Difference Between Hill and Mountain

There is no standard difference between hill and mountain. Yet, several minor differences are indicated in order to identify a geographic formation as a hill or a mountain.

Hills or mountains are geographic formations protruding to an elevated level than surrounding landscape in the earth geography. Even though some consider hill and mountain as different, there is no such distinct difference between hill and mountain. However, in a general sense, a hill is easier to climb than a mountain.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Hill
      – Definition, Features
2. What is a Mountain
     – Definition, Characteristics 
3. What are the Similarities Between Hill and Mountain
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Hill and Mountain
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Hill, Landform, Mountain

Difference Between Hill and Mountain - Comparison Summary

What is a Hill

In simple terms, a hill is a naturally raised area of land or a “landform that extends above the surrounding terrain”. There are several reasons that trigger the occurrence of a hill (or a mountain). Some of these reasons include

  • Faulting (constant movement of rocks beneath the earth surface)
  • Melting and shifting of glaciers
  • Land erosion
  • Deposits of varied minerals

The United Kingdom and the United States used to define hills as summits less than 1,000 feet. However, both countries abandoned the distinction in the mid-twentieth century.

Key Difference - Hill vs Mountain

Figure 01: Pen Hill

However, some general features of a hill are;

  • Having a rounded summit or a not well-defined summit
  • Having a low altitude and elevation, usually less than 984-1968 feet (300-600 meters)
  • Less steep
  • Easy to climb

Some well-known hills in the world are; Seven hills of Rome, Silbury Hill, Big Hill, Bunker Hill, Vatican Hill, Chocolate Hills, Signal Hill, etc.

What is a Mountain?

Up until 1920’s the British Ordnance Survey defined a mountain as higher than 1000 feet (304 meters). Similarly, the United States used the same definition for the mountain as having a local relief higher than 1000 feet. However, this definition was dropped in the late 1970’s.

Therefore, a mountain is also a landform that is raised above the surrounding landscape. It is usually in the form of a peak with a well-defined summit. Moreover, only a few mountains are isolated summits while most occur as huge mountain ranges. Therefore, some general features of a mountain are:

  • High altitude and elevation, usually higher than 1968 feet (600 meters).
  • Having a well-defined summit
  • Having a steep slope
  • Challenging and thus harder to climb

Due to this high elevation of mountains, colder climate can be experienced on the top of the mountains. This results in the creation of varied ecosystems; varied fauna and flora can survive in those colder climates.

Difference Between Hill and Mountain

Figure 02: Mount Everest

Mountains, as well as hills, form due to varied geological phenomena. One such major phenomenon is faulting, which happens as a result of the constant movement of the rocks underneath the Earth’s surface. This occurrence changes the original landscape of the earth. Similarly, hills that form as a result of faulting can eventually turn into huge mountains. A mountain might become a hill if it is worn down by land erosion, glaciers or other weather conditions.

The best example for this is the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal. Before they became the tallest mountain range in the world; they were once tiny hills. These tiny hills enlarged due to the continuous faulting activity in the earth surface.

Some well-known mountains in the world are Everest Mountain range, Mount K2, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Fuji, Mont Blanc, etc.

Similarities Between Hill and Mountain

  • The formation of both hill and mountain is due to different types of geological accumulations and reactions in the earth crest, most often due to faulting in the earth.
  • Both a hill and a mountain usually have a summit, which is its highest point. Yet unlike a hill, which might have a rounded summit, the summit of a mountain is much defined.

Difference Between Hill and Mountain


Hill is a natural landform that extends above the surrounding terrain whereas a mountain is a large natural landform that extends above the surrounding terrain, usually forming a peak.


A mountain is usually taller than a hill. A hill is usually less than 984-1968 feet (300-600 meters) whereas a mountain is usually higher than 1968 feet (600 meters).


Many people believe that mountains are steeper than hills.


It is comparatively easier to climb a hill; climbing a mountain is harder and more challenging. 


Earth geography is a landmass with numerous variations due to varied geographic reasons. Hills and mountains are two such geographic phenomena which happen mainly as a result of faulting of the earth landmass. though there is no standard difference between hill and mountain, there are general observations that we use to distinguish one from another, such as the difficulty of climbing a mountain in comparison to climbing a hill. Yet it should be noted that these two names are used interchangeably due to their similar nature.


1. “Mountain.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Aug. 2018, Available here.
2. “Hill.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Aug. 2018, Available here.
3. National Geographic Society. “Hill.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Pen Hill cross dykes 02” By Simon Burchell – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Mount Everest as seen from Drukair2 PLW edit” By shrimpo1967derivative work: Papa Lima Whiskey 2 (talk) – This file was derived from: Mount Everest as seen from Drukair2.jpg (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

Leave a Reply