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Object Title: Highpointing

Activities: Mountaineering


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Created/Edited: Apr 11, 2016 / Jul 14, 2016

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"Highpointing" -- Summiting United States Highpoints for Fun, Fitness, Friends, Focus, and Folly

Contains -- "Martin Classification of Difficulty for U.S. State Highpoints."

Thomas P. Martin - has completed 49.8 of 50 U.S. State Highpoints

Web Page:  www.wittenberg.edu/~tmartin

The original source for this article is "Highpointing - Summiting United States Highpoints" in Future Focus, Ohio Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 28:1:29-33, Spring/Summer, 1997.

The article was revised, updated and published as "Highpointing - Summiting United States Highpoints for Fun, Fitness, Friends, Focus and Folly" in World Leisure & Recreation, 40:34-38, 1998.

Updated July, 2016

I. Introduction

Highpointing refers to the activity of reaching the highest natural elevation(s) in some specified region. The region could be a state, geographical area, country continent, or the world. The purpose of this article is to describe the activity and benefits of pursuing a United States (50) highpoints project. Highpointing is an excellent activity for individuals of all ages. Planning and then traveling to state highpoints involves healthy outdoor recreation with concomitant learning of state and regional geography and history. It's great fun, and can be a terrific personal, family, or group project. Some state highpoints can be done in a car as "drive-ups," some are easy hikes, others require cross country travel, and some involve climbing with considerable exposure or travel on glaciers where ropes are required.

The earliest reference found relating to state highpoints was a 1909 article in The National Geographic Magazine (NGM) titled "The Highest Point in Each State." It is interesting that the locations of some state highpoints were not known, the elevations of several others were listed as approximate, and some highpoints listed were later discovered to be incorrect. "Highpointing" has come a long way since the NGM article; there are now state highpoint guides, and even a Highpointers Club.

II. Benefits of Highpointing

Mental/Emotional: Highpointing provides for outdoor "re-creation." It can expand the senses and bring joy to the heart. Excitement, related to preparation, execution, and reflection on individual highpoints, is part of the experience. The mental and physical stimulation related to these activities can reduce stress and provide an outlet for creative self-expression. For example, verbal description, written report, and/or production of a product (e.g. presentation, scrapbook or photo album) related to experiences can result in much personal satisfaction. For some, the challenge of the more difficult highpoints is an attraction. A desire to answer the questions; "What are my capabilities? and What are my limits?" may come into play. For others, the satisfaction of the effort, whether successful or unsuccessful, is the reward. In both cases the experiences can be "uplifting" and have a positive influence on self-image. Finally, and most importantly, highpointing is FUN!

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Woodall Mt. - Highpoint of Mississippi

Physical: Highpointing can be an excellent activity for maintaining and/or developing fitness. The difficulty in reaching individual highpoints ranges from easy (e.g. drive-ups and short hikes) to difficult (e.g. long hikes and climbing at altitude)--see Highpoint Location and Classification below. Hence the "activity benefit" depends on the highpoint(s) selected. As the difficulty of the highpoint increases, so also does the physical benefit. At the same time, the range of difficulty means that individuals of all ages and physical abilities can achieve success in summiting many state highpoints. Typically, an individual pursuing a highpoint project will maintain a regular exercise routine and also train for specific outings that require a higher level of fitness. The combination of preparing for and doing highpoints combine to help maintain (and perhaps improve) body function.

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Panorama Point - Highpoint of Nebraska

Social: Social benefits depend on the individual and how that person chooses to interact with others. For the vast majority of highpoints, one can choose solitude or sharing the experience with others. Planning, traveling, hiking, climbing with family and/or friends can act to strengthen personal relationships; while performing these activities with new acquaintances can aid in the development of new relationships. The opportunity for positive and memorable experiences is great, though much depends on the mental attitude and cooperation of the participants. One of the keys to positive social benefit appears to be a similar desire/motivation to reach the highpoint. Some of the more difficult highpoints require a team approach (e.g. ropes for protection) and put a premium on the ability to positively interact with others.

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Trail Head for Gannett Peak - Highpoint of Wyoming

Environmental: Each state highpoint is unique, it may be located on a farm, road, rock outcrop, mound, hill, point, dome, knob, butte, mesa, bald, peak, or mountain. It may be in a city, on private land, on the grounds of a school, in a park (local, state or national), or in a wilderness area. It may show extensive signs of pollution or be in a pristine natural condition. In addition, the appearance of each highpoint will change with the seasons, weather conditions, and even the time of day. Environmental awareness and consciousness are part and parcel of the highpointing experience. Highpointers are concerned with the environment and are often leaders in its preservation, protection, and care. "Take only pictures and leave only footprints" is a common motto. 

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Rock Climbing, Granite Peak - Highpoint of Montana

Educational: Learning occurs on a multiplicity of levels, some intended and conscious while other learning is by circumstance and experience. Clearly, reading about, preparing for, traveling to, and attempting a highpoint are educational experiences. The extent of learning is directly related to the amount of personal involvement in these activities. For example, knowledge of the geography and history of a specific highpoint and region may or may not be of interest. However, the conscious and unconscious experiences of attempting a highpoint are sure to result in related learning. Likewise, most highpoints require at least some hiking. Knowledge of and preparation for outdoor travel, in a variety of conditions (terrain, weather, etc.), is a prerequisite for a safe and enjoyable trip. It can also make the difference between success or failure--and, in extreme conditions, perhaps survival. Learning, related to one's self (i.e. mental/emotional, physical, and social), others, and the environment, has been mentioned above. 

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Base Camp on Denali - Highpoint of Alaska

Spiritual: There is a complex interplay of reasons that might explain why an individual would choose to do selected highpoints or pursue a highpoint project. Mental/emotional, physical, social, environmental, and educational benefits have been listed. Still, these can be considered "parts" of a whole. That is, not only the development, but also the fulfillment of the whole person--intellectually, physically, socially, aesthetically, and spiritually. Communing with nature by physically participating in the beauty and awesome simplicity/complexity of the environment is a spiritual experience. Words cannot express the profound feelings that accompany the mind/body/nature experience. This is the "core" of life.

III. Location and Classification of State Highpoints

Location: Table 1 presents the "Martin Classification of Difficulty for U.S. State Highpoints." It includes an alphabetical listing of states, the name of each state highpoint, its elevation, elevation gain, distance, and its difficulty rating. The elevations listed are from a United States Geological Survey (USGS) publication (1995) and may be slightly different from elevations found in some guidebooks, on some maps, and in other literature on these locations. The USGS revises its data as highpoints are resurveyed and new technology is utilized to determine elevations.  The elevation gain is an estimate of ALL vertical gain (including gain related to undulating terrain) on the "standard" route.  Distance is the round-trip distance on the easiest "standard" route.  The difficulty rating is based on the overall difficulty of reaching the highpoint by way of the easiest standard route.  Finally, the eighteen highpoints that are wheelchair accessible (under good weather conditions) are indicated.

Table 1

Martin Classification of Difficulty for U.S. State Highpoints

Gain (feet)
Alabama AL
Cheaha Mt.
       <10     <0.1
Alaska AK
Arizona AZ
Humphreys Peak
Arkansas AR
Magazine Mt.
California CA
Mt. Whitney
Colorado CO
Mt. Elbert
Connecticut CT
Mt. Frissell-S slope
Delaware DE
Ebright Azimuth
Florida FL
Britton Hill
Georgia GA
Brasstown Bald
Hawaii HI
Mauna Kea
Idaho ID
Borah Peak
Illinois ILCharles Mound
Indiana IN
Hoosier Hill Point
Iowa IA
Hawkeye Point
Kansas KS
Mt. Sunflower
Kentucky KY
Black Mt.
Louisiana LA
Driskill Mt.
Maine ME
Mt. Katahdin
Maryland MD
Backbone Mt.
Massachusetts MA
Mt. Greylock
Michigan MI
Mt. Arvon
Minnesota MN
Eagle Mt.
Mississippi MS
Woodall Mt.
Missouri MO
Taum Sauk Mt.
Montana MT
Granite Peak
Nebraska NE
Panorama Point
Nevada NV
Boundary Peak
New Hampshire NH
Mt. Washington
New Jersey NJ
High Point
New Mexico NM
Wheeler Peak
New York NY
Mt. Marcy
North Carolina NC
Mt. Mitchell
North Dakota ND
White Butte
Ohio OH
Campbell Hill
Oklahoma OK
Black Mesa
Oregon OR
Mt. Hood
Pennsylvania PA
Mt. Davis
Rhode Island RI
Jerimoth Hill
South Carolina SC
Sassafras Mt.
South Dakota SD
Harney Peak
Tennessee TN
Clingmans Dome
Texas TX
Guadalupe Peak
Utah UT
Kings Peak
Vermont VT
Mt. Mansfield
Virginia VA
Mt. Rogers
Washington WA
Mt. Rainier
West Virginia WV
Spruce Knob
Wisconsin WI
Timms Hill
Wyoming WY
Gannett Peak

*United States Geological Survey (USGS), 1995
**Elevation gain is an estimate of ALL vertical gain (i.e. including gain as a result of undulating terrain)
***Distance, round trip, from nearest car access (except for Denali)
w Wheelchair accessible under good weather conditions

Classification: The author has constructed the following classification of "difficulty" for reaching specific state highpoints. This classification is based on the easiest "standard" route (see Holmes, 1998) to each summit under "good" conditions. Some highpointers take more difficult routes in order to increase the physical effort (and therefore the physical benefits) of the trip, or simply to provide a greater challenge. Also, it should be clear that other factors will impact on the difficulty of a specific highpoint--weather and route conditions, individual fitness level, outdoor skills, climbing skill, appropriate clothing, proper equipment, and perhaps teamwork. The more difficult highpoints require knowledge, preparation, fitness, and skill to safely negotiate the route.  There has been no attempt to rate highpoints within class; they are presented alphabetically by state.

Martin Classification of Difficulty for U.S. State Highpoints

Class 1 (21) - Drive-ups and highpoints with vertical gains of no more than 120 feet and less than 0.4 miles round trip from car:

Table 2

Class 1 Highpoints

          State              Highpoint       Elevation 
 Gain (feet) 
AlabamaCheaha Mt. <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   2,405 ft
DelawareEbright Azimuth <10 ft gain <0.1 mile      448 ft
FloridaBritton hill <10 ft gain <0.1 mile      345 ft
IndianaHoosier Hill Point <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   1,257 ft
IowaHawkeye Point <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   1,670 ft
KansasMt. Sunflower <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   4,039 ft
KentuckyBlack Mt. <10 ft gain   0.1 mile   4,139 ft
MassachusettsMt. Greylock  20 ft gain   0.1 mile   3,487 ft
MichiganMt. Arvon  10 ft gain <0.1 mile   1,979 ft
MississippiWoodall Mt. <10 ft gain <0.1 mile      806 ft
MissouriTaum Sauk Mt.  30 ft gain   0.4 mile   1,772 ft
NebraskaPanorama Point <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   5,424 ft
New HampshireMt. Washington  20 ft gain <0.1 mile   6,288 ft
New JerseyHigh Point  40 ft gain   0.2 mile   1,803 ft
North CarolinaMt. Mitchell 100 ft gain   0.2 mile   6,684 ft
OhioCampbell Hill <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   1,549 ft
PennsylvaniaMt. Davis <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   3,213 ft
Rhode IslandJerimoth Hill <10 ft gain   0.2 mile      812 ft
South CarolinaSassafras Mt. <10 ft gain <0.1 mile   3,560 ft
West VirginiaSpruce Knob  20 ft gain   0.3 mile   1,951 ft
WisconsinTimms Hill 120 ft gain   0.4 mile   1,951 ft

Class 2 (7) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 150-400 feet and from 0.4 to 2.5 miles round trip from car: 

Table 3

Class 2 Highpoints

       State              Highpoint        Elevation
 Gain (feet)  
ArkansasMagazine Mt.  225 ft gain 1.0 mile   2,753 ft
GeorgiaBrasstown Bald  400 ft gain 1.0 mile   4,784 ft
HawaiiMauna Kea  230 ft gain 0.4 mile
 13,796 ft
Illinois Charles Mound   120 ft gain 2.5 miles   1,235 ft
LouisianaDriskill Mt.  150 ft gain 1.8 miles      535 ft
North DakotaWhite Butte   400 ft gain 2.0 miles   3,506 ft 
TennesseeClingmans Dome  330 ft gain 1.0 mile    6,643 ft 

Class 3 (3) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 450-750 feet and from 2.2 to 3.6 miles round trip from car:

                                              Connecticut     Mt. Frissell - S slope     450 ft gain     3.6 miles     2,380 ft

                                              Maryland         Backbone Mt.               750 ft gain     2.2 miles     3,360 ft

                                              Vermont          Mt. Mansfield               550 ft gain     2.8 miles     4,393 ft   

Class 4 (4) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 600-1,500 feet and from 5.8 to 8.6 miles round trip from car: 

                                               Minnesota        Eagle Mt.                    600 ft gain     7.0 miles     2,301 ft

                                              Oklahoma        Black Mesa                  775 ft gain     8.6 miles     4,973 ft

                                              South Dakota  Harney Peak              1,500 ft gain     5.8 miles     7,242 ft

                                              Virginia           Mt. Rogers                 1,500 ft gain     8.6 miles     5,729 ft

Class 5 (3) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 2,950-4,200 feet and from 8.4 to 14.8 miles round trip from car:

                                               Maine              Mt. Katahdin              4,200 ft gain    10.4 miles     5,267 ft

                                              New York        Mt. Marcy                  3,200 ft gain    14.8 miles     5,344 ft

                                              Texas              Guadalupe Peak         2,950 ft gain      8.4 miles     8,749 ft

Class 6 (4) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 3,250-5,000 feet, from 6.2 to 9.0 miles round trip from car, and with summits over 12,633 feet: 

                                               Arizona           Humphreys Peak        3,500 ft gain     9.0 miles    12,633 ft

                                              Colorado         Mt. Elbert                  5,000 ft gain     9.0 miles    14,433 ft

                                              New Mexico    Wheeler Peak             3,250 ft gain     6.2 miles    13,161 ft

                                              Nevada           Boundary Peak           4,400 ft gain     7.4 miles     13,140 ft

Class 7 (2) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 5,350-6,750 feet, from 21.4 to 28.8 miles round trip from car, with summits over 13,528 feet, and likely requiring more than one day to summit and return: 

                                               California       Mt. Whitney                6,750 ft gain    21.4 miles     14,494 ft

                                              Utah               Kings Peak                 5,350 ft gain    28.8 miles     13,528 ft

Class 8 (2) - Highpoints with vertical gains of 5,300-5,550 feet, from 6.8 to 8.0 miles round trip from car, with summits over 11,239 feet, and requiring handholds and/or the use of ropes.

Idaho             Borah Peak                 5,550 ft gain      6.8 miles     12,662 ft     Handholds for some climbing, rope belays may be used because of exposure

Oregon           Mt. Hood                    5,300 ft gain      8.0 miles     11,239 ft     Climbing