“There’s only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”

Desmond Tutu probably wasn’t thinking about peak-bagging lists when he shared this bit of wisdom. But it holds true for hikers, trekkers and climbers who want to travel the world by summiting its most famous peaks. How do you complete your massive peak-bagging list? One peak at a time.

And it can take a long time.

Ed Viesturs needed 18 years to become the first American, and 12th climber in history, to summit all 14 mountains over 8,000 meters (collectively known as the eight-thousanders). That was in 2005. Eighteen years later Chris Warner became the second American to accomplish this same challenge. It took him 24 years.

If, however, spending a quarter of a lifetime climbing to the highest points on earth sounds a bit too lofty a goal, there are plenty of other summiting challenges out there waiting for you to scale. Here’s a list that’s sure to inspire peak baggers of every variety from the cautious newbie to the seasoned pro.


Mt. Kilimanjaro Summit at Sunrise


The Seven Summits

Make it to the top of the highest point on each of the seven continents, and you’ll have bagged some of the most challenging peaks in the world, packing in some serious sites and cultural experiences as you do.


A grassy canyon between two peaks in the Scottish Munro Mountains.


The Scottish Munros

In September of 1891, mountaineer Sir Hugh Monro, “changed hiking in Scotland forever,” Stuart Kenny wrote for Much Better Adventures. He published his “Tables giving all the Scottish mountains exceeding 3,000 feet in height,” which now (with subsequent revisions) amount to 282 mountains rising 3,000+ feet above sea level. Why not plan a trip to Scotland next fall? Lonely Planet calls it “an excellent time of year for outdoor pursuits,” due to the “dry and mild” weather. Plus, there’s tons of great attractions to enjoy in Scotland as a reward for bagging these legendary summits.


[Related Reading: Are You Prepared To Summit?]


The New Hampshire 48

With each peak conquest, hikers reach new status, exclusive to those with the stamina and grit to summit. According to New Hampshire Way, if you climb all of the New Hampshire 48 (each over 4,000 feet), you can be recognized by the Appalachian Mountain Club, get an achievement patch and be invited to an awards dinner. Climb it in the winter—an especially treacherous time, even on the “easy” hikes—and you can earn another patch.


A Colorado mountain scene, with blue skies, tower mountains, and green pine trees.


The Colorado 14ers

The 53 summits rising above 14,000 feet in Colorado, known as the Colorado 14ers include “peaks easily accessed by urban visitors, as well as, remote backcountry peaks that provide a wilderness experience,” according to the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Colorado.com writes that the peaks are ranked 1 to 4 by difficulty. The easiest are still challenging, Colorado.com says, but have “straightforward, clearly marked trails.” The difficulty increases with unmarked trails, steep climbs, scrambling, and in category 4, “Steep and dangerous terrain necessitating hand- and footholds to reach the top, plus ropes and climbing.”


California's Mount Tamalpais, with its green vegetation and winding summit road.
Mount Tam – Photo by Fabrice Florin


Everest by the Bay

Not quite ready for Mount Everest’s 29,032 feet in one go? Climb “it” in installments via the nine peaks of Everest by the Bay in San Francisco. According to Public Lands, the summits are “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, and then some. The catch: they all require between a 10- and 20-mile hike, making this list a tough one for novices.”


The Adirondack 46ers

This bundle of peaks was first identified in 1927 in a book called “Peaks and People of the Adirondacks” by Russell M.W. Carson, according to Adirondack.net. Originally, all the mountains were recorded to have elevations of at least 4,000 feet. More recent studies have revealed some fall short of that, and one summit that meets that number was not included. “Nevertheless, the original 46 are still grouped together and recognized as the ones to overcome. If you climb them all, then you are eligible to become an official Adirondack 46er,” Adirondack.net reports.


South Beyond 6000

There are more than 60 summits in the southern Appalachian Mountains, according to The Carolina Mountain Club, but only 40 meet the criteria for the South Beyond 6000: the summit elevation is more than 6,000 feet above sea level, and there is a drop of 200 or more feet to a saddle between one peak and another qualifying peak or, there is a distance between the peaks of .75 miles. The Carolina Mountain Club notes that the terrain has changed significantly over the years, making the hike more difficult.


[Related Reading: How To Get into Mountaineering]


MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Peaks

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he calls for freedom to ring out from the peaks of mountains across the United States. The eight peaks he references are now a peak-bagging list, which hikers can summit in solidarity and remembrance of his powerful message.

King declared, “Let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

While King referred to, but did not call out, specific peaks, his references have been narrowed down to this list from peakbagger.com and range from elevations of 800 feet to more than 14,000 feet.


A snow-capped mountain range in Montana, USA.
Montana Mountains – Photo by Cloud.Shepherd


Montana 53

Peakbagger.com outlines the 53 peaks of the Montana 53, first established in Cedron Jones’ 2011 guidebook Peakbagging Montana. Peakbagger.com notes that although the list is not as daunting as some other Montana peak bagging lists, “there are still many stiff challenges…only skilled scramblers comfortable on Montana’s notoriously crumbly rock will be able to complete it. Under ideal weather and route conditions, no peak on this list will require a rope for peakbaggers comfortable with class 3 terrain with occasional bits of class 4. Still, many peaks require multi-day expeditions and solid wilderness skills. The peaks in Glacier National Park and the Beartooths in particular can be difficult.”


Arizona 20-20 Challenge

The Arizona 20-20 is unique to the lists here because it includes 20 of Arizona’s deepest canyon hikes, in addition to its 20 highest peaks. You can see a map of the list and learn more about hiking it on The Arizona’s 20-20 Challenge website, which shares that “Arizona has a diverse landscape. In addition to deeply incised canyons, for which Arizona is famous, we also have snowy summits above tree line. The statewide distribution of the hikes in Arizona’s 20-20 Challenge allows you to experience the physiographic, biotic, geologic, and climatic diversity of Arizona.” As far as difficulty goes, the site says the hikes are challenging for different reasons. “Some hikes are steep (Humphreys Peak), some are long (Paria Canyon), and some are in extremely remote areas (Jumpup Canyon).”


A woman poses with an American flag in front of an enormous summit sign on top of a mountain in Africa.


Ready To Bag Some Peaks?

Don’t set off without a Global Rescue membership. If you’re planning to go above 15,000 feet or 4,600 meters at any point during your peak-bagging excursion, include Global Rescue’s High-Altitude Evacuation Package. We’re here for you in even the most extreme circumstances—like when you’re standing atop the world’s highest peaks. Our medical and evacuation services provide the protection you need to fearlessly hike, climb and scramble your way around the world.