The Five Largest US States

October 17th, 2018

Alaska is the largest US state.

The total area of the United States is almost 3.8 million sq mi. Most states contribute a fair share to that massive total; in fact, only 6 states have a total area of under 10,000 sq mi. But what about the largest states? There are 5 states that account for much more of the nation’s bulk than the others—this article will take a look at those 5 sprawling masses of land and water, starting with the fascinating state of New Mexico.

5. New Mexico

The 5th largest U.S. state is New Mexico, with a total area of 121,590.30 sq mi. The state was named by 16th century Spanish explorers who were convinced that the land held gold and resources to rival Mexico's Aztec treasures. New Mexico’s present-day boundaries were drawn by congress in 1863, but New Mexico was not officially named a state until 1912.

Located in the Southwestern Region of the U.S., New Mexico’s capital, Santa Fe, is the highest capital city in the United States at 7,000 feet above sea level. New Mexico is one of the “four corner states,” sharing a border in a single location with Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

4. Montana

Montana is the 4th largest U.S. state, with a total area of 147,039.71 sq mi. A zoologist’s paradise, it is home to more different species of mammals than any other state. The average square mile in Montana contains only six people, but has 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn antelope, and 3.3 deer! Montana boasts the largest migratory elk herd in the nation and is second only to Alaska in grizzly bear population.

In 1872, early in Montana’s history, Yellowstone National Park was created, the first national park in the nation. The expansive natural beauty became a playground for the rich, and in 1888, Helena, Montana was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world.

3. California

Eureka! That’s the California state motto—it’s a Greek word meaning "I have found it," and it refers to the 1849 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

With a total area of 163,696.32 sq mi, California is the 3rd largest state. It is the most populous state in the country; in fact, one out of every eight United States residents lives in California! An economic powerhouse, California not only boasts the largest state economy, if you compare California’s economy to that of other countries, it ranks 7th largest in the world!

2. Texas

With a total area of 268,596.46 sq mi, Texas is the 2nd largest U.S. state, accounting for about seven and a half percent of the nation's total area. This massive expanse demands some very long road trips—if you were in the west Texas town of El Paso, you’d be closer to Needles, California than to Dallas!

Texas borders 4 U.S. states and Mexico to the south, while the Gulf of Mexico forms the southeast boarder. Popularly known as The Lone Star State, the nickname references the state’s former status as an independent republic and its struggle for independence from Mexico.

The second largest state by population, Texas contains three of the ten most populous cities in the U.S.—Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Texas has more farm land than any other state, and it is home to nearly 16 million cattle. There must be a few sheep too, because Texas produces more wool than any other state.

1. Alaska

The largest state is Alaska, with a total area of 665,384.04 sq mi. Purchased from Russia in 1867 for around two cents per acre, Alaska did not officially become the 49th state until 1959.

At over twice the size of Texas, Alaska is astoundingly large. Its coastline extends over 6,600 miles, it measures around 1,400 miles from north to south, and 2,700 miles from east to west. If you overlaid a map of Alaska onto a map of the 48 lower states, the massive frozen landmass would span from New York to California!

Alaska has the lowest population density in the country, with only 1.3 people per sq mi. About half of all Alaskans live in or near Anchorage, the state’s the largest city.

Almost one-third of Alaska is located within the Arctic Circle. Called America's Last Frontier, Alaska is rich in natural gas and oil; it’s responsible for 25% of the nation’s oil production. As America's primary supplier of salmon, crab, halibut, and herring, Alaska’s seafood industry is also critical to the state’s economy.