California is home to quite a bit of topographical and climatical variety. On one side are some of the world’s most renowned beaches. On the other are some of the world’s most revered ski slopes. Meanwhile, much of the state gets quite hot during the summer months. Conversely, places like San Diego and Malibu have some of the most temperate weather around, San Francisco and Eureka can get downright chilly in the summer, and the mountains experience dozens of feet of snow in an average winter.
However, many would be surprised to learn just how varied the conditions are here. One example of this is that the highest point in the contiguous United States – Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet above sea level – and the lowest – Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level – are both in the Golden State. In fact, the two points are only separated by 85 miles. And many hearty people travel directly from one to the other, generally from Death Valley to Mount Whitney. The journey, which is about 130-150 miles long, normally takes several days.
In fact, some even take part in the Badwater Ultramarathon, which is not quite the entire route but it does take runners from Death Valley to the Whitney Portal, which is the gateway to Mount Whitney and has an elevation of 8,360 feet. That means that participants climb more than 8,600 feet while covering the 135-mile course. The person who ends up winning it oftentimes takes more than 24 hours to complete the journey.
But it is important to note that the high point in the United States is not in the contiguous part of the country. That would be Mount McKinley, which is in Alaska, about 130 miles north of Anchorage. Its elevation is 20,310 feet above sea level, 40 percent higher than Mount Whitney. Death Valley remains the lowest after taking Alaska and Hawaii into account.