Discover The Tallest Mountain In The United States

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 26, 2023
© evenfh/Shutterstock.com
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Skiers, mountain climbers, and other adventurous people flock to high mountain peaks in search of an exciting journey. While the United States isn’t home to any of the tallest mountains in the world, a few extraordinarily high peaks exist in the country. Get ready to learn about the tallest mountain in the United States!

Learn its name, where it’s located, and how it measures up to other great peaks located in the United States and beyond!

What is the Tallest Mountain in the United States?

Mount Denali Alaska
Denali is 20,310 feet tall!

©iStock.com/SteveAllenPhoto

The tallest mountain in the United States is Denali, and it is located in Alaska. Denali measures 20,310 feet tall, making it far taller than many other large mountains found in the country. The mountain is located in the south-central portion of the state, but it’s not particularly close to any major cities. Healy is a good destination for people looking to enter Denali State Park.

Where is Denali Located on a Map?

Denali is located in the Denali National Park and Preserve in south-central Alaska, close to the town of Healy. The six-million-acre park and the tallest mountain in the United States were once named McKinley but were renamed Denali from the original Athabaskan term meaning “the tall one.”

How Did Denali Get Its Name?

The mountain now called Denali was formerly called Mt. McKinley and the surrounding park bore the same name when it was recognized under the law in 1917. The justification provided for naming the area Mt. McKinley was that it was descriptive and well-known since summiting the mountain was a major event in the mountain-climbing community for some time.

Yet, the people in charge of naming the mountain may have been unaware that the name Denali was also descriptive. One translation of the name from the original Athabaskan term is “the tall one.” The name is also sometimes translated as “the great one.” Either way, Denali is a very apt term for the large mountain.

However, the mountain continued to be called Mt. McKinley even though the park was renamed Denali National Park in 1980. Finally, in 2015, the mountain was renamed, and it has been referred to as Denali ever since.

How Much Tallest is Denali Compared to Mount Saint Elias?

The second-tallest mountain in the United States is Mount Saint Elias. This is also the second-tallest mountain found in Canada.

This mountain is located on the border between Alaska in the United States and the Yukon area of Canada. This mountain has an elevation of 18,008. That means over 2,000 feet of elevation separate the tallest mountain in the United States and the runner-up.

This mountain is located in the southeastern part of Alaska, and many other sizable peaks stem from the mountain range.

How Does Denali Measure Up to Mt. Everest?

Mountain peak at Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

©Vixit/Shutterstock.com

Given that Denali is the tallest mountain in the United States, it is tempting to see how it compares to the tallest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest. Mount Everest has an elevation of 29,032 feet, making it almost 9,000 feet taller than Denali.  

That is over a mile and a half of total elevation separating the elevations of the two different mountains. Also, over 100 other mountains are between Denali and Mt. Everest in terms of their height. Many of the tallest mountains are found in China, Pakistan, Nepal, and India. China alone has about 50 mountains that measure over 23,500 feet tall, meaning any one of them is taller than the tallest in the United States.  

What is the Tallest Mountain in the Contiguous United States?

The tallest mountain located in the contiguous United States is Mount Whitney. This mountain is located in California, and it has an elevation of roughly 14,505 feet. The interesting thing about this mountain is that it’s the eleventh-tallest mountain in the United States. That means the first ten highest mountain peaks in the United States are all located in Alaska or Alaska and Canada.

Is the Measure of the Tallest Mountain in the United States Fair?

The Summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii - The Coldest Place in Hawaii
The summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii.

©Chris Finch Photography/Shutterstock.com

Two problems arise when considering the measure of the tallest mountain in the United States. The first is getting an accurate measurement of the mountain. Originally, the mountain was measured using photogrammetry in 1952. The result of that measurement was 20,320 feet.

However, the U.S. Geological Survey re-measured the mountain in 2015, providing a much more accurate view of the mountain’s height. As a result of the newest measurement, scientists discovered that the measurement of this mountain was actually 20,310 feet.

The other thing to consider about measuring mountains is where the measurement of the mountain’s elevation starts. Currently, most people consider the elevation as the total measure above sea level, counting the base of the mountain.

For example, Mount Everest’s base is about 17,000 feet high, so its vertical rise is about 12,000 feet. Denali has a base of about 2,000 feet. The mountain has a rise of 18,000 feet. As a result, some people actually consider Denali the taller of the two mountains.  

Another interesting way to measure the mountains is to completely eschew the need to rise above sea level. In that case, mountains that are primarily underwater would get a chance to be the tallest mountain in the United States. Mauna Kea in Hawaii measures about 13,796 feet above sea level, but it also has 19,700 feet of rise below the sea level. This volcano measures over 33,500 feet in total, and that would make it the tallest mountain in the world.

For now, Denali is the tallest mountain in the United States. If the way we measure mountains changes, Denali could climb the list and be taller than Everest. For now, though, it’s good enough to recognize the immensity of this mountain and the struggle to get its name right.

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Denali is the name of the tallest mountain in North America
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About the Author

I've been a freelance writer since 2013, and I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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