A Colorado native, gravity scientist Derek van Westrum has stood atop 33 of the state’s famed 14,000-foot peaks. So he understood the, well, gravity of his yearslong project with the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) to essentially redefine sea level across North America—and update the elevations of Colorado’s fourteeners in the process.

Under the umbrella of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the NGS is “basically responsible for the infrastructure behind all the maps that the federal government does,” van Westrum says. “We all agree on latitude, longitude, elevations, and gravity, which is a weird one. When we define them, all of the other agencies—FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers, FAA—have to use [our definitions].”

In the 1980s, the currently accepted vertical datum—“a fancy word that just means what we call zero,” per van Westrum—was defined. All heights above the vertical datum are above sea level. That old calculation, however, didn’t take into account gravity, which actually affects where water will pool, even on a flat surface.

“Water flows because the height is different—or, like in a flat, dry lake bed, if there’s a blob of gold under one end and it’s really dense, gravity alone will also pull the water horizontally,” van Westrum says. “So water will flow through a combination of gravity and heights.” Using both of those measures to calculate sea level at any given spot in North America means that instead of a flat surface, it’s actually more of an undulating plane.

That’s particularly important when, say, surveying the site of a potential new housing development to find out where water will collect after a lot of rain. “In low-lying places like South Texas or Louisiana, with super flat terrain, you still have different densities of rock or sand or whatever,” van Westrum says. “If you have a storm surge coming in, and you take the gravity into account, you can say, Oh cool. I know there’s extra gravity here. Water will probably flow where you won’t expect it to. That’s why we work heavily with FEMA.”

In addition to including gravity, the NGS project—technically called Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum, or GRAV-D—benefits from GPS technology that has improved drastically since the ’80s. The resulting framework will make determining elevations both easier and more precise (within about an inch for most locations). “Now, you can go anywhere. You don’t need to walk to the ocean or survey height differences,” van Westrum says. “You don’t need to do crazy triangulation stuff with telescopes. You literally can just use GPS anywhere and use our correction.”

When it officially goes live after clearing governmental red tape, likely sometime in mid-2026, the update to the National Spatial Reference System is expected to lead to around $8.7 billion in social and economic benefits within 10 years. As a side effect—but one near and dear to Coloradans’ hearts—it will also change the elevations of our state’s 14,000-foot peaks. And because the NGS used Colorado’s terrain for a study recently published in the Journal of Geodesy, we already know what they’ll be.

“In South Texas, it drains really flat, you’re close to sea level anyway, so the accuracies are really good, a centimeter or better,” van Westrum says. “Colorado has got to be the worst. We’ve got all this terrain above 10,000 feet. It’s super far from the ocean. So we thought, Let’s just do a test and see how bad it is.

As it turns out, most of Colorado is about two feet lower than previously thought. “All the fourteeners dropped a bit,” van Westrum says. “But because [sea level as calculated with gravity] undulates, it’s not exactly two feet everywhere.” Those differences resulted in not just new fourteener elevations, but also some shifting in the rankings, even as compared to the most modern measurements that used airborne LiDAR data (laser light technology) instead of old-school, wide-margin-of-error techniques such as triangulation.

“Not only do we have all the new heights, but we’re also confident in those at about the two- to three-inch uncertainty,” van Westrum says. “Which I think is at least 10 times better than it was before, though it’s hard to know that because nobody ever put the error bars on before.”

The NGS’ full fourteener report includes those uncertainties, but below, we’ve laid out Colorado’s new fourteener elevations from highest to lowest and noted changes in the rankings, as compared to 14ers.com’s list of heights (some of the most accurate current measurements, per van Westrum).

If you’ve bagged Wilson Peak, you can now be even prouder of yourself, as it jumped three spots up; the biggest loser in the new order is Huron Peak, which dropped below Sunshine Peak to claim its rightful spot as the state’s lowest. Van Westrum, however, was simply relieved that his project didn’t knock any mountains off the list. “The fourteeners weren’t really the purpose of this; it’s just a nice data set,” van Westrum says. “But I knew, Oh my gosh, people in Colorado, they’re gonna freak out. I grew up in Golden. I knew this was gonna be a thing.”

Colorado’s 58* Fourteeners, Ranked By Elevation

Wilson Peak rises above clouds and yellow-green foliage
14,020.4-foot Wilson Peak, which jumped up three spots thanks to new fourteener elevation measurements. Getty Images
  1. Mt. Elbert, 14,437.6 feet
  2. Mt. Massive, 14,423.9 feet
  3. Mt. Harvard, 14,421.7 feet
  4. Blanca Peak, 14,348.5 feet
  5. La Plata Peak, 14,343 feet
  6. Uncompahgre Peak, 14,315.8 feet
  7. Crestone Peak, 14,296.8 feet
  8. Mt. Lincoln, 14,290.6 feet
  9. Grays Peak, 14,275.5 feet
  10. Castle Peak, 14,272.3 feet
  11. Torreys Peak, 14,270.1 feet (↑ 1)
  12. Quandary Peak, 14,269.9 feet (↓ 1)
  13. Mt. Antero, 14,269 feet
  14. Mt. Blue Sky, 14,266.1 feet
  15. Longs Peak, 14,255.9 feet
  16. Mt. Wilson, 14,254.1 feet
  17. Mt. Cameron,* 14,245.9 feet
  18. Mt. Shavano, 14,228.3 feet
  19. Mt. Princeton, 14,200.1 feet (↑ 1)
  20. Mt. Belford, 14,199.6 feet (↓ 1)
  21. Mt. Yale, 14,197 feet
  22. Crestone Needle, 14,194.8 feet
  23. Mt. Bross, 14,177.9 feet
  24. El Diente Peak, 14,173.2 feet
  25. Kit Carson Peak, 14,165.2 feet
  26. Maroon Peak, 14,161.5 feet
  27. Tabeguache Peak, 14,157 feet (↑ 1)
  28. Mt. Oxford, 14,156.3 feet (↓ 1)
  29. Mt. Sneffels, 14,153.3 feet
  30. Mt. Democrat, 14,152.3 feet
  31. Capitol Peak, 14,136.3 feet
  32. Pikes Peak, 14,107 feet
  33. Snowmass Mountain, 14,101.7 feet
  34. Windom Peak, 14,087 feet
  35. Mt. Eolus, 14,085 feet
  36. Challenger Point,* 14,084.6 feet
  37. Mt. Columbia, 14,072.6 feet
  38. Missouri Mountain, 14,069.2 feet
  39. Humboldt Peak, 14,066.6 feet
  40. Mt. Bierstadt, 14,064.5 feet
  41. Sunlight Peak, 14,059 feet
  42. Handies Peak, 14,055.9 feet
  43. Ellingwood Point, 14,054.9 feet
  44. Culebra Peak, 14,053.2 feet (↑ 1)
  45. Mt. Lindsey, 14,053.2 feet (↓ 1)
  46. Mt. Sherman, 14,040.4 feet
  47. North Eolus,* 14,039.8 feet
  48. Little Bear Peak, 14,039.5 feet
  49. Redcloud Peak, 14,036 feet
  50. Conundrum Peak,* 14,034.7 feet
  51. Pyramid Peak, 14,027.1 feet
  52. Wilson Peak, 14,020.4 feet (↑ 3)
  53. San Luis Peak, 14,020.2 feet (↓ 1)
  54. North Maroon Peak, 14,019.9 feet (↓ 1)
  55. Wetterhorn Peak, 14,018.9 feet (↓ 1)
  56. Mt. of the Holy Cross, 14,005.2 feet
  57. Sunshine Peak, 14,004.5 feet (↑ 1)
  58. Huron Peak, 14,004.1 feet (↓ 1)

*Many climbers only recognize 53 or 54 of the 58 14,000-plus-foot mountains on this list for peak-bragging purposes, since the ones with asterisks above don’t have more than 300 feet of prominence—meaning, they don’t rise high enough above saddles that connect them to higher peaks to “count” on their own. But we’re not here to yuck anyone’s energy-gel-fueled yum.