The United States has a reputation for “bigness.” The cars are large, meals are supersized, and the US itself ranks highly among the world’s largest countries. It follows then, that the US has some mega-sized states as well.
In this post, we’ll look at the biggest states in the US. More specifically, we’ll look at the 15 states with total areas larger than 80,000 square miles (207,200 km2). Each state has its own culture, economic strengths, history, and special features, all of which we’ll examine when we take a closer look.
Below is a table with the largest states in the US ranked by total size. Total area is based on data from the US Census Bureau and includes each state’s land and water area. 2022 population data also comes from the US Census Bureau.
|665,384 mi2 (1,723,337 km2)
|268,596 mi2 (695,662 km2)
|163,695 mi2 (423,967 km2)
|147,040 mi2 (380,831 km2)
|121,590 mi2 (314,917 km2)
|113,990 mi2 (295,234 km2)
|110,572 mi2 (286,380 km2)
|104,094 mi2 (269,601 km2)
|98,379 mi2 (254,799 km2)
|97,813 mi2 (253,335 km2)
|96,714 mi2 (250,487 km2)
|86,936 mi2 (225,163 km2)
|84,897 mi2 (219,882 km2)
|83,569 mi2 (216,443 km2)
|82,278 mi2 (213,100 km2)
What is the biggest state in the US?
The biggest state in the US is Alaska, and there’s really no competition. It’s more than twice as large as Texas, the next largest state in the country. It’s so big that it’s roughly three times the size of the country of France!
While Alaska may be the biggest state in the US by a large margin, it’s nowhere near the top 10 most populous states in the country.
How many people live in Alaska?
The US Census Bureau estimates that the state has a 2022 population of just 733,583, which would make it the third-least populated state in the country. The US state with the highest population is California, whose nearly 40 million people completely dwarf Alaska’s.
Why are the biggest states in the US in the West?
If you look closely at the list of biggest states, you might notice a pattern: the great majority is located in the Western US. States to the east of the Mississippi River are generally smaller than their western counterparts, and there are several reasons for this.
The smaller states in the Northeastern US are the oldest in the country and were considered relatively large by European standards when they were established. In the years that followed, improved infrastructure and transportation allowed for the administration of larger pieces of land in the West.
Another reason the states in the western part of the country are larger is that they were acquired as purchases of large tracts of land from Mexico and France.
Total Area: 82,278 mi2 (213,100 km2)
Capital City: Topeka
Kansas is a landlocked state that includes the geographic center of the contiguous US. It’s known for its expansive wheat fields, the tornados that present a regular threat, and for being the setting of the classic American film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The state is named after the Kansas River, which runs through the northeastern part of the state and was named after the indigenous Kansa tribe. Various indigenous peoples such as the Wichita and Kaw inhabited the area of Kansas for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers.
Total Area: 83,569 mi2 (216,443 km2)
Capital City: Boise
Natural beauty abounds in Idaho, a state known for its mountainous landscape, the largest wilderness area in the contiguous US, and the deepest river gorge in North America. The capital city of Boise is bisected by the Boise River, and its State Capitol building was the first in the US to be heated by geothermal energy.
Some of the most important industries supporting Idaho’s economy are food processing, electronics manufacturing, mining, and tourism. Idaho is the leading producer of potatoes in the US, and its official nickname is “The Gem State” because of the precious and semi-precious gemstones found within its borders.
Total Area: 84,897 mi2 (219,882 km2)
Capital City: Salt Lake City
The landlocked state of Utah is located in the Mountain West subregion of the US and shares the Four Corners Region with Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The state’s rugged landscape is exceptionally beautiful and includes five national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion
As is the case with most places in the US, the land in Utah has been inhabited by various indigenous groups for thousands of years. Ancient Puebloans, Navajo, and Ute peoples, among others, called this area home before Spanish settlers arrived in the middle of the 16th century. Utah became a US state in 1896.
Total Area: 86,936 mi2 (225,163 km2)
Capital City: Saint Paul
The 12th-largest state in the US is Minnesota, which is located in the Midwestern US and is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Approximately one-third of the state is covered in forest, and more than 60% of the state’s residents live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul “Twin Cities” metropolitan area.
Outdoor activities are some of the biggest draws for tourists visiting Minnesota. Water sports like water skiing, boating, and canoeing are popular in the warmer months, and snow sports like skiing and snowshoeing are popular during winter. There are also plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and camping.
Total Area: 96,714 mi2 (250,487 km2)
Capital City: Lansing
Michigan is the easternmost state on this list, and it’s surrounded by water, but none of it is ocean. Michigan is located in the Great Lakes subregion of the Midwestern US and is the only state in the country to have two peninsulas. There are also more than 11,000 inland lakes within its borders.
The largest city in Michigan is Detroit, which was the birthplace of the American automotive industry and has made major contributions to music, art, and culture in the US. Detroit was named one of the “World’s Greatest Places 2022” by Time magazine.
Total Area: 97,813 mi2 (253,335 km2)
Capital City: Cheyenne
Wyoming has the smallest population of any US state, but that isn’t because of its size. Just barely making its way into the top 10 largest states in the US, Wyoming is located in the Mountain West region of the country, next to Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho.
It was the 44th state to join the US in 1890, but Wyoming can also claim some “firsts” in US history. It was the first US territory to allow women to vote in 1869, and it’s home to Yellowstone National Park, which was the first national park in the country and is considered by some to be the first national park in the world.
Total Area: 98,379 mi2 (254,799 km2)
Capital City: Salem
Situated along the Pacific Coast of the US is Oregon, the ninth-largest state in the US. Oregon borders the states of Washington, Idaho, and California, and is home to many rivers, lakes, mountains, high plains, and plateaus. Crater Lake is located in the state and is the deepest lake in the US.
The largest city in Oregon is Portland, though the state’s capital is Salem. Portland has a reputation as a city with a quirky and unique culture as well as for being a center for progressive, liberal politics.
Total Area: 104,094 mi2 (269,601 km2)
Capital City: Denver
The eighth-largest and 21st-most populous state in the US is Colorado. It’s located just west of the geographic center of the country and has a diverse landscape that includes high plains, dune-filled deserts, canyons, and alpine mountains. The Rocky Mountains are perhaps the most dominant geographical feature of the state.
The first humans to live in what is now Colorado were indigenous people that lived in the area at least 13,500 years ago, possibly longer. By the time European settlers arrived, the Apache, Comanche, and Ute Nation were living in the area.
Colorado became a US state in 1876, earning it the name, “Centennial State” for achieving statehood 100 years after the independence of the US.
Total Area: 110,572 mi2 (286,380 km2)
Capital City: Carson City
The state of Nevada is among the biggest in the US and is landlocked between California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. It became the 36th state of the US in 1964 by the proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.
The driest state in the country, the climate in most parts of Nevada is arid with hot summers and cold winters; valleys, deserts, and mountains can all be found in the state.
Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada and is known around the world for its nightlife and entertainment scene that accompany the casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip. Other notable cities are Reno and Carson City, the state’s capital.
Total Area: 113,990 mi2 (295,234 km2)
Capital City: Phoenix
Another state in the Southwestern region is Arizona, which is the sixth-largest in the country. The largest city and capital in the state is Phoenix, a major city known for its hot climate, many golf courses, and easy access to outdoor activities.
One of the most noteworthy natural attractions in Arizona is the Grand Canyon, which is often considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
The Navajo, Hopi, and Apache tribes are just a few of the indigenous groups that have inhabited the area in and around Arizona for thousands of years.
5. New Mexico
Total Area: 121,590 mi2 (314,917 km2)
Capital City: Santa Fe
New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern US, located at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains and bordering Mexico. It also shares the Four Corners region of the US with Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.
The state’s diverse landscape of deserts, mountains, canyons, and forests, along with its unique blend of indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and American cultures have earned it the moniker of “The Land of Enchantment.”
There are also many active Native communities in New Mexico, maintaining cultures that have been present in the area for thousands of years.
Total Area: 147,040 mi2 (380,831 km2)
Capital City: Helena
The fourth-largest state in the US by size is Montana, a state known for its stunning natural beauty, cowboy culture, and rich Native American history. It’s located in the Western United States and shares a long border with Canada.
Mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests give Montana its reputation for natural beauty. Glacier National Park is located here, which is part of the Waterton Glacier National Peace Park recognized by UNESCO.
Many indigenous peoples inhabited the area of Montana before the arrival of European settlers, some of which include the Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, and Assiniboine tribes.
Total Area: 163,695 mi2 (423,967 km2)
Capital City: Sacramento
Coming in at number three on this list of the biggest states in the US is California, the most populous state in the country. It’s also got the largest economy in the US with a gross state product of $3.4 trillion in 2022.
Among the things that make California famous are its pleasant climate, sandy beaches, national parks, and iconic cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, the largest city in the Western US. It’s also the home of the Hollywood Film Industry, which produces some of the most well-known media on the planet.
Total Area: 268,596 mi2 (695,662 km2)
Capital City: Austin
Located in the South Central region of the country, Texas is the largest state in the contiguous United States. It ranks second overall among the biggest states in the US in terms of both total area and population.
Texas shares a long border with Mexico along the Rio Grande river, borders four US states and has a coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. The varied landscape of the state includes prairies, grasslands, coastal swamps, piney woods, desert, and mountains.
Texas was once an independent republic, a history that has earned it the nickname of the “Lone Star State.”
Total Area: 665,384 mi2 (1,723,337 km2)
Capital City: Juneau
Take a look at Alaska on any map and it’s clear — it is the biggest state in the US by a long shot. But it’s unique in more ways than just its enormous size.
Alaska does not border any other US State, it’s home to an estimated 100,000 glaciers, and it’s where you’ll find the westernmost and northernmost points in the United States. No wonder it’s known as the “Last Frontier.”
Indigenous people inhabited the land in Alaska for thousands of years before Europeans arrived and potentially came to the continent via the Bering land bridge. Russia was the first nation to colonize the land, later selling the territory to the US in 1867. It acquired statehood in 1964.
Economically, Alaska is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry, and seafood products are its next-biggest exports. The state is also known for its stunning natural beauty. Denali towers as the tallest peak on the continent, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest park in the US.