The 10 Highest Mountains in North America

December 13, 2023

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Man standing on top of a mountain. The sun is rising in the background

North America is world-renowned for its beautiful national parks and stunning scenery. The landscape features over 70,000 named mountains, including some of the tallest mountains in the world.

The Alaska Range, Saint Elias Mountains, and Cordillera Neovolcanica (Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt) mountain ranges feature some of the highest mountains in North America. They attract hundreds of climbers every year who want to beat the mountains and reach the peaks.

We’ve compiled a list of the ten highest mountains in North America. Take a look at who was the first person to climb these majestic mountains, the local cultural beliefs surrounding them, and top tips on how best to ascend them!

1. Denali

a picture of moose walking over water in a valley. The Denali Mountain is in the background of the image. Its peak is covered in snow
Moose walking over water flowing through the Denali National Park. The Denali Mountain is visible in the background
Height: 6,190 m (20,310 ft)
Mountain range: Alaska Range
Country: United States

Not only is Denali the highest peak in North America, but it is also the world’s tallest mountain on land when measured from base to peak.

Mount Everest is considered the highest mountain in the world as it has the highest elevation from sea level at 8,848 m (29,029 ft). Denali is only 6,190 meters (20,310 feet) above sea level. However, Mount Everest has a much larger base of 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) and a vertical rise of just 3,658 meters (12,000 feet). On the other hand, Denali has a much smaller base of 610 meters (2,000 feet) and a higher vertical rise of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet).

The Koyukon people, a local indigenous tribe, have called the mountain ‘Denali’ for centuries. However, the mountain was named ‘Mount McKinley’ in honor of the presidential candidate William McKinley in 1896. The mountain was officially called Mount McKinley by the United States federal government from 1917 until 2015, when it was renamed Denali. This change occurred 40 years after Alaska (the state where the mountain is located) had officially renamed it.

In 1906, American explorer Frederick Cook claimed he was the first person to reach the mountain’s peak. However, this event is unverified; the first verified ascent was by Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum in 1913.

Did you know?

Denali has two peaks: the South Summit is higher and is climbed more than the North Summit.

2. Mount Logan

a picture showing the tall thin trees and Saint Elias mountain range in The Kluane National Park and Reserve. The clouds hang down over the peaks of the mountains
The Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon Territory, featuring the Saint Elias Mountains and Mount Logan
Height: 5,959 m (19,551 ft)
Mountain range: Saint Elias Mountains
Country: Canada

Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan, stands 5,959 meters (19,551 feet) tall. Temperatures never rise above 0ÂşC (32ÂşF), and it’s believed some ice on the mountain could have formed around 30,000 years ago.

The first ascent was made by an international team in 1925. It took a team of six Canadian, British, and American climbers 65 days to reach the mountain from the nearest town, climb to the peak and return to their starting point. Some members of the team experienced severe frostbite.

In 2020, new rules were introduced by a Canadian government agency in regard to climbing the mountain. Solo and winter expeditions were banned, and climbers were required to have sufficient insurance to cover the cost of search and rescue operations. These new rules were introduced to reduce the expensive costs of running multiple search and rescue operations to retrieve climbers.

Did you know?

The mountain was named after Sir William Logan, a Canadian-born geologist who founded the Geological Survey of Canada.

3. Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl)

The snow-capped Pico de Orizaba volcano above the surrounding vegetation
Peak of the dormant Pico de Orizaba volcano, which is Mexico’s highest mountain.
Height: 5,585 m (18,323 ft)
Mountain range: Cordillera Neovolcanica
Country: Mexico

Pico de Orizaba (CitlaltĂ©petl) is the highest peak in Mexico. While this is a dormant volcano (the last recorded eruption was in 1846), it’s not extinct. This means Pico de Orizaba is still under investigation due to the potential hazards if the volcano becomes active again.

The mountain’s Spanish name means ‘Peak of Orizaba’, a city it overlooks. In the native Náhuatl language, its name ‘CitlaltĂ©petl’ means ‘Star Mountain’. The mountain is also known as ‘Istaktepetl’ in Náhuatl, which means ‘White Mountain’ (likely due to its snow-covered peak).

American soldiers F. Maynard and William F. Raynolds were the first to reach the mountain’s peak. The pair did so while stationed in the area during the United States occupation of Mexico in 1848. French explorer Alejandro Doignon climbed to the summit in 1851 and found the flagpole the Americans had left behind. It wasn’t until 1873 that the Mexican flag was raised on the peak by Martin Tritschler.

The most popular time for climbing Pico de Orizaba is in the winter month. This is outside of Mexico’s rainy season, which usually lasts from May to October.

Did you know?

Pico de Orizaba was an important part of pre-Hispanic cultures and features in many mythologies from Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs and the Totonacs indigenous people.

4. Mount Saint Elias

the snow-covered Mount Saint Elias overlooking the lake and valley below
Mount Saint Elias, which stands 5,489 m/18,009 ft tall
Height: 5,489 m (18,009 ft)
Mountain range: Saint Elias Mountains
Country: United States/Canada

Mount Saint Elias stands on the border between Yukon (Canadian territory) and Alaska (US state). It’s located approximately 42 kilometers (26 miles) southwest of North America’s second-largest mountain, Mount Logan.

The first successful ascent was by Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of the Abruzzi. The Italian explorer led an expedition in 1897. However, the second successful ascent wasn’t until 1946 by an American team from the Harvard Mountaineering Club.

Mount Saint Elias is known for its dramatic vertical terrain. It rises 5,489 meters in just 16 kilometers (10 miles). Due to its difficult routes and prolonged periods of bad weather, few climbers attempt to ascend Mount Saint Elias nowadays.

Did you know?

Mount Saint Elias’ vertical ski slope is the longest in the world. It was featured in a 2007 Austrian documentary. It followed a team of skiers trying to ascend the mountain and ski down the 5486 meters (18,000 feet) slope to the Gulf of Alaska.

5. Popocatépetl

The peak of the Popocatépetl volcano rising above the clouds at night. The lights from a nearby town are seen in the bottom right corner
PopocatĂ©petl’s 5,410 meter/17,749 foot-high peak rising above the cloud
Height: 5,410 m (17,749 ft)
Mountain range: Cordillera Neovolcanica
Country: Mexico

As one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, climbers have been unable to ascend PopocatĂ©petl since 1994. The volcano has erupted 15 times since 1519 and has been continuously smoking since 1993. Over 25 million people live within a (60-mile) radius of the mountain. Mexico City, Mexico’s capital, lies just 70 kilometers (40 miles) away.

The volcano is formed from layers of volcanic ash, lava, and rocks that were released from earlier eruptions and have since set. It’s estimated that three Plinian (extremely explosive) eruptions have occurred: one around 3,000 years ago, the second 2,150 years ago, and another 1,100 years ago.

The Tecuanipas tribe made the first documented ascent in 1289, although some historians have disputed this. In 1519, a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Ordaz successfully reached the peak of Popocatépetl.

Did you know?

The Nahuatl name ‘PopocatĂ©petl’ roughly translates to ‘Smoking Mountain’. Many locals affectionately call the mountain ‘El Popo’ for short.

6. Mount Foraker

Mount Hunter on the left and Mount Foraker on the right in a brown valley
Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter stand side by side in the Denali National Park.
Height: 5,304 m (17,400 ft)
Mountain range: Alaska Range
Country: United States

Yet another mountain in Denali National Park, Mount Foraker is approximately 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of Denali. It towers over Denali’s base camp on a fork of Kahiltna Glacier, the longest glacier in the Alaska Range. The native Koyukon people call the mountain both ‘Sultana’ meaning ‘the woman’, and ‘Menlale’ meaning ‘Denali’s wife’.

The first successful ascent was in 1934 on the shorter north peak by Charles S. Houston, Dr. T. Graham Brown, and Chychele Waterston. 10 days later, the same team made the second ascent on the taller south peak.

Did you know?

In 1899, the mountain was named Mount Foraker by Joseph Herron in honor of Ohio Senator Joseph Foraker.

7. Mount Lucania

Four climbers trekking up the slope of a snowy mountain. One climber is in the foreground and three climbers are in a line in the distance
Climbers trek up the side of a snowy mountain
Height: 5,260 m (17,257 ft)
Mountain range: Saint Elias Mountains
Country: Canada

Canada’s third-highest mountain measures approximately 5,260 meters (17,257 feet). It’s connected to nearby Mount Steele via a long ridge.

The Duke of Abruzzi gave Mount Lucania its name as he stood on the peak of Mount Saint Elias following the first ascent in 1897. Although the Duke never climbed Mount Lucania, he named it after his ship, the RMS Lucania, which had carried him from Liverpool to New York for the Mount Saint Elias expedition.

In 1937, American mountaineers Bradford Washburn and Robert Hicks Bates successfully climbed Mount Lucania for the first time. The pair took a plane to Walsh Glacier, which stood 2,670 m (8,760 ft) above sea level. They then continued on foot to reach Mount Lucania before having to trek a further 240 kilometers (150 miles) through the wilderness on their return until they reached a town called Burwash Landing in the Yukon.

Did you know?

After the first successful ascent of the mountain in 1937, Mount Luciana wasn’t climbed again until 1967.

8. IztaccĂ­huatl

The four snow-covered peaks of the IztaccĂ­huatl mountain. The valley beneath the mountain is cast in shadow
The four white peaks of IztaccĂ­huatl, which appear like the body of a sleeping woman
Height: 5,230 m (17,159 ft)
Mountain range: Cordillera Neovolcanica
Country: Mexico

IztaccĂ­huatl is a dormant volcano within the Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park in Mexico. In the Nahuatl language, ‘IztaccĂ­huatl’ means ‘white women’ inspired by the volcano’s shape. Its four snow-covered peaks appear like the head, chest, knees, and feet of a sleeping woman if you look at it from the east or west side.

During good weather and optimum atmospheric conditions, IztaccĂ­huatl is visible from Mexico City, which lies 70 kilometers (43 miles) away.

Although the first recorded ascent was in 1889, historians believe the Aztecs and previous cultures had climbed it. Unlike Popocatépetl, an active volcano closed off to climbers, it is possible to ascend Iztaccíhuatl. However, the difficult terrain means it is only suitable for experienced climbers.

Did you know?

IztaccĂ­huatl and PopocatĂ©petl are the Romeo and Juliet of Aztec mythology. IztaccĂ­huatl was a princess who fell in love with PopocatĂ©petl, one of her father’s warriors. The forbidden lovers tragically died at the end of the tale, and the gods turned them into mountains.

9. King Peak

View of the snowy cap of King Peak on a clear day.
View of King Peak, located in Canada.
Height: 5,173 m (16,972 ft)
Mountain range: Saint Elias Mountains
Country: Canada

Not to be confused with King Peak in Utah, Yukon’s King Peak is the fourth-highest mountain in Canada. It stands just west of Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan.

A group of students from the University of Alaska made the first successful ascent in 1952. Most of their supplies were airdropped onto the Ogilvie Glacier at the base of Quartz Ridge. The team was forced to wait two days at Camp 2 until a storm subsided. One team member was forced to pull out of the expedition following a knee injury he obtained during the first section of the climb.

Two further climbs were made in 1952 by an American team. They made their way up King Peak from the south side, although they occasionally moved around to the north side to avoid particularly steep slopes.

Did you know?

King Peak is considered to be Mount Logan’s satellite peak.

10. Mount Bona

View of the peak of Mount Bona
View of the peak of Mount Bona, with an elevation of 5,0444 meters
Height: 5,044 m (16,550 ft)
Mountain range: Saint Elias Mountains
Country: United States

Although only the tenth highest mountain in North America, Mount Bona is the highest volcano in the United States. Like Mount Lucania, Mount Bona was named by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1897 when he reached the peak of Mount Saint Elias. The mountain was named after the duke’s racing yacht.

It wasn’t until 1930 that the first successful ascent was made on Mount Bona.  Allen CarpĂ©, Terris Moore, and Andrew Taylor climbed the mountain from the Russell Glacier on the peak’s west side.

The mountain is the main source of ice to the Klutlan Glacier, a 64-kilometer (40-mile) long glacier in Alaska. Mount Bona also feeds ice into the Russell Glacier.

Did you know?

Mount Bona is popularly used for mountaineering, skiing, and snowboarding.

Overview: Highest Mountains in North America

RankMountainHeight (m)Height (ft)Mountain RangeCountry
1Denali6,19020,310Alaska RangeUnited States
2Mount Logan5,95919,551Saint Elias MountainsCanada
3Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl)5,58518,323Cordillera NeovolcanicaMexico
4Mount Saint Elias5,48918,009Saint Elias MountainsUnited States/Canada
5Popocatépetl5,41017,749Cordillera NeovolcanicaMexico
6Mount Foraker5,30417,400Alaska RangeUnited States
7Mount Lucania5,26017,257Saint Elias MountainsCanada
8IztaccĂ­huatl5,23017,159Cordillera NeovolcanicaMexico
9King Peak5,17316,972Saint Elias MountainsCanada
10Mount Bona5,04416,550Saint Elias MountainsUnited States

At 6,190 meters, Denali is the highest mountain in North America. It is also the world’s tallest mountain on land when measured from base to peak. Denali is located in the Denali National Park in Alaska, United States. Mount Logan is Canada’s highest mountain, and Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s. Several of the mountains on this list are also volcanos, although most of them are dormant.

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