What’s The Difference Between A Hill And A Mountain?

The terms hill and mountain are often used interchangeably. It’s easy to see why, since both a rising formation of land and to be honest, not many people really know the difference between a hill and a mountain. But if it’s something that’s plagued your mind then you’re not alone. In this guide, we will look at some of the key things that set the two apart. 

How Do Mountains And Hills Form?

One of the first things we need to consider when looking at the difference between a mountain and a hill is that these protrusions from the earth form in different ways. 

Mountains are typically a lot steeper than hills and are formed when the tectonic plates beneath the surface of the earth shift. This is scientifically known as volcanism. 

It’s not often that you’ll find a lone mountain as when the plates shift, they tend to form masses of mountains known as ranges. However, there are some examples of individual mountains although this is far less common.

Hills are formed in a totally different way and are created by a build up of rocks. Some hills are created when wind and glaciers cause sand deposits. As these build up over time, a hill is born. There are also some examples of volcanic eruptions causing hills so as you can see, they are formed in a much more diverse range of ways. 

How Big Are Mountains vs Hills?

Height is one of the main things that sets hills and mountains apart from one another. In fact, if you were to ask someone who had absolutely no understanding of the subject what the difference was, they’d likely refer to size. 

By definition, both hills and mountains are elevated landforms but with a mountain, it’s commonly accepted that it needs to rise at least 2000ft above sea level in order to be classified as such. But this is only by UK standards. If you were to ask the UN Environment Program, then you would receive a largely different answer. 

According to their standards, a mountain must elevate to at least 8200ft. If the elevation is up to 4900ft then the slope must  be lower than 2 degrees. On the other hand, the elevation could be as low as 3300ft but the slope must be lower than 5 degrees.

Hills are typically classified as formations that are no higher than 2000 feet at their peak. 

What Are The Climate Differences Between Mountains And Hills?

Hills have much lower altitudes than mountains and as such, the climate at their summit is usually much milder. Hills can be covered in all kinds of environments from desert to forests or savanna to scrubland. 

On the other hand, a mountain, being a lot higher, can have a vastly different climate at the base compared to the peak. As you move up the mountain, you will notice that the environment and the wildlife changes dramatically according to the climate. However, there does come a point that life is no longer sustainable because of extremely cold temperatures so you won’t see trees or animals at the very tops of the tallest mountains. 

Mountains have a much more diverse climate than hills and therefore are considered more diverse in their overall ecology. 

Shape And Characteristics Of Mountains And Hills

A key thing you will notice when looking at the shape of hills and mountains is that their shapes are generally different. Mountains have steeper sides and rugged tops whereas hills have a rounder shape. 

This isn’t a strict rule across the board because there are some examples of ancient mountains that have rounded off. It is more to do with the height but shape does play a part in helping to distinguish between the two.

How Are Mountains And Hills Used?

Due to the friendly climate of hills, they are often used by humans and animals for a variety of things. Houses are often built on hilltops to take advantage of the stunning views. Moreover, it’s possible to farm on some hills and you’ll often see animals grazing along the hillsides in places like Wales and Scotland.

However, many of these things simply are not possible on mountains because of the extreme climate and steep ground. At the base and part way up mountains you may find things like houses and ski resorts but largely, the possibilities are not as diverse.

But one of the major benefits of mountains is that they are excellent for sport. As we mentioned, skiing is big business in places like the Alps whereas the Himalayas are among some of the most popular mountains for climbers; the tallest mountain in the world, Everest, is here and is considered the Holy Grail for outdoor enthusiasts. 


There is a lot of confusion over whether a hill and a mountain are the same thing. But they’re not and once you know the main differences, it’s not difficult to tell them apart. 

Generally, mountains are much taller and steeper whereas hills are shorter and tend to have rounded tops. The climate on a mountain is much more diverse than that of a hill owing to the higher elevation. 

Source: https://campfiremag.co.uk/whats-the-difference-between-a-hill-and-a-mountain/