Two climbers approaching Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States, at sunrise.

5 Summit Lists To Start Peak Bagging

Photo: Grant Ordelheide/Tandemstock

There’s nothing like a checklist to keep you moving.

For the same reason that you track your daily to-dos, having a hit-list collection of hikes can be an effective tool to boost your motivation—especially when it comes to getting outside, gaining experience, and exploring new areas. In the case of peak bagging, the motivator is also the organizing principle: It’s the practice of hiking and climbing to check summits off a list of peaks grouped together by their location, height, or some other reason. 

The tradition began in the late 19th century as goal-oriented explorers began shifting from climbing a dwindling list of major unclimbed peaks to finding interesting ways to climb less-significant mountains. One of the first lists, popularized in the 1890s, was a list of Scotland’s highest peaks written down by Sir Hugh Munro.

While you can always create your own, there are plenty of existing peak-bagging lists to choose from, including some that are quite famous. Picking one to chip away at provides an accountability check for creating time outside—to increase comfort levels or to add a challenge ahead. There are lists suitable for all ability levels in just about every mountain range across the U.S.

Looking for something to really get you hiking? Try one of these starter peak-bagging lists. 

1. The Adirondack 46ers

New York’s Adirondack Mountains are home to one of the oldest peak-bagging lists in the country: the Adirondack 46ers. When compiled in the early 1900s, the list was intended to include the 46 summits in the range that topped 4,000 feet in elevation. But technology wasn’t quite up to the task back then, and the original list wasn’t 100% accurate (it left off a few of what we know today to be 4,000-foot peaks, and included a couple that don’t quite reach that high). Still, tradition has kept the list the same.

The 46er peaks run the gamut from beginner-friendly half-day hikes to full-day trailless bushwhacks, which makes the list work for hikers who want to earn their stripes and pick up skills over time. 

2. Everest by the Bay

Peak-bagging lists require peaks, but who says they need to be big ones? This list comprises nine summits, all between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, surrounding San Francisco Bay. If you summit them all, you’ll have climbed roughly 32,000 feet in elevation—the same as climbing Mount Everest from sea level. The catch: They all require between a 10- and 20-mile hike, making this list a tough one for novices.

Even so, the hiking is usually not very difficult, and the elevation gain over those distances isn’t terribly steep. Once you’re comfortable cranking out miles over the course of a day, this list can help keep you in shape without leaving the Bay Area.

A hiker hikes a ridge along the Trough, Keyhole Route, Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National, Park. Colorado. Photo: Ethan Welty/TandemStock

3. Colorado’s 14ers

The granddaddy of peak-bagging lists, the 14ers include all 53 summits in Colorado over 14,000 feet in elevation (of which Colorado has more than any other state). Fair warning: Completing this list is not for the faint of heart. The peaks are high, and you’ll need to factor in the effects of altitude. The weather can be dangerous. And many of the mountains feature steep, bouldery trails, technical climbs, and lots of exposure. 

4. The “I Have A Dream” Peaks

Not all peak-bagging lists have to be geographically linked—some get their connection from history. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he lists a slew of mountains from which he would like to “let freedom ring,” including “the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire,” “the Alleghenies of Pennsylvania,” and the “curvaceous slopes of California.” This list takes the tallest peak from each range he mentioned to create a diverse eight-peak group featuring a wide range of difficulties. Georgia’s Stone Mountain is a quick hike, while California’s Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) is more commonly a serious backpacking trip (and requires a wilderness permit).  

5. South Beyond 6000

The mountains of Appalachia tend to be overlooked in favor of the bigger peaks of the West or even the rugged-yet-smaller summits of the Northeast. The South Beyond 6,000 gives Appalachia its due: This wide-ranging list includes 40 peaks in southern Appalachia that reach 6,000 feet. Like its Northeastern counterpart in the Adirondacks, it includes everything from easy day-hikes to multi-day adventures, offering a logical stepping stone to higher-elevation, alpine exploration.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.