30 Best Beginner Mountain Climbs in the USA

In USA, Where to Climb by Pete

With over 100,000,000 acres of wilderness, the US is a great place to live for the aspiring mountain climber. The list below details 30 of the best mountains for beginners to climb across the country, ranging from short, easy hikes at low elevation to multi-day adventures on glaciated peaks.   In our quest to cover the biggest and broadest range of variety, you may see some “easy hikes” when you are actually looking for hard ice climbs.  Relax, we have something for everyone!  Check out #26 – #30 for you hard-core climbers!  Most of the mountains on this list can be climbed without much technical equipment or know-how, making them excellent choices for climbers who are looking to cut their teeth. A number of the peaks are even “summit-able” in a car, although I always recommend choosing trail over road for a day in the mountains.   On the other hand, some climbs are multi-day glacier climbs with guides, axes, Everest-looking gear and the whole shebang!  Click the links on the peak names to be redirected to the Summitpost page for that specific peak, which offers more in-depth route descriptions, photos, maps, and trip reports.

1. Stony Man 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Stony Man

4,011 feet
Difficulty: Easy- 2-hour hike

Stony Man Mountain is the second highest peak in Shenandoah National Park, and its summit can be reached with an easy hike up the Little Stony Man trail, which is about 3 miles round trip with 800 feet of elevation gain. The gorgeous trail ascends part of the Appalachian trail, passing the highest point on AT in Shenandoah. There is a large boulder field just below the summit where hikers can scramble around on blocks to enjoy different views of the Shenandoah Valley. This is an excellent hike for beginning mountain climbers to get a feel for the types of mountain trails you’ll find on the Appalachian trail, and at just 4,011 feet you won’t have to worry much about the effects of altitude, which makes this a great day trip.

 

2. Avalanche Peak

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Avalanche Peak

10,568 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A half-day hike on a well-maintained trail

Avalanche Peak is one of the most popular trails in Wyoming due to its easy access and National Park Designation. The hike is about four miles round trip and gains just over 2,000 feet of elevation. The peak offers beautiful views of Eastern Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, the Tenon Range, and the surrounding forests, and is best climbed between May and October depending on snow conditions. This is one of the few peaks in Yellowstone that is accessible by trail, which means it offers unparalleled views of the park and shouldn’t be missed!

 

3. Lassen Peak

Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

Lassen Peak

10,457 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A half-day, class 1 hike

Lassen Peak is a particularly exciting and impressive hike due to the fact that this volcano erupted most recently in 1915, making it one of only 2 volcanoes in the contiguous United States to erupt in the 20th century. Despite this impressive statistic, Lassen is one of the most accessible summits in the Cascade Range. The standard route to the summit of Lassen Peak is a 5-mile round trip hike. Unfortunately, the trail is currently closed due to damage from slides, but it is expected to open again shortly.

 

4. Mount Scott

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Mount Scott

8,929 feet

Difficulty: Easy- A short walk up hike on easy terrain

Mt. Scott is the highest point in Crater Lake National Park as well as the 10th highest Oregon Cascade Peak. It is also reportedly the best spot to get a photo of Crater Lake, as it is the only place where you’ll be able to fit the entirety of the lake in an average camera viewfinder. The Mt. Scott trail is a highly-trafficked 5-mile out and back trail that gains about 1000 feet of elevation. The trail is well-maintained and kid-friendly and offers excellent views of the lake as well as nearby Mt. Shasta and Oregon’s famous Three Sisters.

 

5. Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Clingmans Dome

6,644 feet
Difficulty: Easy- Accessible by road or well-maintained walk up

Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi, and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. A road leads almost to the top of the Dome, offering easy access to the summit. From the end of the road, an easy, half-mile hike brings hikers to an observation tower that offers spectacular panoramic views of the Smokies. There are also a number of popular hikes that stay away from a maintained road, ranging in distance and difficulty but generally in the 11-18 mile range. These hikes offer a more peaceful and solitary adventure, although the summit is bound to be busy with folks who opted to drive to the top.

 

6. Mount Washington

Sargent’s Purchase, New Hampshire

Mount Washington

6,289 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A half-day class 2 hike

Affectionately known as “the rock pile,” Mount Washington is one of the most popular hiking, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and alpine climbing destinations in New England. The most popular hiking route to the top of Mount Washington is the Tuckerman Ravine route, a 4.2-mile class 2 hike. Most of the hike follows a well-maintained trail but the route finishes on a large, class 2 rock field with some scrambling. This route is open in all seasons and can be climbed in the snow with a ski descent (ice ax and crampons recommended) but most climbers opt to ascend the route in the summer months when it is snow-free.

 

7. Wildrose Peak

Death Valley National Park, California

Wildrose Peak

9,064 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A half day hike on easy terrain

The Wildrose Peak Trail is an 8.4-mile round-trip hike that summits one of the tallest peaks in Death Valley. The trailhead is located at over 6,000 feet, which makes this a great hike for those who choose to visit Death Valley in the summer. The temperature atop Wildrose Peak is drastically different from that of the valley far below, and the summit often receives snow in the winter. Although not as tall as the nearby Telescope peak, hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the Mojave desert from the summit of Wildrose, and on a clear day one can see both Mount Whitney, the highest point in North America, and Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North América.

 

8. Guadalupe Peak

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Guadelupe Peak

8,751 feet
Difficulty: Easy- Half to full day hike

The Guadalupe Peak trail is an 8.5-mile round trip hike that summits the highest peak in Texas. A well-graded hiking trail will take you to the summit, which is capped by a strange, stainless steel monument erected by American Airlines in the 1950s as a memorial to air-mail pilots. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding Guadalupe Mountain Range, a scattered collection of peaks that rise from the Chihuahuan desert floor in Western Texas. The trail gains over 3,000 feet in elevation, and while the hike can easily be completed in a day it can also be backpacked as there are walk-in campsites about three miles from the trailhead.

 

9. Mount Mitchell

Black Mountains, North Carolina

Mount Mitchell

6,684 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A half day to full day hike on class 1 terrain

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the US east of the Mississippi River. Like a number of other peaks on this list, there is a paved road leading to about 100’ below the summit. Most hikers, however, will opt to hike the Mount Mitchell Trail, an 11.2 mile out and back hike on a well-maintained trail. Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountain Crest, which includes six other nearby peaks all above 6,300 feet, and it’s possible to link all these peaks on a multi-day loop trail.

 

10. Desolation Peak

North Cascades, Washington

Desolation Peak

6,102 feet
Difficulty: Easy- A full day hike

Desolation Peak isn’t the tallest peak in the Cascades, but it is a strikingly prominent peak that offers panoramic views as well as a special treat for the literary hiker: near the summit of Desolation Peak, hikers will come across a fire lookout where beat writer Jack Kerouac was stationed in the mid-‘50s. His novel Desolation Angels is loosely based on his experience living at the Desolation Peak Lookout. The Desolation Peak trail is about 13.6 miles round trip with 4500 feet of elevation gain and follows well-maintained trails. The trailhead is most easily accessed by a boat trip across Ross Lake, although some backpackers opt to hike in an extra 16 miles on the East Bank Trail.

 

11. Mauna Kea

The Big Island, Hawaii

Mauna Kea

13,803 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half-day, well-maintained trail at high elevation

Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s highest mountain, not to be confused with neighboring Mauna Loa, which continues to spew lava on the regular, which flows 50 miles in all directions. Mauna Kea’s peak is somewhat undefined, as it is formed by a series of cinder cone volcanoes, but its steep slopes mean amazing views from the summit. The Mauna Kea trail is a well-maintained trail that reaches the summit in six miles with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. There is also a paved summit road that ends within a hundred feet of the mountain’s summit, so the faint of heart or fitness can opt to drive to the top.

 

12. Mount Olomana

Kailua, Hawaii

Mount Olomana

1,643 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half-day hike with some exposed, third class scrambling

The Mount Olomana trail ascends a spectacular, three-peaked mountain on the island of Oahu, near Honolulu, Hawaii. Though only about 3 miles round trip, this exciting trail is ranked as moderate due to the fact that it traverses exposed peaks via sections of third and fourth class scrambling. Unmaintained ropes and steel cables are often in place to assist hikers at these sections of exposed trail, however, they are not officially maintained so hikers should use caution and good judgement before trusting these aids. Many hikers choose to turn back after summiting the first two peaks, which offer amazing views of the surrounding area, but the true Olomana Mountain trail ascends all three peaks.

 

13. Angel’s Landing

Zion National Park, Utah

Angel’s Landing

5,785 feet
Difficulty: Moderate- A half-day hike with some exposed, class 3 sections

Angel’s Landing is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, and for good reason. The standard route to the top is the Angel’s Landing Trail, which is a 5-mile out-and-back hike that involves navigating some class 3 terrain with the assistance of chains and steel cables installed as handholds. Some portions of the trail offer over 1,000 feet of exposure, making the last half mile of the trail an exciting and sometimes scary experience for visitors. A number of big wall rock climbing routes also lead to the Angel’s Landing Summit, and climbers are often visible on the vertical wall from the trailhead.

 

14. Mount Bierstadt

Front Range, Colorado

Mount Bierstadt

14,060 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half day hike on easy terrain at high elevation

Mount Bierstadt is one of Colorado’s easiest and most popular 14ers. The trailhead is only about an hour from Denver, and the easiest route, the West Slopes, is an easy half-day outing for the competent hiker. The trail is about 6 miles round trip and gains about 2,391 feet of elevation on a well-maintained, class 1 trail, which makes this a great first 14er for those looking to gain experience hiking at altitude. More difficult routes are popular among more experienced climbers, and some climbers even link Mount Bierstadt with Mount Evans and Mount Spalding for a big, challenging day in the mountains.

 

15. Wheeler Peak

Sangre de Cristo, New Mexico

Wheeler Peak

13,161 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half-day, class 2 hike at high elevation

Wheeler Peak is the highest mountain in New Mexico. The Williams Lake Trailhead offers the easiest access to the top of Wheeler Peak. This trail starts at the Taos ski area and wanders towards Williams Lake for about two miles before splitting off to the summit of Wheeler. The trail gains over 2000 feet of elevation after this split, but the trail is well-maintained and the summit can be reached easily in a couple of hours. There are a few other routes to the summit as well, and while the hiking isn’t the most scenic, the summit offers excellent views of the surrounding mountain range and this is a great hike for the beginning mountain climber looking to get some experience hiking at elevation.

 

16. Mount Katahdin

Baxter State Park, Maine

Mount Katahdin

5,296 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – Half or full day 3rd class hike

Mt. Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the summit offers incredible views, towering above the comparatively low forests and lakes of the surrounding area. The mountain marks the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and is located within the remote Baxter State Park. Access into the park is tightly controlled and only a small number of visitors are allowed in each day, so you should plan on arriving very early (before 6 am in peak season) in order to enter. There are a number of different hiking and climbing routes on Katahdin, but the most popular trail is the Knife Edge trail, which involves some scrambling and at certain points is only a few feet wide with thousand foot drops on either side.

 

17. Lookout Peak

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Lookout Peak

13,661 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A full day hike on a steep trail at elevation

Lookout Peak is on the border of Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, and is known for having one of the prettiest summit views in the entire state of California. Although a road leads almost to the top of the peak, which can be accessed via a half-mile of steep hiking and scrambling on a poorly maintained trail, the more scenic route is the Don Cecil Trail, which starts in Kings Canyon. This 14-mile round trip hike gains about 4,000 feet of elevation, and the summit offers a spectacular view straight into the glacially carved Kings Canyon.

 

18. Hallett Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Hallett Peak

12,713 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half to full day hike on a well-maintained trail at a moderate elevation

Located in Rocky Mountain National Park along the Continental Divide, Hallett Peak is one of the most popular hikes in the area. The most popular hiking route is the Flattop Mountain Trail, which is a well-maintained, 10-mile out-and-back trail that gains 3,238 feet of elevation. Summer and Fall are the easiest times to climb Hallett Peak as the trail will be snow free, but it’s also possible to hike the trail safely in the winter without the need for crampons or an ice ax. As this is the most visited mountain in the park, hikers seeking solitude should consider an early morning start on a weekday to avoid crowds.

 

19. Humphreys Peak

Coconino County, Arizona

Humphreys Peak

12,633 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A half day to full day hike on a well-maintained trail at moderate elevation

Humphreys Peak is the highest mountain in Arizona, making it one of the most scenic viewpoints in the San Francisco Peaks. The main trail up Humphreys Peak is a 9.2 mile out and back trail that gains 3,343 feet of elevation. On a clear day, hikers can see the Grand Canyon from the summit, making this a fairly popular hike for locals of the Flagstaff area. The trail is open year-round but is often covered with feet of snow in the winter months, which makes the hike significantly more challenging. Humphreys Peak is also home to Arizona Snowbowl, a popular winter ski resort.

 

20. Mount Evans

Clear Creek County, Colorado

Mount Evans

14,256 feet
Difficulty: Moderate (depending on your route) – A half to full day class 2 hike at high elevation

Mt. Evans is the closest 14’er to Denver, and as a result, it’s very popular with hikers and climbers. Located in Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, this is another unique 14’er because the summit can be accessed via highway 5, the highest paved road in the United States. There are a number of routes to the summit aside from the paved highway, ranging in difficulty and length. The easiest route starts at the Summit Lake Trailhead and is only about 4 miles round trip, gaining under 2000 feet of elevation on class 2 terrain. The Chicago Creek Route is a more common route for mountaineers, covering 14 miles and gaining 4600 feet of elevation.

 

21. Mount Whitney

Inyo National Forest, California

Mount Whitney

14,505 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A long, full day or two day outing on class one terrain at high elevation

Mount Whitney, to the dismay of many Coloradans, is the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. Despite this impressive statistic, Mount Whitney is easily ascended via the Mount Whitney trail, an entirely class 1 hiking trail. The hike is 22 miles round trip and can be done in a day by the motivated hiker, although many choose to hike the route over two days. This trail is extremely popular, well-maintained, and straightforward, and the greatest challenge most hikers face is that of hiking at high elevation. The trailhead starts at over 8,000 feet, so be sure to allow a day or two for acclimatization before attempting this summit!

 

22. Mount Hood

Hood River, Oregon

Mount Hood

11,249 feet
Difficulty: Moderate – A full day outing which requires some technical equipment and snow travel

At 7,706 feet of prominence, Mount Hood is the 28th most prominent peak in the US. Just 50 miles from Portland, Mount Hood is home to six ski areas and it’s also one of the most climbed glaciated peaks in the world. The South Side Hogsback route is the most popular and easy route leading to the summit. This route will take you to the summit and back in about nine miles, but the terrain is somewhat technical, as much of the climb is walking up steep snow. Crampons and an ice ax are essential and some parties choose to rope up for parts of the climb. This is a very popular mountain climb for less experienced climbers due to the easy approach, relatively short route, a low elevation (when compared to mountains like Shasta and Rainier). Hood is a great climb for those looking for an introduction to mountain snow travel.

 

23. Pikes Peak

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Pikes Peak

14,115 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long, class 1 hike at high elevation

Pike’s Peak is the highest summit of the Southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and it stands out due to its prominence of over 4,000 feet, which led to its designation as a National Historic Landmark. The most common route up Pike’s Peak is the Barr Trail, which is a 26-mile round trip hike. It can be done in one day by an ambitious hiker, or hikers can opt to stay at the Barr cabins for the first night and then summit and descend on the second day. Due to the unpredictable summer weather conditions in the Rockies, hikers should start well before sunrise so they can reach the summit early in the day. Pikes Peak is a unique peak because, despite its high elevation at over 14,000 feet, the summit is accessible by both car and tram.

 

24. Mount Haleakala

East Maui, Hawaii

Mount Haleakala

10,023 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A full day hike with a lot of elevation gain

Also known as Haleakala Peak, Mount Haleakala is one of the only mountains in North América where hikers can actually ascend over 10,000 feet of vertical trail, starting near sea level and finishing at the summit of this massive peak in East Maui. The Haleakala Highway goes all the way to the summit of Mount Haleakala, so many people don’t hike at all to reach the summit, but the Kaupo Gap Trail starts near the bottom of the highway, and ambitious hikers can opt to start even lower, all the way at the beach, in order to gain the entire 10,000 vertical feet on this 17.8 mile one-way hike to the summit. Most hikers opt to begin their hike at the visitor’s center about a half mile from the summit, but there are a number of trailheads along the highway leading to the summit, so hikers can decide how much of the trail they’d like to cover.

 

25. Longs Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Longs Peak

14,259 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long, full day hike with some 3rd class scrambling and loose, exposed sections

The most popular route up Colorado’s famous Longs Peak is the Keyhole Route. It’s a 16-mile round trip hike that gains almost 5,000 feet of elevation. This incredibly scenic trail will get you to the top of a 14er, passing multiple waterfalls along the way which makes it a very popular trail in the summer. Although this route doesn’t require any technical climbing or specialized equipment in the summer months, it is a long and strenuous trail with lots of scrambling over big rocks. Hikers are encouraged to start well before sunrise in order to summit before afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

 

26. Capitol Peak

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, Colorado

Capitol Peak

14,137 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long day of hiking and scrambling on class 4 terrain at high elevation

Capitol Peak is known by many as the most difficult 14er in Colorado. Unlike some of the more popular, roadside 14ers, Capitol Peak’s easiest route, the Northeast Ridge or “Knife Ridge, involves some class 4 scrambling. There are two possible approaches to Capitol Peak and both are about six miles long, and from the trailhead to summit climbers can expect to gain about 5,300 feet of elevation. The class 4 portion of the climb is about 130 feet of traversing along the Knife Ridge, with huge exposure on both sides. This is followed by about 250 or 300 feet of climbing and scrambling along the ridge crest before heading for the summit, which provides amazing views on a clear day.

 

27. Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Ranier

14,111 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A multi-day outing on steep snow at high elevation

Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano in the Cascades and the fifth tallest mountain in the continental U.S. It’s also the most heavily glaciated peak in the continental U.S., which makes it an especially attractive challenge to climbers and mountaineers. There are over ten different routes that climbers can take to the summit, ranging in difficulty from second to fifth class. The easiest routes ascend 35-degree snow and are usually completed in two days. Disappointment Cleaver is the easiest and most popular route up Mount Rainier and it’s a great option for newer mountain climbers since you have the option of staying in the Muir Huts at 10,000 feet on your first night, which means you don’t have to carry a tent!

 

28. Mount Baker

Whatcom County, Washington

Mount Baker

10,781 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long full day or two-day outing that requires snow and glacier travel

Mount Baker is a prominent volcanic peak in the North Cascades that can be seen from Seattle on a clear day. Baker is the third highest mountain in Washington and receives an amazing amount of snowfall each year, making it a popular ski destination for those living in the Pacific Northwest. Baker is also a popular mountaineering destination for beginner and expert mountaineers alike. The Coleman Deming Route is the easiest and most popular route to the summit, and it’s a great route for beginning mountaineers to cut their teeth on a Cascade Volcano. The route is technically a walk-up, but due to the amount of glaciation on Mount Baker there is the potential for travel across glaciers and crevasse navigation is likely. Most climbers complete the route in one or two day and ice axes, crampons, ropes, and ice and snow protection are all standard equipment for this route.

 

29. Mount Shasta

Shasta, California

Mount Shasta

14,180 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long full day or two-day outing on steep snow at high elevation

Mount Shasta is the second tallest peak in the Cascade Range after Mount Rainier, but with a base diameter of 17 square miles it has more volume than any other Cascade mountain. Shasta sees over 15,000 summit attempts every year, and only about a third of these attempts are successful. The easiest and most popular route up Shasta is Avalanche Gulch. This route requires crampons and an ice ax, but it is fairly straightforward and many people with no mountaineering experience are able to climb it, usually in two days. This route also has a very popular ski descent, which was deemed a classic after it was first skied in December of 1947.

 

30. Grand Teton

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Grand Teton

13,770 feet
Difficulty: Hard – A long full day or multi-day hike with some sections of technical rock climbing, at high elevation

The Grand Teton is one of the few peaks on this list that can only be summited via a technical rock climbing route. The easiest route to the summit is the Owen Spalding Route, which is rated 5.4 on the Yosemite Decimal System and usually ascends a mixture of rock and snow even in the late summer season. The fastest known time, car to car, on the Owen Spalding Route is under three hours. Most mortals, however, choose to climb the route over two days, camping along the approach trail on day 1 and summiting and returning to the car on day 2. Due to the high elevation of the peak, this is a good option for out-of-towners as it allows you to acclimatize and reduces the risk of altitude-related symptoms on summit day. Although the route is rated as an easy fifth class, it’s remote location and high elevation mean that it’s not a route for beginners. Specialized knowledge and equipment are required to climb the route safely, but there are also a number of guiding companies in the area that lead parties to the summit.

30 Best Beginner Mountain Climbs in the USA was last modified: April 2nd, 2019 by Pete