Most are no longer than an exhausting day in length, but they require a much more considered plan and packing list—the majority tread out of cell phone service coverage and into more remote corners of the country.

If you have minimal experience with more strenuous hiking conditions, alpine terrain, or if you’re under the false assumption that ticking off a few peaks on the moderate list will adequately prepare you for the ones below, be sure to fill in potential wilderness first aid, survivalist, and wayfinding knowledge gaps before you embark.

Arizona: Humphrey’s Peak

In total, 9.6 miles round trip with 3,400 feet of elevation gain, but what other summit offers clear-day views of the Grand Canyon at 12,633 feet?

Colorado: Mount Elbert

A classic 14er, the hike up Mount Elbert is 9.5 miles round trip with 4,700 feet of elevation gain for big views of the Rockies at 14,433 feet.

Maine: Mount Katahdin

The end of the Appalachian Trail, the summit hike is 11 miles round trip with 3,700 feet of elevation gain to 5,268 feet.

Texas: Guadalupe Peak

A total 8.4 miles round trip with 3,000 feet of elevation gain, grueling switchbacks earn stunning views at 8,749 feet.

 


The summit of Mount Rainier and Russel Cliff above Camp Scherman. Daniel Sherman.

The Technical Climbs

Idaho: Borah Peak

Hold fast for 3.5 miles round trip and 5,200 feet of elevation gain for the views at 12,662 feet—just make it past Chicken Out Ridge.

New Hampshire: Mount Washington (winter ascent)

At 8.2 miles round trip with 4,300 feet of elevation gain, Washington is a classic winter ascent culminating in a 6,288-foot summit.

Oregon: Mount Hood

Oregon's landmark volcano reaches 6.8 miles round trip and 5,300 feet of elevation gain above a snowy climb to the top of a stunning 11,240 feet.

Washington: Mount Rainier

A glaciated slog, Rainier's summit requires 20 miles round trip with 10,824 feet of elevation gain—a grueling climb to supreme views at 14,411 feet.

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