Farthest Points in the United States
Do you know what state is farthest north? How about farthest south? Or east? Or west?
These probably seem like easy questions. After all, finding the answers should be as simple as looking at a map, right?
The world is a sphere (or oblate spheroid if we want to get technical). Maps are flat and 2-dimensional. Thus, maps often skew our perception of sizes and distances.
As we’ll see, deciding what states are the farthest north, south, east, and west depends a lot on perspective. Are you looking at all 50 states, or just the lower 48? Are you using a map, or measuring by precise degrees of latitude and longitude? Have you accounted for all the possible technicalities?
Let’s put the questions to rest and consider all the possibilities.
When looking at the entire US, it becomes pretty obvious which state is the farthest north: Alaska for the win. Point Barrow, Alaska, is the northernmost point, located at 71 degrees 23 minutes north.
It becomes less obvious, however, when you are just considering the 48 contiguous states. Look on a 2-D map, and you might be inclined to say Washington, or maybe even Maine. You have to pay attention to those lines of latitude though. Much of the US/Canada border is set at the 49th parallel. Look closely at Minnesota, and you will notice that a small part of the state juts out northward. Know as Angle Inlet, this region is at 49 degrees 23 minutes north, making it the northernmost point in the lower 48.
US maps usually place the state of Hawaii in small subsection, so it can be hard to get a sense for just how remote Hawaii actually is. On a globe, you can get a better sense for how far out in the Pacific Ocean the state is. At 18 degrees 55 minutes north, Ka Lae on the Big Island of Hawaii is the southernmost point in the US.
Take Hawaii away however, and Florida is left as the southernmost point. A buoy on the island of Key West, Florida, at 24 degrees 32 minutes north, marks the place. From the mainland, it is Cape Sable, Florida, at 25 degrees 7 minutes north.
When we move west, it’s no real surprise that Alaska takes the cake as westernmost state, but more on that later.
Take Alaska out of the equation, and it is another story. US maps can be a bit deceiving, and to some, it might look like Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California, is the farthest west of the 48 states. This is not the case, however. Cape Alava in the state of Washington is actually more western, coming in at 124 degrees 44 minutes west.
Remember how we said Alaska was the westernmost state in the entire US? It is true. Cape Wrangell, Alaska, is 172 degrees 27 minutes east.
Notice anything odd about those degrees? Remember, we said there are certain technicalities to account for when it comes to farthest directional points. Cape Wrangell is so far west, it actually crosses the 180th meridian into the Eastern Hemisphere. So technically, Alaska is also the easternmost point in the US.
If you are tired of Alaska winning everything, lets ignore it and focus on the rest of the states. The easternmost point of the contiguous states is Maine, at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, stationed at 66 degrees 57 minutes west. Quoddy Head is also the closest point in the US to Africa.
Which States Are the Farthest North, South, East, and West?
Despite the confusion and the different perspectives, you can simply this answer pretty easily. Alaska is the northernmost, easternmost, and westernmost state. Hawaii is the southernmost.