Take On The High Point Challenge: Why You Should Hike The Highest Mountain In All 50 States

Get a bird's eye view of America.

By: Alex Anderson

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Add the thrill of the 50 high point challenge to your bucket list of life long goals and you won't be disappointed. America offers a vast array of thrilling summit hikes at high and low altitudes. Mt. Washington, at only 6,288 feet, the highest point in New Hampshire, once held the highest recorded wind speed ever observed by man at 231 MPH! If you try to take on Washington's Mt. Rainier, you will be hiking on an active volcano just 150 miles from the infamous Mt. Saint Helens. Other states highest “peaks" are literally in the middle of suburban neighborhoods, such as Delaware’s Ebright Azimuth standing tall at just 448 feet. The 50 high point challenge offers a wide range of intensity from a thrill comparable to a Himalayan expedition to the ease of a stroll in a park. Take some pride in our great country and explore these fun adventures in your own backyard. You’ll be surprised to learn how many states' high points are located on famous trails like the Appalachian Trail, while others will take you off the beaten path to unique places away from the crowds. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should climb to the highest point in all 50 states!

Hike to the Summit of Mt. Whitney | Photo: Gregg Boydston

1. Another Excuse to Get Outside

Of course the number one reason to start "highpointing" is to give all of us another excuse to get outside, find adventure, breath fresh mountain air and travel this great country from sea to shining sea. When you start highpointing you will scratch that outdoor itch every time. Not only will you get a great hike under your belt, but the outdoor adventures surrounding each high point range from kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, camping and the list goes on and on! Each high point offers different wildlife, such as the herd of Bighorn Sheep on New Mexico's Mt. Wheeler or the wild Grayson Highlands Ponies on Virginia's Mt. Rogers. National parks and landmarks are also near high points, such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park just 90 miles away from Texas's Guadalupe Peak or Mount Rushmore only 30 miles from South Dakota's Harney Peak.

Hike to the Summit of Mt. Whitney | Photo: Christin Healey

2. Opportunities for Everyone

The second reason is to spend more time with family and friends on trips that you can enjoy with anyone! No matter what age, gender, or disability, highpointing can be enjoyed by everyone. Since there are 50 different high points to bag, the high points across this great nation range from a drive up parking lot with wheel chair access, such as Florida's Britton Hill, to an intermediate family fun hike like New York's Mt. Marcy, to an all out 14 day expedition with a glacier crossing on Alaska's Mt Denali (the highest point in North America). Taking on the 50 high points gives you a unique opportunity to spend time and plan trips with an array of family, friends or fellow hikers regardless of their skill or love for the outdoors.

Backpacking Kings Peak | Photo: Jacob Moon

3. Conquering Challenges

Just visiting all 50 states is a challenge unto itself, but actually planning a trip to a certain location to accomplish a certain goal makes it even more challenging. Some hikes such as Illinois' Charles Mound are on private land and access can only be granted a couple weekends during the year. Other points offer greater challenges, such as Wyoming's Gannett Peak, which has the longest round trip of any of the high points at nearly 50 miles. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a goal all the way through to fruition. Whether your goal is to take down the highest point in your home state, all the states in your region, or take on all 50 states, highpointing is a goal worth setting. This goal will be sure to keep you going for years to come. The real reward begins while sitting around with family and friends planning the next challenging high point to conquer.

Climb Mount Borah | Photo: Chris Bruin

4. Unique Cross-Country Travel

Too often we get stuck in our comfort zones and only hike, camp, or explore in our own backyards. When we do end up planning an extended trip, often times it's backpacking across Europe or the Australian outback. Make your next big vacation a road trip to the next highpoint and explore everything the surrounding area has to offer. If you head out to hike Louisiana's Mt. Driskill, you’ll be within minutes of where the infamous Bonnie and Clyde made their final stand in a hail of bullets. Since you're highpointing in the South, you might as well eat some good BBQ. Stop in the town of Ruston, Louisiana just 20 miles east on I-20 just off Exit 84, and pick up the World Famous Scatterload sandwich from Brister's Smokehouse for the best BBQ and sweet tea you’ll ever have. By adding high points to your bucket list, you will end up traveling to all kinds of unique locations for photography, adventure, and places to eat.

Hike to Humphreys Peak Summit | Photo: Sri Gangam

5. Spectacular Views!

There is something special that touches the soul when you can stand atop a mountain and gaze out as far as the eye can see. I never expected to stand atop so many "flat" states like North Dakota's White Butte that stands tall in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, and be able to take in a 360 degree view. I encourage you not to underestimate any state on the map, because every state will surprise you! From hundreds of waterfalls near Alabama's Cheaha Mt, to hundreds of alpine lakes surrounding California's Mt. Whitney!

Ready to take on America's highest mountains? Get the breakdown of all 50 peaks here.

Cover photo: Kyle Frost

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.