A female hiker scrambles up the mountaineer’s route of Mount Whitney, California on October 3, 2009. Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the continental United States and stands 14,494 feet tall. Mt Whitney

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West of Lone Pine, the jagged incisors of the Sierra surge skyward in all their raw and fierce glory. Cradled by scores of smaller pinnacles, Mt Whitney is a bit hard to pick out from Hwy 395, so, for the best views, take a drive along Whitney Portal Rd through the Alabama Hills.

As you get a fix on this majestic megalith, remember that the country’s lowest point is only 80 miles (as the crow flies) east of here: Badwater in Death Valley. Climbing to Mt Whitney’s summit is among the most popular hikes in the entire country.