15

Underrated Mountains in the U.S.

Mount Rainier, Pikes Peak, Mauna Kea, and Denali are among America’s most famous peaks, but they're far from alone — the country has more than 73,000 named mountains. And while we love the heavy hitters, it seems like everyone else does, too. With outdoor recreation surging in popularity, there’s never been a better time to visit peaks that may be just a little more off the beaten path. Here are 15 favorites to get you started.

15

Guadalupe Mountains (Texas)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.
Credit: Brendan van Son/ Shutterstock

Yosemite isn’t the only park to boast an El Capitan: Texas has one, too. The stark, 8,085-foot promontory is located in a remote and rugged northern section of the state in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park receives a fraction of Yosemite’s visitors, allowing those who come to experience deserts and sand dunes, star-studded night skies, the world's most extensive limestone fossil reef from the Permian Period (formed 260 million years ago), and the four highest peaks in the Lone Star State (Guadalupe Peak, Bush Mountain, Shumard Peak, and Bartlett Peak).

14

Kings Peak (Utah)

Mountains illuminated by evening light are reflected in a small lake in Utah.
Credit: Steve W Smith/ Shutterstock

Deep in the heart of Utah’s majestic Uinta range, 13,527-foot King’s Peak is the highest summit in the Beehive State. The range itself is also unique: The Uintas are one of only two ranges in the U.S. that run in an east-west configuration instead of north-south (the other is the Transverse Range in California). Kings isn’t a technical climb — more of a rough scramble — but it’s located 12 miles from the nearest road, so camping is recommended. Fortunately, the mountain (named after surveyor Clarence King) is located among flower-filled meadows and clear alpine lakes — the perfect setting for taking in backcountry beauty before making an ascent.

13

Mount Kamakou (Hawaii)

The Kamakou Preserve in Molokai, Hawaii.
Credit: Aga Monka/ Shutterstock

The highest peak on Moloka’i, Hawaii’s fifth-largest island, Kamakou rises up from the Pacific as part of an extinct volcano. Pristine and unmarred by mass tourism, the 4,961-foot-tall mountain is surrounded by a nature preserve containing more than 250 plants that can be found nowhere else in the world, as well as colorful songbirds warbling in the dense rainforest. While you’re visiting, don’t miss Kalaupapa National Historical Park, home to the highest sea cliffs on the planet.

12

Agassiz Peak (Arizona)

Agassiz Peak viewed from Humphrey's Trail in Flagstaff.
Credit: Cavan Images/ iStock

At 12,356 feet, Arizona’s Agassiz Peak is only about 300 feet shorter than Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in the state. But because of its majestic appearance, tourists and casual observers often mistake Agassiz for Humphrey’s. The peak is located north of Flagstaff in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area of the Coconino National Forest, which is home to an endangered species of aster. Because of this — and to protect the fragile landscape — Agassiz can only be climbed in the winter, when the mountain is covered with snow. Those who obtain a free backcountry permit and brave the cold temperatures will have climbed one of the nation’s most sought-after peaks — and can also partake in sublime skiing on the way down.

11

Crab Orchard Mountains (Tennessee)

Beautiful Ozone Falls in Cumberland County in Tennessee.
Credit: Joe Belanger/ Shutterstock

The Smoky Mountains get the attention, but eastern Tennessee’s Crab Orchard Mountain Range capping the Cumberland Plateau is definitely worth a wander. The Obed Wild and Scenic River has some of the best white-water rafting in the state, and the dense forests contain challenging hikes like Devil’s Breakfast Table, as well as easier sections such as Daddy’s Creek. Located in one of the most rugged and remote areas of Appalachia, the range contains rocky outcroppings, numerous waterfalls, and Frozen Head State Park, where an observation tower offers stunning 360-degree views.

10

Talcott Mountain (Connecticut)

Summer view of the Farmington River Valley from cliffs on Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, Connecticut.
Credit: Jeff Holcombe/ Shutterstock

It’s less than 1,000 feet in height, but central Connecticut’s Talcott Mountain has an extended ridge that runs 13 miles through some of the state’s prettiest scenery. A section of the Metacomet Ridge, Talcott contains two state parks with plenty of overlooks across the Farmington River Valley. Part of the New England Scenic Trail, Talcott’s highlight is the Heublein Tower. The 165-foot structure was built in 1914 by liquor titan Gilbert Heublein as a summer home and is now part of Talcott Mountain State Park. On clear days, views from the tower extend from Massachusetts' Berkshires to New York’s Long Island Sound. An easy 1.25-mile hike takes visitors to the tower, which is especially glorious during the peak of fall foliage.

9

Dolly Sods (West Virginia)

Dolly Sods wilderness in the spring in West Virginia.
Credit: aimintang/ iStock

Technically speaking, Dolly Sods is a plateau — the highest east of the Mississippi — in the Allegheny Mountains of Monongahela National Forest. The 17,371-acre wilderness area boasts plentiful biodiversity — including the red spruce, a formerly endangered species of flying squirrel — and elevations ranging from 1,000 to almost 5,000 feet above sea level. Throughout the park, visitors can enjoy stunning vistas of highlands, valleys, and rock formations. A hiker’s paradise, Dolly Sods is named for the grassy fields or “sods” on which the Dahle family, early settlers, grazed sheep. The area also offers abundant opportunities for trout fishing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

8

Mount Harkness (California)

The Mt. Harkness fire lookout station sits atop Mt. Harkness in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Credit: Rick Pisio\RWP Photography/ Alamy Stock Photo

The historic 1930 lookout on Mount Harkness — one of the oldest in the state — was sadly lost in California’s 2019 Dixie fire, but fortunately, there are plans for it to be rebuilt. And until then, there's still much to see in California’s uncrowded Lassen Volcanic National Park. From sparkling Lake Jupiter, the trail winds through wildflowers and herbs as you ascend to the cinder cone that tops the volcanic peak. In the southeast corner of the park, a former homestead-turned-lodge welcomes visitors for a rustic retreat. In addition to lodging, Drakesbad Guest Ranch has horseback riding, hiking, swimming in a hot springs-heated pool, and hearty cowboy cuisine.

7

Taum Sauk (Missouri)

The Ozark Mountains from Minne Sauk Falls on the Ozark Trail, in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park.
Credit: Steven Schremp/ Shutterstock

The highest summit in the Show-Me State, Taum Sauk is part of an elevated ridge in the St. Francois mountains, located in the southeast corner of Missouri. Rising over the Ozark Plateau, the range consists of Precambrian igneous rock that dates back nearly 1.5 billion years, making it about 500 million years older than the Appalachian Mountains. It is thought to be one of the few regions on the continent never submerged under a prehistoric sea. A state park bearing the mountain’s name covers 7,500 acres, where camping, hiking, and birdwatching are popular activities.

6

Mount Sopris (Colorado)

Beautiful fall colors at Mount Sopris in Colorado.
Credit: Kris Wiktor/ Shutterstock

Dramatically towering over the town of Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley, Mount Sopris is a stunning twin-summit beauty in a state filled with beautiful mountains. Part of the Elk range (which itself comprises part of the Rockies), Sopris was hallowed by the Ute peoples living in the region, who called it Wemagooah Kazuhchich, meaning “ancient mountain heart sits there.” A common myth is that the 12,965-foot mountain’s dual summit — which appears almost like a crater — is the result of volcanic activity, but Sopris isn’t a volcano.

5

Catoctin Mountain (Maryland)

A view from Catoctin Mountain State Park.
Credit: Zack Frank/ Shutterstock

Wildlife, wildflowers, and U.S. presidential history — Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park has them all. The mountain — which is actually a continuous ridge, not a single peak — is best known as the site of Camp David, the official presidential retreat. Its surrounding park welcomes unelected visitors who come to admire this easternmost ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, when presidents make an appearance, about one-third of the park may be closed on short notice.

4

Lookout Mountain (Georgia)

Long exposure waterfall picture of Lookout Mountain in Georgia.
Credit: RodClementPhotography/ Shutterstock

The appeal of Lookout Mountain isn’t its prominence or its elevation (only 2,389 feet) but its view: From the Rock City tourist attraction at the peak, visitors can see Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama on a clear day. The mountain was also the site of the famous Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Civil War, which ended in a Union victory and stopped the siege of nearby Chattanooga. In addition to Rock City, the mountain has a popular incline railway and Ruby Falls, the country's tallest and deepest underground waterfall that’s open to the public.

3

Wheeler Peak (Nevada)

View from the Wheeler Peak Trail in Great Basin National Park.
Credit: Tristan Brynildsen/ Shutterstock

Rugged, wild, and relatively untouristed, Great Basin National Park is a 77,000-acre desert expanse in eastern Nevada. The park is riddled with caves, covered in bristlecone pines (the oldest living species on the planet), and crowned by the state’s second-highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Rising 13,065 feet above sea level, the peak of Wheeler has prominent visibility, towering proudly among the other mountains of the Snake Range. (Nevada’s only glacier rests at its base.) In spite of its impressive height, Wheeler is easily summited and classified as a Class 1 (easy) hike.

2

Mount St. Elias (Alaska)

a great view of Wrangell St. Elias in Alaska.
Credit: Carlo Emanuele Barbi/ Shutterstock

Rising majestically above the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Mount St. Elias is part of both Alaska and Canada’s Yukon territory. With an 18,008-foot summit, it’s the second-highest mountain in both Canada and the United States. Experienced climbers compare it to peaks in the Himalayas, but due to almost constant snow and poor visibility, along with extremely challenging routes to the peak, Mount St. Elias has been summited barely 50 times.

1

Britton Hill (Florida)

Aerial image of Lake Definiak near Britton Hill, in Florida.
Credit: Felix Mizioznikov/ Shutterstock

Aside from Disney’s Space Mountain roller coaster, Florida isn’t known for inclines. Still, visitors bagging the “highest peak” in each state will make their way to the northwestern part of the Sunshine State to check Britton Hill off their bucket list. Florida lies largely at sea level, and Britton Hill rises a mere 345 feet above that. The “peak” is part of a small but scenic park, with picnic tables and trails for hiking. Combine your visit with a trip to nearby DeFuniak Springs, which boasts plenty of Old Florida charm and an unusual, nearly perfectly circular, spring-fed lake.

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