Are you an avid hiker looking for some excitement and possibly even a bit of danger from your next adventure? Do you want to push your limits and take on the most challenging hikes in the world? If so, you’ll enjoy browsing our list of the top 10 most dangerous hikes in the world.
These hikes are not for the faint of heart and require a high level of physical fitness, mental toughness, and preparation. As someone who loves hiking and exploring the great outdoors, I have always been fascinated by the most extreme and dangerous hikes in the world.
From narrow trails on steep cliffs to treacherous river crossings and unpredictable weather conditions, these hikes offer a unique and thrilling experience that only a few brave souls are willing to undertake.
Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a novice adventurer, this article will give you a glimpse into the world of extreme hiking and inspire you to take on new challenges.
What are the top 10 most dangerous hikes in the world?
1. Mount Hua Shan, China
So, what is the #1 most dangerous hike in the world? Mount Hua Shan’s plank walk trail takes the top spot.
Mount Hua Shan is one of the five sacred mountains in China and is known for its steep and narrow paths. The hike involves climbing steep staircases and walking along narrow planks attached to the side of the mountain.
The trail is not for the faint of heart, and many sections have no guardrails. The hike is made even more dangerous by the large crowds of tourists who flock to the mountain each year.
The plank walk section of the Mount Hua Shan hike in China is considered the deadliest. The plank walk is a narrow wooden walkway that is attached to the side of a cliff and is suspended hundreds of meters above the ground.
One specific example of a fatality incident on the plank walk occurred in 2013 when a tourist fell to his death while attempting to take a photo. The incident prompted the Chinese government to temporarily close the plank walk for renovation and safety enhancements.
The plank walk is not the only dangerous section of the Mount Hua Shan hike, as the entire hike is considered challenging and dangerous due to steep drops and narrow pathways. However, the plank walk is often cited as the most dangerous due to its extreme height and narrow width.
2. The Maze, Utah
The Maze, located in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States due to its remote location, rugged terrain, and lack of marked trails. The entire area is a maze of interwoven canyons with many dead-ends, making it easy for hikers to get lost.
The most dangerous section of the hike is considered to be the Doll House, which is a remote area of The Maze that requires a long hike to reach. There have been several incidents of hikers getting lost or injured in the area.
For example, in 2019, a hiker was rescued after getting lost in The Maze for four days. The hiker had run out of water and was severely dehydrated when rescuers found him. This incident highlights the importance of being prepared and having proper equipment when hiking in remote areas.
3. Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
The Drakensberg Traverse is a challenging hike that takes hikers along the main ridge of the Drakensberg Escarpment in South Africa. The hike requires advanced navigational skills and the ability to navigate through dense fog and high winds.
The start of the hike is particularly dangerous as two chain ladders provide stability on the cliff, and the path is not marked. Here’s some more facts about this hike:
- The Drakensberg Traverse is a 125 mile long hike that takes around 12 days to complete.
- The hike starts at the Sentinel car park, located in the Royal Natal National Park, and ends at the Bushman’s Nek border post.
- The hike passes through the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Drakensberg Mountains are the highest in South Africa, with the highest peak, Thabana Ntlenyana, reaching 11,423 feet.
- The weather can be unpredictable, with temperatures ranging from 14°F to 86°F, and sudden changes in weather can occur, including snow, hail, and thunderstorms.
- The hike is not marked in some areas, and hikers are advised to carry a map, compass, and GPS device.
4. Wendenstock, Switzerland
There have been several deaths on the Wendenstock trails in recent years. In 2018, a 25-year-old man fell to his death while hiking on the trail to the Rotstock.
In 2019, a 62-year-old woman died after being caught in a storm on the trail to the Wendenalp. And in 2020, a 47-year-old man died after falling from a cliff on the trail to the Rotstock.
5. Huayna Picchu, Peru
Huayna Picchu is a steep mountain located near the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru. The hike involves climbing steep staircases and walking along narrow paths that cling to the side of the mountain.
The most deadly section of the Huayna Picchu hike is known as the “Death Stairs.” This section involves climbing a steep set of stairs that are carved into the side of the mountain and have no guardrails.
The stairs are narrow and can be slippery, and hikers must navigate them while looking down at a sheer drop-off on one side. The Death Stairs have claimed several lives over the years, and hikers attempting the hike should exercise extreme caution in this section.
One specific example of a recent fatality on the Huayna Picchu hike occurred in 2019 when a 28-year-old Israeli hiker fell to his death while attempting to take a selfie near the summit. The hiker reportedly lost his footing and fell hundreds of feet down a steep slope.
6. Capitol Peak, Colorado
This mountain is considered one of the most exposed and deadly peaks in the country. Capitol Peak is classified as a Class 4 climb, which means that it requires advanced mountaineering skills. The trail is notorious for its knife-edge ridges, steep drop-offs, and sustained scrambling.
Hikers attempting to climb Capitol Peak should be experienced and well-prepared, with appropriate gear and knowledge of the route. The Knife Edge is considered the most dangerous section of Capitol Peak in Colorado.
It is a narrow, exposed ridge that requires hikers to traverse a steep and jagged section of rock with steep drop-offs on both sides. The Knife Edge is located near the summit of Capitol Peak and is one of the most challenging and notorious sections of the climb.
There have been several fatal incidents on Capitol Peak, including one in 2017 where five climbers died within a six-week span. In one instance, a hiker attempted to cross the Knife Edge during a thunderstorm and was struck by lightning.
7. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail is a strenuous 22-mile hike that traverses five valleys along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii. The trail is known for its breathtaking beauty, hanging valleys, and iron red and emerald green cliffs that rise dramatically from the ocean.
The trail can be challenging, especially during the rainy season when flash floods can occur. Hikers must also be prepared for exposure to extreme heat and sun, as much of the trail is exposed and there are limited sources of shade.
Make sure to take a look at our Hawaii hiking packing list if you have a trip planned. Advanced navigational skills are recommended, as the trail can be difficult to follow at times and there are several river crossings.
8. Aonach Eagach Ridge, Scotland
The Aonach Eagach Ridge is a challenging hike that takes hikers along a narrow ridge in the Scottish Highlands. The trail is known for its rugged terrain, unpredictable weather, and steep drop-offs.
The hike requires advanced navigational skills and the ability to navigate through dense fog and high winds. Hikers must also contend with the risk of exposure to extreme cold. The Aonach Eagach Ridge is considered one of the most difficult and narrowest horizontal scrambling ridges in mainland Scotland.
The trail is approximately 12.4 miles long with an elevation gain of 7,270 feet.
9. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Half Dome is a granite dome located in Yosemite National Park in California. The hike involves climbing steep staircases and walking along narrow paths that cling to the side of the mountain.
In addition to the steep and strenuous climb, the Half Dome hike also requires hikers to navigate a section of the trail known as the “cables.” This section involves climbing a steep and exposed granite slope using metal cables anchored into the rock.
Hikers must wear gloves to protect their hands from the rough cables and use special equipment to clip onto the cables for safety. Despite the risks, the Half Dome hike is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park.
The National Park Service requires hikers to obtain a permit to hike to the summit of Half Dome, and the permits are in high demand. The hike is approximately 16 miles round trip and can take anywhere from 10 to 14 hours to complete.
The reward for those who make it to the summit of Half Dome is a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains. From the top, hikers can see landmarks such as El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome’s sister peak, Clouds Rest.
10. Angels Landing, Zion National Park
Angels Landing is a steep trail located in Zion National Park in Utah. The hike involves climbing steep staircases and walking along narrow paths that cling to the side of the mountain.
The trail is known for its breathtaking views of Zion Canyon and the surrounding landscape, but it is also considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States. The trail is 5.4 miles round trip and takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete.
The trail starts with a series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, which lead to a narrow ridge called Scout Lookout. From there, hikers must traverse a narrow path with sheer drop-offs on either side, using chains to hold onto as they climb higher.
Despite the risks, thousands of hikers attempt the Angels Landing hike each year. The National Park Service recommends that hikers be in good physical condition and wear appropriate footwear and clothing. They also advise hikers to start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and crowds.
The reward for those who brave the Angels Landing hike is a stunning panoramic view of Zion National Park. From the summit, hikers can see the Virgin River winding through the canyon, the towering sandstone cliffs, and the surrounding mountains. It’s a view that’s worth the effort and the risk.
Understanding the Dangers of Hiking
As an avid hiker, I know the thrill and excitement that comes with exploring new trails and experiencing the beauty of nature. However, it is important to understand the potential dangers associated with hiking. In this section, I will discuss the factors that make a hike dangerous and the risks associated with hiking.
Factors that Make a Hike Dangerous
Several factors can make a hike dangerous, including:
- Steep and rugged terrain
- Unpredictable weather conditions
- Lack of proper equipment and gear
- Remote and isolated locations
- Wildlife and insect encounters
These factors can increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. It is essential to research and prepare for a hike before embarking on it to ensure your safety.
Risks Associated with Hiking
There are several risks associated with hiking, including:
- Falls and slips
- Dehydration and heat exhaustion
- Hypothermia and frostbite
- Altitude sickness
- Animal attacks
- Getting lost or stranded
It is crucial to be aware of these risks and take the necessary precautions to minimize them. This includes bringing enough water and food, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, carrying a map and compass, and informing someone of your hiking plans.
My Closing Thoughts
As an avid hiker, I’ve always been drawn to the thrill and adventure of exploring new trails. But after researching the top 10 most dangerous hikes in the world, I have a newfound respect for the risks involved in this activity. From treacherous terrain to extreme weather conditions, these hikes require a level of skill, experience, and preparation that few hikers possess.
While some may argue that the risks are worth the reward, I believe that safety should always be the top priority when embarking on any outdoor adventure. It’s important to do your research, assess your own abilities, and take all necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there are plenty of breathtaking trails around the world that offer stunning views and a sense of accomplishment without putting your life at risk. So go out and explore, but always remember to put safety first.
David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.