Want to Climb a Mountain? Six Easy Peaks to Climb in The United States
Updated: February 17, 2021
There are thousands of mountains around North America (and the world) that offer the sweet reward of a mountain summit without guides, technical climbing experience, or oxygen tanks. In fact, many mountain hikes are nothing more than a well-marked steep trail of switchbacks and the occasional ridgeline scramble.
If standing on a summit piques your interest, here are relatively easy mountain climbs to add to your list:
1. Mount Mansfield, Vermont
Technically, it’s the highest point in Vermont, but the approach is relatively easy. Start at the Sunset Ridge trail and follow a path up 2600 ft over 3.3 miles. A majority of this hike happens above the treeline, allowing for a fun and scenic hike across a ridgeline to the summit. For beginner hikers, allow 4-5 hours.
A few hours drive is Mount Washington, the highest point in New Hampshire. Tie the two together for an epic summit weekend.
2. Guadalupe Peak, Texas
Another state high-point, Guadalupe Peak, rises high above Texan salt fields. From the parking lot, follow the well-marked trail for just over four miles to the summit. Elevation gain will be just over 3,000 feet, which means it’ll be a challenging, yet rewarding feat for a beginner.
Before leaving for the mountain make sure you have ample water. The peak is surrounded by a dry and desolate desert.
3. Cloud Peak, Wyoming
If you're looking for a summit that also requires a bit of backcountry and route navigating, head for Cloud Peak in Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains. It's also Wyoming's easiest '13er' in the state. The round-trip trek is around 21-25 miles, making it the perfect summit to bag while spending the weekend in the backcountry. Unlike all other Wyoming 13ers, this range also does not have the common threat of Grizzly Bears.
The most common approach to Cloud Peak starts at West Tensleep Trail (map marker: https://goo.gl/maps/PUm4Y64ZC762eLvUA). Most weekend hikers opt to pitch their tent near Mistymoon Lake near the 6.5-mile marker*. From there, the summit day push adds an additional 10ish miles round-trip from basecamp. The trail heading toward the summit can often get ambiguous. Follow cairn sets and have a GPS marked on the summit. Once on the ridgeline, it will be an easy traverse with a light scramble to the summit.
*Please note: There is a 500-foot camping rule at Mistymoon Lake. Please do not pitch your tent within the estimated range. There were multiple people disobeying the rules. Campfires are also not allowed.
4. Half Dome, California
The 'Half Dome' in California remains an easy, yet dramatic, peak. The dome is one of the world’s most recognizable icons, and standing on top comes with deserved bragging-rights. The 18 miles round-trip hike follows a well-marked trail past numerous waterfalls and high above Yosemite Valley. When you stand on the summit, you’ll look 4,500 feet below to where your hike began in the early hours of the morning. Allow 8-14 hours, depending on hiking speed and health. (pack lots of water!)
5. Mount Olympus, Utah
Perhaps one of my favorite summits we've done in the United States, Mount Olympus towers over the surrounding Salt Lake City area at 9026ft. From down in the metro sprawl you can often pick out the elevated peak 4000ft above the valley floor. The hike is short (7 miles RT) but steep, gaining over 1000/ft per mile on the 3.75 mile ascent. The hardest section sits just below the summit and is considered a class 3 scramble. When we took the summit in spring 2017, there was a foot of fresh snow the last thousand feet. Although the scramble was icy, we still summited without issue and therefore enjoyed the peak in complete solitude.
7. Camelback Peak, Arizona
Located within the Pheonix metro area, Camelback is a well-known and heavily-trafficked hike with grand rewards. Many local trail runners and hikers use the mountain for daily workouts. It's a great mountain to train for elevation gain, without having to worry about route-finding, permits, or even camping. The route gains roughly 1250 feet over 1.42 miles, making it a steep but easy summit perfect for beginners. Yet for being so easily accessible, the summit offers sweeping views of paradise valley and the distant superstition mountains. If you hike up around Christmas...you might even find a decorated tree on top.
Don't forget the water!
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure, outdoor, and sustainable tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.