How Many Mountain Ranges Are in Alaska?

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A woman sits and enjoys the view of a turquoise river and mountains in Alaska on a summer day.

The Land of the Midnight Sun is so encompassing that most travelers only see a minute portion. From the Arctic Circle to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska covers a lot of ground. And you won’t have enough vacation time to navigate the waters of the Inside Passage all the way to Nome. But defining Alaska by its mountains helps break the Last Frontier into chewable sizes. 

These mountains in Alaska separate the state into scenic wonders, giving travelers a new way to explore the region. So let’s look at the various mountain ranges to see how they can direct your next escape to the Last Frontier.

How Many Mountain Ranges Are in Alaska?

Our country’s largest state has four major mountain ranges: the Coastal, Alaska, Brooks, and Aleutian Ranges. Inside these four groupings, you’ll find ten more mountains, bringing the total to 14. 

From the sea, a boat floats in front of the snowcapped peaks of the Aleutian Mountain range in Alaska
Aleutian Mountains

And just so you know, of the twenty tallest mountains in the United States, 13 of them reside in Alaska. They range in height from 14,565 to 20,310 feet.

What Are the Major Mountain Ranges of Alaska? 

The four major mountain ranges of Alaska are designated by their location. You have Brooks to the north and the Alaska Range in the central portion. To the southwest you’ll see the Aleutian Mountains and the Coastal Range in the southeast. 

Where Are the Biggest Mountains in Alaska? 

You can find the tallest mountains in North America in the Alaska Mountain Range. Denali, once called Mount McKinley, stands at 20,310 feet. It overshadows its nearest competition by 2,300 feet.

The second highest peak in the state is St. Elias, at 18,008 feet. It lies in the St. Elias Range in the southeastern region.

Peering through the trees to the towering peaks of Denali, covered in white snow.
Denali

And the third highest mountain in the Last Frontier is Mount Foraker, also within the Alaska Range and only 14 miles from Denali.

Traveler’s Tip: Don’t overlook visiting this beautiful town in Alaska’s Yukon Delta.

Which 3 Mountain Peaks Are Part of Denali? 

You can only climb two peaks on Denali — the South Peak, the highest point of the mountain, and the North Peak, measuring 19,470 feet high. You can’t hike the third peak in the Denali range, Archdeacons Tower.

It stands 19,600 feet tall. But because Denali is a massive mountain, these three peaks have five major ridges extending from them, with dozens of buttresses, secondary summits, and spurs.

Is Denali Higher Than Everest? 

Scientists measure mountains from the base to their highest point. Denali’s base is on a sloping plain from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. Its peak sits 20,310 feet above sea level, making its base-to-peak height range from 17,310 to 19,310 feet.

When you measure Mount Everest, the Tibetan Plateau is much further from sea level, so the base of Everest ranges from 13,800 to 17,100 feet above sea level. Its peak is 29,032 feet, so its base-to-peak height range is 11,932 to 15,232 feet. 

In the foreground, out of focus people looking out at the jagged peaks of a mountain range in Alaska.

If we were measuring the distance between the base of a mountain to its peak only, Denali would qualify as higher than Everest. But because the standard measurement is from sea level, Everest has more overall height, even though we see less of it from base to peak.

Can Anyone Climb Denali? 

Virtually anyone can climb the mountain, but that does not mean anyone should. Denali is not a difficult climb, but the weather gets more severe than on any other mountain.

It is not unusual to face temperatures of -75 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -118 degrees, which can freeze a human body in less than a minute. So climbers should be experienced in ascending and descending in extremely harsh conditions.

Most guide companies also suggest that climbers have intermediate experience in ice and snow climbing, winter camping, and glacier travel. They must carry 50 lb packs with their gear and supplies for the three to four weeks of the journey. 

And although it is not required to use a guide, the National Park Service strongly suggests that independent climbers have “numerous ascents” of high peaks in Alaska, the Himalayas, or the Cascades before trying Denali.

Which U.S. State Has the Most Mountains? 

People disagree as to which state has the most mountains, based on the definition of a mountain and the average size of the state. No specific height is required to call a piece of land a “mountain.” So do 1,000-foot mountains count? Or do you start the count at 10,000-foot high peaks? 

Generally speaking, Nevada has 300 mountain ranges within its borders, with 1,878 peaks. But Alaska, with much more terrain, has 3,174 named mountains in its jurisdiction. So if we just count peaks, Alaska wins.

But some average the number of peaks based on each state’s square miles. West Virginia advertises it as the true winner, with “more peaks per mile than any other state.” Let’s do a test to prove or disprove their claim. 

With over 1,000 mountains within its 24,230 square miles, West Virginia has an average of 24 per mile. In contrast, Alaska has 665,400 square miles of land and 3,174 mountains. This means that the state averages 209 per mile.

It looks like there’s not too much truth in advertising. Alaska still comes out as the big winner.

Are the Mountains in Alaska Worth Seeing in Person? 

If you want to see real jaw-dropping peaks within the true wilderness, you’ll find no place better than Alaska. You may return home changed by the grandeur of Denali.

The wildness of the mountains in Alaska will surprise you in unanticipated ways. And the uncontrollable nature of these immense pinnacles will confirm our small place on such a magnificent planet.

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