Q&AZ What is the highest and lowest point in Arizona?
With common references to the Valley, Arizonans may be surprised to know we have unusually high elevations.
Through our Q&AZ reporting project, a listener asked what is the highest and lowest point in Arizona?
Arizona’s highest point is Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff at 12,637 feet, while the lowest point is along the Colorado River near San Luis at only 72 feet above sea level.
Kelin Whipple, an ASU professor of School of Earth and Space Exploration, says the elevation difference is rare.
“Many states don’t have anywhere near that much topographic elevation change. It's basically sea level on the one side and then you got high mountains on the Colorado Plateau, so it’s on the high end of what you would see in a state,” he says.
Arizona’s geographic location is what makes us different. We are atop a heated mantle that shifted the tectonic plates and caused our crust to thin and collapse, creating the low points. Simultaneously, we have rivers that repeatedly carried sediment to build up our high points. Another geographic difference is Arizona has volcanos.
Whipple says “Right near Humphreys Peak, the Sunset Crater is a volcano that had an eruption just 1,000 years ago. So there is active volcanism happening in Arizona.”
Arizona used to be home to the tallest peak in the entire continental U.S. It wasn’t until these volcanic eruptions that the peak sank lower to the point it sits today.