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15 Sprawling American Cities With the Most Land

You probably know that New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the American cities with the most people. Those metropolises will still be among the 15 biggest U.S. cities in 2046, too, but only in terms of population. The largest, most sprawling American cities have hundreds or thousands of square miles and are bigger than some states.

All the cities we’re about to visit are huge, but the No. 1 location on our list is much bigger than three U.S. states combined.

15. Suffolk, Virginia

Virginia motto

Sprawling city Suffolk, Virginia, borders North Carolina and the Chesapeake Bay. | fotoguy22/iStock/Getty Images

 

Size: 400 square miles

Population: 90,237

Can a mammoth city be tucked away anywhere? Well, Suffolk tries. It’s located just west of Norfolk and Virginia Beach in southeast Virginia, and it extends from the North Carolina border north to the Chesapeake Bay area. The size of the city combined with a population of 90,237 breaks down to roughly 225 people per square mile.

Next: Rising crime rates are a problem in this city.

14. San Antonio

San Antonioo is spread out and one of the most sprawling American cities

The river walk is a famous San Antonio vista, but there’s a lot more to the city. | leekris/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 460 square miles

Population: 1.51 million

San Antonio is one of the U.S. cities dealing with rising crime rates, and we can understand why. At 460 square miles, it’s one of the most sprawling American cities. San Antonio added 66 new people every day in 2017, which makes it the fastest-growing city in the United States.

Next: Not a surprise at all.

13. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is larger than you realize

This only a fraction of the land in Los Angeles. | Choness/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 468 square miles

Population: 3.99 million

If most people had to pick one city as the poster child for sprawl, they would probably choose Los Angeles, what with its endless roads making life miserable for drivers. It extends from the foothills of Angeles National Forest in the north all the way south to the Pacific Ocean, which is roughly 10 miles south of downtown. When you combine all that land and all those people, it’s how you end up with one of the dirtiest cities in America.

Next: The first of four capital cities.

12. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee, is sprawling and spread out

Nashville’s boundaries approach Kentucky. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 475 square miles

Population: 667,560

Tennessee’s capital city is also one of the most sprawling American cities at nearly 500 square miles. The city boundaries extend so far north that the Kentucky border is only about 10 miles away. Unlike some big cities (both physically and population-wise), you can have a house with a yard and garage and still be within the city limits.

Next: Visit this spread-out city while you still can.

11. Phoenix

Phoenix is one of the most sprawling American cities

This view gives you an idea of how big Phoenix really is. | iStock.com/ EuToch

Size: 516 square miles

Population: 1.62 million

If you’ve been to Phoenix and enjoyed downtown activities, you’ve only seen a fraction of the city itself. It extends 20 miles north of the city center, which makes it one of the most sprawling cities in the United States. If you went to Arizona’s capital and enjoyed your time there, be sure to go back soon. It will be so hot by 2100 you won’t be able to visit.

Next: You need to pack an overnight bag if you’re traveling around this city.

10. Houston

Sprawling American cities

Minute Maid Park and NASA mission control are 25 miles apart and still in Houston. | G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

Size: 599 square miles

Population: 2.31 million

Houston is spread out, expensive, and overpopulated, which are three reasons nobody wants to live there anymore. An aerial view of Houston’s city limits looks like a giant Rorschach test blotch. NASA mission control and the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park downtown, both within the city limits, are 25 miles apart, and the city extends well beyond where the baseball field is.

Next: All that land can’t help out potential residents.

9. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma city is one of the most sprawling American cities

Oklahoma City spreads out in every direction from downtown. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Size: 606 square miles

Population: 643,648

At more than 600 square miles, Oklahoma City is one of the most sprawling American cities. The city has a ton of land, but it’s not helping out potential residents. The real estate in Oklahoma’s capital is as costly as ever, so it’s gotten a lot more expensive to buy a house there.

Next: Let’s head north.

8. Butte, Montana

Street in Butte, Montana, which is one of the most sprawling American cities

A look at Butte, Montana, which has more land than almost any other American city. | Janie Osborne/Getty Images

Size: 716 square miles

Population: 33,901

Butte is tucked between Yellowstone National Park to the southeast and several national forests to the north and west. The huge footprint and relatively small population mean just Butte houses about 47 people per square mile. It’s a big, sprawling city in Big Sky Country, but it needs to add more land to become the biggest city in Montana.

Next: You can stand on the edge in this spread-out town.

7. Anaconda, Montana

fall saturated color in Glacier National Park

Anaconda has a share of Montana’s beautiful wide open spaces. | Chris Boswell/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 736 square miles

Population: 9,106

We’re still in Montana, but Anaconda has a bigger footprint and a much smaller population density than neighboring Butte, which is just a few miles southeast. You can stand on the edge of the continental divide just outside Anaconda, which has just 12 people per square mile.

Next: One of the most sprawling cities in America has two other distinctions.

6. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown, most sprawling American cities

Jacksonville has areas on the Atlantic Ocean and areas 50 miles inland. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 747 square miles

Population: 892,062

Since we’re discussing sprawling American cities, you know Jacksonville is one of them. Parts of the city sit on the Atlantic Ocean, but other parts extend more than 50 miles inland. Jacksonville also has two other notable distinctions:

  • It’s one of the U.S. cities with the most churches. It contains nearly 1,500 churches, temples, mosques, and other holy sites.
  • The taxes are amazing. Jacksonville has one of the lowest individual tax burdens of any American city. Between property, sales, auto, and income taxes, residents pay just over $2,700 per year.

Next: We’re in one state the rest of the way.

5. Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska, Anchorage, most sprawling American cities, spread out cities, largest cities by area

Like its Alaskan cousins, Anchorage is one of the most sprawling American cities. | Chilkoot/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 1,704 square miles

Population: 294,356

Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way early. Anchorage is one of the most polluted cities in the United States since so many residents use wood-fired stoves for winter heat. Most residents live in the city center near the Turnagain and Knik Arms bodies of water. However, there are also houses to the northwest near the foothills of Chugach State Park.

Next: This city is spread out.

4. Wrangell, Alaska

Alaskan Mountain Valley

You don’t have to go far to find water in Wrangell, Alaska — the city sits on an island. | joshanon/Getty Images

Size: 2,541 square miles

Population: 2,521

Alaska is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana, the next three largest states, put together, so cities there are free to spread out. Wrangell is one of them. The city occupies the northwestern part of Wrangell Island, which is just off the Alaskan mainland near British Columbia, Canada. It’s sprawling and sparsely populated with just one person per square mile.

Next: Two states combined are barely bigger than our next city.

3. Juneau, Alaska

Mountain landscape in Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska, is a sprawling city that occupies more than 2,700 square miles. | chaolik/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Size: 2,717 square miles

Population: 32,094

Juneau is the only U.S. state capital to border another country. Part of it is because most states don’t have international borders, and another part of it is that Juneau is so damn big. If you combine Rhode Island and Delaware, their 2,989 square miles are barely bigger than Juneau. Another fun fact? It’s a city with an outsize number of millionaires. More than 9% of the population is part of a millionaire household.

Next: A beautiful small town — if you go by population.

2. Sitka, Alaska

Beauty and wide open spaces surround the sprawling city of Sitka, Alaska

Sitka is a beautiful small town, but it’s only small based on population. | Z-lex/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 2,874 square miles

Population: 8,689

Some people say Sitka is one of the most beautiful small towns in the U.S., but that’s only if you go by population. When you look at the square mileage, it’s one of the most sprawling American cities you’re going to find. The city boundaries extend across several islands on the Pacific Ocean, and the mix of Inuit and Russian influences help make it beautiful and unique.

Next: It’s No. 1, and it’s not even close.

1. Yakutat, Alaska

Hubbard Glacier Alaska, most sprawling American cities

Hubbard Glacier is part of Yakutat, Alaska, the largest U.S. city by a wide margin. | Michael Pegram/iStock/Getty Images

Size: 9,459 square miles

Population: 605

You have two great reasons to visit Yakutat. First, to see the Hubbard Glacier, which is about 20 miles from the city center and one of the must-see breathtaking natural wonders in the U.S. The second is to say you visited the largest city in America, according to ThoughtCo. At more than 9,400 square miles, it’s bigger than eight states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Heck, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined are more than 1,500 square miles smaller than Yakutat.

All population figures are 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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