Fifty Pinnacles

Fifty Pinnacles

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering

Fifty Pinnacles: My Journey to the Highest Natural Point in Each of the U.S. States

“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort.  That is the reward the mountains give to effort.  And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again.  The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.”  Sir Francis Younghusband

Introduction: What Is Highpointing?

Highpointing is the pursuit of reaching the tallest point within a specified area.  In practice it is many things, such as traveling, exploring, mountain climbing, hiking, planning, exercise, sightseeing, self-discovery, and personal fulfillment.

My pursuit of visiting the highest natural point in each of the 50 U.S. states is merely one example of highpointing.  Another example is reaching the top of the tallest mountain on each continent, often dubbed the Seven Summits.  Comparably, one might choose to reach the highest point of each county in his home state, or whatever region and subdivision is of interest.

In 1909 National Geographic printed an article titled “The Highest Point in Each State.”  This short article was concerned with identifying the highest natural place and altitude of each of the then 46 U.S. states, pointing out that not all were certain.  Today 45 of those are known as different locations, names, spellings, and/or elevations.

Arthur Harmon Marshall is recognized as the initial person to reach the pinnacle of each U.S. state.  He completed the task in 1936 when there were 48 states.  By the end of August 1959 Alaska and Hawaii had joined the Union.  Not quite seven years later Vin Hoeman became the first to obtain the top of all 50 states.

In the late 1980s the Highpointers Club was formed giving the notion of attaining the highpoint of each U.S. state more attention.  The most recent information available on their website states that as of July 2018 only 305 people had completed the task.  Considering the grand size of the United States, expenses and time involved with traveling it, and the logistics of locating each states’ highest point, along with the physical effort required, it comes as no surprise so few have completed this lofty undertaking.

A chart on the website of the Highpointers Club shows that between 1966 and 2016 typically less than ten people reach their 50th, and final, state highpoint in a given calendar year – with the most being 23.

August 5, 2021, I reported my completion of all 50 to the Highpointers Club.  In turn they informed me that in regard to the total number of people to have ever accomplished this I was “around number 350”, and “...numbers can change as members report in. But it won't change much.”

Distance From the Iowa HighPoint to the Utah One
It is 775 Miles From the Iowa Highpoint to the Utah Highpoint

The U.S. state highpoints range from landmarks as low as 345 feet to mountains as tall as 20,320 feet.  I classify 34 of the 50 as mountains, another ten as hills, and the remaining six as landmarks.  The six landmark highpoints can be driven to, requiring little or no walking effort, whereas the big mountain highpoints take skilled alpinists days or even weeks to scale on foot.  As such, the endeavor of reaching all 50 offers a range of challenges, and a variety of experiences.

Fifty Pinnacles: My Journey to the Highest Natural Point in Each of the U.S. States

With a lifelong interest in the outdoors, a sense of adventure, and a love of exploring, it was utterly natural for me to take on the challenge of reaching the highest point in each of the 50 U.S. states.  Initially, however, I simply happened upon the first few state highpoints I visited.  Others, early on, I sought out because of their highpoint status but not as a formal goal of highpointing each state.

While climbing my fifth state highpoint, Utah’s Kings Peak, I met a fellow solo hiker, and I was impressed when I learned he had reached 38 of the 50 state highpoints.  Looking back that was when the seed of doing the remaining 45 began to develop.

Nearly three years later, in 2009, I climbed Wyoming’s tallest mountain although the fact it is a state highpoint was not the driving reason.  The following month, I reached the highest point in Idaho seeking it out because of that label.  Two weeks later, when I decided to climb Colorado’s Mount Elbert as a noteworthy mountain to be my 100th unique peak, its highpoint status figured into the choice.

By 2010, I was quite interested in reaching the highest natural point of every state, but I still had no defined plan nor time frame by which to complete them.  Being really into mountaineering, at this point in my life, the tallest, most difficult state highpoints were of the most interest to me, with one of my main goals being to climb Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.  I figured the non-mountainous highpoints could be saved for my golden years making my highpointing plan a long-drawn-out casual one.

In 2014 I climbed Denali making it my 16th U.S. state highpoint.  One more followed that same year, with three more being reached in 2015.

More than four years slipped away before I stood on another state highpoint.  During that time, I finished rebuilding my home following a 2014 fire, and I returned to full-time work as a Software Engineer having enjoyed a two-year hiatus.  As well, I completed 62 mountain climbs, and several other adventures, but I had not had much of a desire to travel long distances, causing my state highpointing objective to slip into hibernation.  However, in August 2019 when I realized I was in danger of reaching the use or lose point of my accumulated personal time off at work, the reluctance to travel was forgotten.

Returning from an August 2019 highpointing trip, where I tagged my 21st through 24th state pinnacles, I realized 18 years had already passed from the time I reached my first.  I decided then to accomplish all 50 within a 20-year time frame.  As such the last quarter of that year I made two more trips adding seven more highpoints to the done list.

I planned to make a big push for the remaining 19 immediately following the winter 2019/2020 ski season.  However, Mother Nature surprised the world by introducing the COVID-19 pandemic.  Understandably, I postponed my spring highpointing objectives.

Come summer 2020, despite the virus not letting up, I decided to take a calculated risk, and use up some airline miles.  As such I increased my total highpoint count to 36 by August 1, 2020, as a result of two more highpointing trips.

At the end of August 2020, my employer granted me a full week off in recognition of five years of service, time I used to tour through several southern states picking up six more highpoints.  In October 2020 I completed the remaining continental states leaving only Hawaii unreached.

As the world-wide pandemic persisted, travel to Hawaii proved to be excessively problematic prior to July 2021.  Once Hawaii opened to travelers vaccinated against COVID-19, I straight away visited the Big Island.  By summiting Mauna Kea July 22, 2021, I concluded the amazing pursuit of standing on the highest point of each of the 50 states.

This huge, worthwhile, goal spanned 20 years and 2 months!  Over those years, I took 26 highpointing trips which amounted to an aggregated cost of US$16,500.00.  Spruce Knob, West Virginia was the only trip done as a day trip.  The longest trip was for Denali which spanned one month.  Seven was the most highpoints I tagged on one trip - incidentally it was a four-day trip.  All the logistics, research, and other preparations for every excursion were figured out either in consultation with team members or alone - no guiding services were used.  Thirty-three of the highpoints I reached solo and all 50 were obtained on the first attempt.

U.S. States Highpointed by Year

My U.S. State Highpointing Journey
My U.S. State Highpointing Journey

Listed below are the U.S. states I highpointed in a given year. The states are listed in the order I reached their highest natural point. In parentheses following the year is the count for that year.

2001 (2): North Carolina, West Virginia. Two of 50 completed.

2005 (2): Maryland, New York. Four of 50 completed.

2006 (1): Utah. Five of 50 completed.

2009 (3): Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado. Eight of 50 completed.

2010 (3): Oregon, Washington, Arizona. Eleven of 50 completed.

2011 (1): California. Twelve of 50 completed.

2012 (1): Montana. Thirteen of 50 completed.

2013 (2): New Mexico, Texas. Fifteen of 50 completed.

2014 (2): Alaska, Nevada. Seventeen of 50 completed.

2015 (3): Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota. Twenty of of 50 completed.

2019 (11): Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma. Thirty-one of 50 completed.

2020 (18): Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Forty-nine of 50 completed.

2021 (1): Hawaii. Fifty of 50 completed!!

The chart below compares the number of state highpoints I reached per year to the portion of the total effort required in obtaining all 50.

Per Year Comparison of U.S. State Highpoints vs Effort
Per Year Comparison of U.S. State Highpoints vs Effort

Comparing the blue bar above the year 2014 in the chart above to the red bar for the same year, it is interesting to see that reaching just two highpoints in 2014 required almost a quarter of the overall effort. 2014 was the year I climbed the Alaska highpoint which required close to three weeks on the mountain. In comparison reaching 18 highpoints in 2020 required only about three percent of the effort. Learn more by reading The Effort Scale of Highpointing the 50 U.S. States.

My Journey to the Highest Natural Point of Every U.S State in Photographs

Photo Album

Highpoint List by U.S State Name

Each highpoint name is followed by its elevation then the order in which I reached it.

  1. Alabama: Cheaha Mountain, 2,407 ft.  Number 41.
  2. Alaska: Denali, 20,320 ft.  Number 16.
  3. Arizona:  Humphreys Peak, 12,633 ft.  Number 11.
  4. Arkansas Magazine Mountain, 2,753 ft.  Number 38.
  5. California:  Mount Whitney, 14,497 ft.  Number 12.
  6. Colorado:  Mount Elbert, 14,433 ft.  Number 8.
  7. Connecticut:  Mount Frissell at CT/MA border, 2,380 ft.  Number 48.
  8. Delaware:  Ebright Azimuth, 448 ft.  Number 46.
  9. Florida:  Britton Hill, 345 ft.  Number 40.
  10. Georgia:  Brasstown Bald, 4,784 ft.  Number 26.
  11. Hawaii:  Mauna Kea, 13,796 ft.  Number 50.
  12. Idaho:  Borah Peak, 12,662 ft.  Number 7.
  13. Illinois:  Charles Mound, 1,235 ft.  Number 36.
  14. Indiana:  Hoosier Hill, 1,257 ft.  Number 44.
  15. Iowa:  Hawkeye Point, 1,670 ft.  Number 35.
  16. Kansas:  Mount Sunflower, 4,039 ft.  Number 30.
  17. Kentucky:  Black Mountain, 4,139 ft.  Number 28.
  18. Louisiana:  Driskill Mountain, 535 ft.  Number 39.
  19. Maine:  Katahdin, 5,267 ft.  Number 21.
  20. Maryland:  Backbone Mountain, 3,360 ft.  Number 3.
  21. Massachusetts:  Mount Greylock, 3,491 ft.  Number 24.
  22. Michigan:  Mount Arvon, 1,979 ft.  Number 33.
  23. Minnesota:  Eagle Mountain, 2,301 ft.  Number 32.
  24. Mississippi:  Woodall Mountain, 806 ft.  Number 42.
  25. Missouri:  Taum Sauk Mountain, 1,772 ft.  Number 37.
  26. Montana:  Granite Peak, 12,799 ft.  Number 13.
  27. Nebraska:  Panorama Point, 5,424 ft.  Number 18.
  28. Nevada:  Boundary Peak, 13,140 ft.  Number 17.
  29. New Hampshire:  Mount Washington, 6,288 ft.  Number 22.
  30. New Jersey:  High Point, 1,803 ft.  Number 47.
  31. New Mexico:  Wheeler Peak, 13,161 ft.  Number 14.
  32. New York:  Mount Marcy, 5,344 ft.  Number 4.
  33. North Carolina:  Mount Mitchell, 6,684 ft.  Number 1.
  34. North Dakota:  White Butte, 3,506 ft.  Number 20.
  35. Ohio:  Campbell Hill, 1,549 ft.  Number 43.
  36. Oklahoma:  Black Mesa, 4,973 ft.  Number 31.
  37. Oregon:  Mount Hood, 11,239 ft.  Number 9.
  38. Pennsylvania:  Mount Davis, 3,213 ft.  Number 45.
  39. Rhode Island:  Jerimoth Hill, 812 ft.  Number 49.
  40. South Carolina:  Sassafras Mountain, 3,553 ft.  Number 25.
  41. South Dakota:  Black Elk Peak, 7,242 ft.  Number 19.
  42. Tennessee:  Clingmans Dome, 6,643 ft.  Number 27.
  43. Texas:  Guadalupe Peak, 8,749 ft.  Number 15.
  44. Utah:  Kings Peak, 13,528 ft.  Number 5.
  45. Vermont:  Mount Mansfield, 4,393 ft.  Number 23.
  46. Virginia:  Mount Rogers, 5,729 ft.  Number 29.
  47. Washington:  Mount Rainier, 14,411 ft.  Number 10.
  48. West Virginia:  Spruce Knob, 4,863 ft.  Number 2.
  49. Wisconsin:  Timm’s Hill, 1,951 ft.  Number 34.
  50. Wyoming:  Gannett Peak, 13,804 ft.  Number 6.

Elevations may vary slightly from one reference source to another.

Regarding highpoint names, for the most part I have followed common conventions.  A highpoint contained on a mountain top is typically named the same as the mountain.  Occasionally the highpoint goes by the name of the highest peak such as with Pennsylvania.  The highpoint of Connecticut is a unique case as it is located on the shoulder of Mount Frissell directly on the border with Massachusetts making it a “liner.”  To make that clear I refer to it as “Mount Frissell at CT/MA border” rather than “Mount Frissell – Southwest Shoulder.”

More Details

Want more details?  I have published a book about my journey to the highest point of every U.S. state.  The book, All Fifty: My Journey to the Highest Point of Every U.S. State, is available on

The book: All Fifty: My Journey to the Highest Point of Every U.S. State
The book: All Fifty: My Journey to the Highest Point of Every U.S. State

About the Title

Fifty Pinnacles is meant to literally signify 50 highpoints, as in one for each U.S. State.  There is however a double meaning to this title since pinnacle is defined not only as "the highest point" but also as "a tall formation, such as a mountain peak.” 

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Viewing: 1-6 of 6

MikeLJ - Sep 20, 2021 2:25 am - Voted 10/10


and well done.


vanman798 - Sep 20, 2021 7:37 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Congratulations



pixelate - Nov 2, 2021 12:49 pm - Voted 10/10

Mission Accomplished

Yo Walter – thanks for sharing your 50-High Points Report and, more importantly, for completing the 50 US High Points. It was a pleasure to read the details and background in your journey. I think the highlight was in learning that you completed each of the peaks on the first attempt. Congratulations on successfully implementing a long term logistical plan and for exercising the determination to see this effort to completion. Given only around 350 completers of the US High Points and given the US population of around 330 million, that makes you quite nearly 1 in a million (or 1 in 20 million per the World population of ~7.7 billion). Your Fifty Pinnacles report has inspired me to finally complete my own 50 State HP report.


vanman798 - Nov 2, 2021 12:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Mission Accomplished

Pixelate, I really appreciate the kind words. I know you were two years ahead of me with accomplishing all 50 yourself, making you 1 in more than a million!!! Have a great day.


alpinbeta - Nov 2, 2021 1:57 pm - Voted 10/10


Really a great goal! Here In the Alps, instead, some mountaineers collect the 82 Four-thousanders.


vanman798 - Nov 2, 2021 2:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congratulations!

It was a fun way to visit every U.S. state.

Viewing: 1-6 of 6