If climbing a mountain is on your bucket list, this week’s gallery is for you. Conquering these seven summits comes with serious bragging rights for adventure-seeking travelers. These mountains have earned a number of height-related superlatives, from the tallest of Colorado’s fourteeners to the tallest in the country. Fair warning, every single one of them is physically demanding. Having some degree of experience and a great deal of perseverance is recommended. Whether you pad your list with one or aim to summit them all, these are seven must-climb mountains within the U.S.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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As the name implies, Grand Teton is something extraordinary. A visit to Grand Teton National Park in general is a rewarding experience with postcard-perfect landscapes and plenty of wildlife, but conquering its highest peak is the ultimate experience. Summiting the 13,776-foot Grant Teton is possible for hikers of most skill levels and the majority do it in a single day. Nearly 40 routes exist to the summit, but most head out via the same one or two. Hiking requires no permit, but you'll have to get one if you plan on camping overnight in the park.
Photo by Gord McKenna, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Of all Colorado's 53 fourteeners (mountains with peaks above 14,000 feet), Mount Elbert is king. At around 14,440 feet above sea level, it's officially the highest in the state and the second highest in the contiguous U.S. Despite Mount Elbert's superlative-earning height, it's not considerably difficult to climb. While it does require a good deal of endurance and a full day on average to summit, no special equipment or skill is necessary.
Photo by Bo Insogna, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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While considered "potentially active," Oregon's Mount Hood is not likely to erupt any time soon if ever again, making it a fairly safe bet for those looking to add climbing a volcano and one of the country's most famous mountains to their bucket list. At just more than 11,200 feet, this snow-covered mountain is home to 12 glaciers and snowfields, making its summit considerably difficult to reach. Skills and equipment are required, but successfully reaching the top is possible with a little training.
Photo by Dave Wilson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Alaska's Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, rises as the showpiece of the 6-million-acre national park of the same name to a superlative-earning height. At 20,310 feet it is officially the highest in North America. Climbing the continent's greatest summit requires registration with Denali National Park and Preserve, as well as paying a fee. Like many of the mountains in this gallery, Denali is considerably difficult to summit and those who set out to do so should plan on it taking two weeks to a month.
Photo by Launa, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Mount Rainier comes in at 14,410 feet above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Washington and in the Cascade Range. Additionally, it's both an active volcano and the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S. For these reasons and more, climbing Mount Rainier is no easy feat. If you plan to go for the summit, a climbing pass is required through the National Park Service. Experienced climbers take an average of two to three days to reach the top all while risking avalanche, inclement weather, rock and ice fall, as well as injury. The reward for those who succeed is conquering one of the country's most difficult alpine challenges.
Photo by Jim Culp, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Mount Shasta may only be California's fifth highest mountain, but at 14,179 climbing the White Mountain requires serious skill and an assortment of equipment, including proper shoes, an ice axe and crampons for snowy conditions. Summiting the mountain in a full day is possible, depending on route, weather and the climber's endurance. Mount Shasta is surrounded by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which at more than 2 million acres is the largest national forest in the state and provides no shortage of views along your way.
Photo by Joe Parks, CC BY-NC 2.0
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California's Sierra Mountains are home to Mount Whitney, which at some 14,505 feet, is officially the tallest in the contiguous U.S. Located within the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks, the peak is popular among all levels of hikers. Depending on when you climb, special equipment might be necessary. A permit from the National Park service is required for all hikers, whether setting out for the summit or just hitting the trails around Mount Whitney. Most attempt the summit over one or two days via the Mount Whitney Trail, a 22-mile round trip hike that has you ascend more than 8,365 feet once you set out from the trailhead.
Photo by Jason Jenkins, CC BY-SA 2.0