Montana is a popular destination for tourists, but it’s also home to a staggering number of ranches and farms. In fact, Montana has the third lowest population density of any state in the United States and the eighth smallest population. Despite this tiny population, the Big Sky state comes in fourth largest in terms of land area. Located just north of Wyoming, and sharing a vast northern border with Canada, Montana is among the mountain west states. But, only the western half of the state can be described as mountainous, while the eastern half consists mostly of prairie. So, in all that vastness, just where is the highest point in Montana?
Jump in to find out where Montana’s highest point lies, and discover how tall it really is. We’ll also find out how hard this high spot is to get to, whether you can drive there, and what there is to do in the area. Keep reading to discover more about the highest peaks in Montana, and more!
Montana’s Highest Point
Reaching 12,799 feet into the sky, Granite Peak is the highest point in Montana. Located in the Beartooth Range of south-central Montana, Granite Peak lies just north of Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, to the northwest, and Billings, to the northeast, are the closest cities. The peak itself lies within the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, which consists of over one million acres of wild land. Among all those acres are a further 27 high points over 12,000 feet tall. All in all, Granite Peak, and the surrounding mountains are the perfect playground for experienced mountaineers.
Montana’s Granite Peak is the tenth highest of all the state high points. However, it’s often compared in climbing difficulty to Alaska’s Denali (the highest point in the United States). In fact, the mountain is so difficult to climb that it took several attempts by different parties before the first ascent was completed in 1923.
How Does Granite Peak Compare to the Rest of Montana?
Montana is considered a mountain state and with good reason. The lowest elevation in the state is 1,800 feet, far above sea level. The highest point in the state (Granite Peak) is an incredible 12,799 feet tall, but, just what does the state’s topography look like?
First, it’s important to understand that approximately the eastern two-thirds of the state is characterized by high, flat prairie lands. Montana’s western third is home to the big mountain ranges, including the northern Rocky Mountains, the Bitterroot Range, the Beartooth Range, and the Cabinet Mountains.
Granite Peak stands among many other high points in the western part of the state. But, when compared with the lower eastern prairies, it truly stands out.
Can You Drive to Granite Peak?
No, you cannot drive to Granite Peak. In fact, the peak’s rugged nature makes it inaccessible for all but the most serious and experienced of mountaineers. There are several routes to the top; one can approach via the east face, the south face, the north face, or the southeast face. But, no matter what route you choose to reach the highest point in Montana, plan for a strenuous climb. And, if you’re a novice mountaineer, do not attempt Granite Peak without the help of a more experienced climber, preferably someone who has been to the top before.
What is There to See Near Granite Peak?
Scaling Granite Peak offers uncompromising 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. But, more than that, the hike up may take you past alpine lakes, through thick, tall forests, or even across snow-packed tundra. You’re likely to see rabbits, mule deer, elk, and even bear or mountain goats. However, if you’re not quite outdoorsy enough to attempt this difficult peak, you can always view it from lower elevations. The surrounding area offers plenty of camping opportunities, and nearby towns offer all the basic amenities.
The Five Highest Spots in Montana
Granite Peak, at 12,799 feet, is the highest point in Montana. Now, let’s discover the other four highest spots in the state. Some consider Granite Peak-Northwest Peak, which reaches 12,750 feet, the second tallest peak in Montana, though it is often considered a sub-peak of Granite Peak. Here, we’ll count it as the second tallest point in Montana.
Coming in third (or second) is Mount Wood, at 12,649 feet tall. Castle Mountain, at 12,612 feet, is the fourth highest point in Montana. The fifth highest point is Whitetail Peak, at 12,551 feet tall. All of Montana’s tallest peaks are located in the Beartooth Range, and many lie very close to one another. So, if you’re looking for a mountaineering adventure, the Beartooth Range is not one to miss out on.