The purpose of this articleThis article's purpose is simple, to provide an answer to a question some people may have, and one which I had. That is, where are the highest peaks, or the peaks over 4000 meters in North America? Many people, for one reason or another, are curious about the elevations of the higher mountains of the continent, and where they can be found. It is my intention to simplify this quest and provide a basic answer to those with this question.
The information found here was collected directly from Summitpost and Wikipedia. If any of it is wrong, let me know and I will correct it. In addition to the written information below, I did my best to make a map of the locations. See above.
Why 4000 meters?Both in mountaineering, and also in North America, 4000 meters, or 13,123 feet, appears to be a minimal limit for higher peaks. This is not universally true, as 3000 meters can be considered quite high for many places, and in many areas of the continent, 3000 meters is very high. However, part of what spawned this article, was my own curiosity about the location of other high peaks in relation to the peaks in the high Sierra, and the higher peaks of the central Rockies; Wyoming and Colorado, primarily.
If you are new to mountaineering, or just fascinated by high mountains, or just wondering where the higher peaks are (as I was), I aim to simplify your search. For the purposes of this article, North America is Mexico, the United States and Canada.
LocationsWithin the contiguous United States, there are three basic locations with peaks over 4000 meters. The major focus is the central Rockies, with Colorado being the epicenter. This location holds many, many mountains and peaks over 4000 meters. Wyoming is the other state with numerous 4000 meter peaks. They are primarily in the Wind River range, but the Teton, Absaroka and Big Horn ranges hold a few as well. Utah and it's Uinta range contain around 13 peaks over 4000 meters. Northern New Mexico has a couple of 4000 meters peaks, and they are confined to the northern Sangre de Cristo range. No other Rocky Mountain State holds peaks over 4000 meters. Both Idaho and Montana have numerous 3000 meter peaks, some of which approach 4000m, but none reach that distinction. This of course, says nothing about the prominence or the ruggedness of the mountains in those states.
The other area in the contiguous 48 states with 4000 meter peaks is California, the Cascade range, and extreme western Nevada. The High Sierra Contains all but a few of California's highest Peaks, Shasta in the north is a Cascade Volcano, and the White Mountains east of Bishop contain the rest. Nevada has one peak over 4000 meters. It is on a ridge connecting to White Mountain Peak. Washington State, and Mount Rainier is the other location with peaks over 4000 meters.
Heading south of the border into Mexico, there are no peaks over 4000 meters until we reach the Mexican Volcanoes. There are nearly a dozen mountains in southern Mexico which are over 4000 meters, all of them volcanic in origin. For many hikers and climbers looking to make a next step in terms of high altitude, the highest Mexican peaks are their first destination. There are a handful of 3000 meter peaks in the two Sierra Madre ranges in northern and central Mexico, but despite the high elevation and often rugged appearance of this region, there are no peaks over 4000 meters.
Moving north into Canada, the mountains are incredibly rugged, and with deep valleys and high peaks the Canadian Rockies are amongst some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. However, the high point of the Canadian Rockies is below 4000 meters. Again, this region holds numerous 3000 meter peaks, and because of their northern position and wet climate, they can be far more challenging than higher peaks further south, but alas, nothing over 4000m. South of the Yukon, the exception is the Waddington Range, and Mount Waddington in central British Columbia. It is not in the Rockies.
The situation changes when we reach the Yukon. In the Yukon, there are around 16 4000 meter peaks. Most people will never see these mountains, whereas many people can see the highest peaks of many other North American ranges from the comfort of an automobile, or a sea going vessel. The Logan Massif, as Canada's high point, is considered to be the largest mountain in the world.
The Yukon brings us to Alaska, home to a number of other 4000 meter peaks, and also the highest peak on the continent (if you didn't know this). Despite the great height of some of these mountains, it appears that the Alaska, Wrangell, Saint Elias, and Chugach mountains hold these highest peaks. This area, being so close to the arctic, is considerably harder in terms of mountaineering, so much lower peaks can be far more difficult.