The states with the tallest mountains are not necessarily the highest states above sea level. While the summit of Washington’s Mount Rainier reaches 14,411 feet, the fourth highest peak of any state, the average elevation of the state is 1,700 feet, approximately 70% of the national average elevation of 2,500 feet. The state with the highest average elevation is Colorado, which stands at 6,800 feet above sea level.
Some states also have more topographic diversity than others. While California has the second highest peak of any state, it also has the lowest elevation in the country. Situated 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley is the lowest point in both California and the United States. The difference between California’s 14,494-foot peak atop Mount Whitney and its Death Valley trough is nearly 3 miles. Meanwhile, in flatter states such as Florida and Delaware, the difference between the highest and lowest point is less than 500 feet.
Mountainous states provide residents with access to recreational opportunities, which may ultimately contribute to positive health outcomes. In states like California, Colorado, and Washington, which have the second, third, and fourth highest peaks in the country, approximately 90% of residents have adequate access to locations for physical activity such as parks and recreational centers — much greater than the 84% national average.
Residents of higher-elevation states tend to have healthier behaviors overall. According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, the shares of adults who do not regularly exercise in California, Colorado, and Washington are, respectively, 17.4%, 17.1%, and 14.4% — the fifth lowest, fourth lowest, and lowest inactivity rates in the nation.
To determine the highest point in every state, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States. Outdoor recreation consumer spending figures came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and are for 2017. Conventional outdoor recreation activities (such as camping, hiking, boating, and hunting); other core activities.