Skip to Content

What is the Scariest Hike in America? (Top 10)

What is the Scariest Hike in America? (Top 10)

If you’re an experienced hiker, chances are you want to be challenged on your next hike, right? The kind of hike where your heart rate accelerates from the exposure and you truly wonder if you’ll be able to complete it.

If this truly is the kind of hike you want to embark on, you’ve come to the right place. Each of these trails is scarier and more dangerous than the last, giving you plenty of options for a terrifying time!

Top 10 scariest hikes in America:

1. Angels Landing

Angels Landing isn’t a long hike, but it is a demanding and strenuous one. Once you’ve crossed the river on the first stretch of the trail you’ll be faced with a dizzying, winding upward climb that will push you to your limits. There are 21 grueling switchbacks before you descend into the chill depths of Refrigerator Canyon.

From there only the strong and brave should continue the trail. The final half mile of the trail of Angels Landing is a narrow and dangerous path that will chill your blood. It’s already claimed the lives of eight hikers since 2004 and many choose not to ascend to the final peak, even with the safety chain railing.

Overall, this is a hike that will make you realize how fragile and small you really are, getting your heart pounding no matter how courageous a hiker you may be.

Distance: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,780 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

2. Half Dome

If you dare to brave the long and harrowing journey of this famous trail in Yosemite then you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Make sure that you come prepared however, as the trail is dangerous and long. Well worn hiking footwear, extra water, headlamps, and gloves that will give you a reliable grip are a must to keep yourself safe along the way.

It takes most people 10-12 hours to complete this hike and is not recommended for those who are unprepared or out-of-shape. Only the most well-equipped and the strongest will be able to make it up the trail and back before the sun sets, and even then it’s important to have a set turn around time in order to avoid making the perilous hike back in the dark.

Distance: 14.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 8,914

Difficulty: Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

View of the Na Pali coast, location of the Kalalau Trail

3. Kalalau Trail

Don’t be fooled by the lush Hawaiian countryside and atmosphere, this is a challenging and terrifying hike fit for the spooky season. As one of the most famous trails along the Napali Coast, the Kalalau Trail follows the coastline for hard-earned photos of the stunning overlooks and ocean.

While the scenery and the ocean may look stunningly beautiful from a distance though, it’s important to remember that mother nature can be dangerous and deadly as well. The streams that intersect with the trail are prone to flash flooding so you’ll need to watch out for rains in the forecast.

Even though there is a famous location where you can stop and lounge on the beach by the ocean you should never try swimming as the currents there are powerful and will claim even the strongest swimmers.

Distance: 19.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 10,281

Difficulty: Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

4. The Mist Trail, Yosemite

If you are looking for a shorter thrilling hike, this 1.6 mile steep trail will give get your lungs burning and your heart pounding. Most of the trail is safe for all though and is even a favorite of families, with children scrambling over the steep rocks.

However, the waterfalls and strong current rivers are where this trail becomes a terrifying and exciting experience. The spray from the waterfalls creates a beautiful rainbow over the trail, but it also makes the path slippery and hazardous. And while the rivers may look inviting and peaceful on a hot day, the currents are strong enough to take just about anyone who goes into them.

The trail moves from point to point on John Muir Trail, making it a thrilling and scary side path that you can take while following the longer path. If you’re looking for a minor scare in an otherwise relaxing hike, then this is the perfect offshoot to take.

Distance: 1.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,466 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

5. Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Known for being the highest point in the north east portion of America, Mt. Washington is also one of the busiest summits you’ll find anywhere in the world. With all this foot traffic comes an extra-ordinary high amount of fatalities recorded.

The summit of Mt Washington has some of the most unpredictable and extreme weather conditions ever recorded with some people even comparing the fluctuations to the extremes of high peaks in the Himalayan mountains.

Whether you decide to drive, take the cog railway, ski mountaineer or hike to the summit of this iconic peak, come prepared for extreme conditions at the drop of a hat!

Distance: 8 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,170 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

Hiker making his way up Mt. Whitney.

6. Mt. Whitney

Another trail that is connected to the John Muir Trail, this steep, cliff’s edge hike will force you to keep your head facing forward for fear of looking down. To get to the farther parts of the hike though, you’ll need to obtain a day or overnight hiking permit.

The trail begins easily enough with scenic views next to Lone Pine Lake, Bighorn Park, and Mirror Lake. After these though the trail becomes increasingly steep and precarious with 99 switchbacks over rocky terrain.

During the winter and spring however, these switchbacks are closed and hikers will need to climb the dangerous Chute Trail with winter mountaineering gear if the wish to reach the peak. This area is incredibly dangerous with hidden rocks and becomes icy quickly once the shadow of the mountain crosses it. Only the most adept and practiced hikers should attempt this risk and frightening climb.

Distance: 8.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,470 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

7. Haiku Stairs

The famous Haiku Stairs in Oahu, Hawaii is one of the steepest and most narrow hiking trails in world. Placing one foot after another on the old, weathered steps with only the ageing and decrepit railing to save you from a fall will get anyone’s blood pumping.

However, the scariest part of this hike isn’t the 3,922 steps or the dizzying height and unsafe perch of the peak. Instead, the scare in this hike comes from the fact that it is currently illegal to climb the stairs. If you are caught you could be charged with trespassing and given a fine of up to a thousand dollars, making the risks of climbing just that much more frightening.

There is a back way that is legal though, which follows along the Moanalua trail, although it doesn’t let you climb the stairs, it still arrives at the peak of the climb, letting you capture the gorgeous sight without the added risk.

Distance: 9.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,513 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

Climbing up Longs peak in RMNP, Colorado

8. Longs Peak, Keyhole Route

This is a longer and more varied trail, cutting through many different types of terrain, but the scariest part about this hike is the high altitude and unpredictable weather. While it can be attempted in one day, you’ll likely want to prepare for a multiple day trek and come prepared for all kinds of conditions.

You’ll be able to see the terrain, flora, and fauna change around you as you ascend through different altitude levels. There are also plenty of camping sites, ravines, cliffs, and steep climbs along the way. As you climb higher and higher the danger and frightening heights of the path only grow until you may find yourself wanting to head back before you’ve gone too far.

Distance: 23.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 10,279 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

9. Muir Snowfield, Mt. Rainier

If there is any trail on this list that you should research and prepare for the most, it is the Muir Snowfield trek on Mt. Rainier. The National Parks Service has even issued a blanket statement that only the most experienced of hikers should attempt this unmarked and tempermental trail.

It starts out easy enough, with a paved trail leading up to Panorama Point, but soon enough the trail gives way to an unending snowfield without any clear path markers. You’ll need to look up for where other hikers have gone in order to make your way up; along with bringing a compass, map, ice axes, and other important climbing/trekking gear.

This trail has claimed many lives and led to a number of lost hikers even in the warmer months. It is not a trail to attempt lightly so be sure to be extra careful and prepared before making your way to the snowfield.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,858 ft

Difficulty: Extremely Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

10. Barr Trail

This is a steep and long hike that moves through three very distinct zones and terrains. It won’t be an easy trek for anyone, no matter how many years of experience they may have.

The trail begins with a series of continual switchbacks climbing Mt. Manitou. It is an unforgiving and strenuous climb for three miles that will test you to your limits. After you’ve reached the top though, the path tapers off to a much more relaxing grade for a while.

After this though, the trail returns to its steep incline towards the summit and the oxygen levels in the air dip as you climb higher and higher. There are also frequent lightning strikes during the summer months, making your climb even more dangerous on top of that. Fortunately though, once you reach the summit, there are ways to get back down without needing to strain your exhausted muscles anymore.

Also read: The Manitou Incline | Colorado’s Stairway to Heaven

Distance: 12.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 7,547 ft

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Learn more here

Trailhead Location

My Closing Thoughts

And that concludes our list of the scariest hikes in America! Any one of these will likely get your adrenaline pumping and put a kernel of fear in your heart. Before you dare to attempt them make sure that you’ve taken as many precautions as you can and prepared yourself with the appropriate gear and clothing.

Of course, even then, there is some danger that you can’t prepare for, especially with such frightening hikes as these.

Up Next In Hiking:

52 of the Best Gifts for Hikers

Top 20 Best Day Hikes in the World

Top 10 Most Dangerous Hikes in the World

Share this article!

Leave a comment