The Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona intersect at a quadripoint, is the quickest way to visit four of the United States. The distance between the states, by definition, equals zero. I experienced that myself a number of years ago:
I was asked a question quite awhile ago but only checked into an answer earlier this week. Everyone understands that the Four Corners is the easiest four, but what is the easiest five? In other words, what is the minimum distance one needs to travel in order to reach five states? Few of us own airplanes or helicopters so I decided to research this question via public roads. I figured this would make it feasible for someone to replicate my investigation in person should they feel so inclined.
Reflexively, my mind went towards the New England states. There are several of them and they are relatively small. If five states were jammed closely together, I figured, it would be easy to drive between them.
CT–>RI–>MA–>NH–>ME (140 miles / 225 km.)
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I considered a classic journey up Interstate 95. Millions of drivers probably follow this five-state route every year. I adjusted the track just a bit through Boston and reduced the distance to 140 miles. That’s pretty good. Five states in 140 miles.
Next I drew numerous maps and attempted various routes until I latched onto the secret: the shortest lines can be drawn from tripoint to tripoint. One state, preferably a narrow neck of said state, will often be included in both tripoints. It doesn’t always have to work that way but it should probably include at least one tripoint. For example, I can take the situation described above and change the starting line to the CTMARI tripoint and reduce the distance to about 110 miles / 177km.
VT–>NH–>MA–>CT–>RI (88 miles / 142 km.)
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New England has better examples than that one. The distance from the MANHVT tripoint to CTMARI is only 88 miles. It would be even shorter if the Connecticut River didn’t interfere. I couldn’t start exactly at MANHVT — I had to push the beginning several miles upstream to Brattleboro, Vermont where I could find a bridge.
That’s the other caveat. It’s almost impossible to start directly atop a tripoint because natural features such as rivers, mountains or deserts interfere with the most direct routes.
TX–>NM–>OK–>CO–>KS (69 miles / 111 km.)
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I found an even better example distantly removed from New England, which surprised me. Would you believe it even involved Texas, the largest state in the Lower-48? It’s made possible by the existence of the Oklahoma Panhandle which is only 34 miles wide.
This may actually be the "Easiest Five" with a distance of only 69 miles. Politicians certainly didn’t have this in mind when they forged the Compromise of 1850 in an attempt to diffuse the issue of slavery (Texas surrendered its land above 36°30′ as a result). Nonetheless, it seems to have set-up the shortest road distance between five U.S. States.
I haven’t checked every possibility so feel free to examine other options and see if you can find something even shorter. The only rule is that you need to be able to snap it to the road grid using Google Maps and include the link in a comment.
Here are some other possibilities I examined and discarded:
- AR–>MO–>TN–>KY–>IL (113 miles / 182 km.)
- WV–>KY–>VA–>NC–>TN (144 miles / 232 km. and 4 hours! — lots of mountains)
- MS–>TN–>AR–>MO–>KY (163 miles / 262 km., BUT also add IL to catch six states in 204 miles / 328 km.)
- PA–>NJ–>NY–>CT–>RI (186 miles / 299 km.)
Go back to the comments on the Most Landlocked State article if you haven’t been there in the last couple of days. Readers have been posting some great maps that have taken my original concept and expanded it in interesting ways:
- The Basement Geographer applied it to Canada.
- Snabelabe created one for Belgium.
- Pfly took mine, combined it with the Basement Geographer’s efforts, and expanded it to all of North America.
Great efforts, everyone!