We humans love a bit of danger. Whether it’s a love of heights or the need for a bit of excitement, dangerous trails around the world draw in thousands of hikers each year to their steep, rugged slopes. But, with so many amazing hikes to choose from, it can be hard to know where to go on your next trip.
Thankfully, for the adrenaline junkies among us, we have good news: We’ve created this ultimate list of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the world so you can start planning your next adventure.
DISCLAIMER: All ten of these hikes made our list for a reason – because they’re dangerous. If you do choose to attempt any of these hikes, it’s at your own risk. These trails are for experienced hikers only and should only be attempted by individuals that have the skills and expertise necessary to manage risk in hazardous terrain.
1. Angels Landing – Zion National Park, Utah, USA
Rising up drastically from the floor of Zion Canyon below, Angles Landing is a large fin of rock standing some 454m (1,488ft) tall in southwestern Utah, USA. As one of the best-known hikes in the world, Angels Landing draws thousands of visitors to its craggy slopes each year, all of whom hope to take in the fantastic views of the surrounding region from its summit.
However, hiking Angels Landing isn’t without its dangers. The 8.7km (5.4mi) hike from the base to the summit is steep, to say the least. In fact, the very last section of the hike is along a precipitous narrow ridge that’s just wide enough for a single hiker.
Even though the most exposed sections of the trail have built-in steel chains, the National Park Service has recorded at least 8 deaths from Angels Landing since the path was constructed, all from falls. If you do want to hike this iconic trail, it’s best to do so at off-peak times during the spring or fall and to be willing to turn back if you’re not feeling comfortable with the exposure.
2. Mount Hua Shan – Shaanxi Province, China
Located in the southern part of Shaanxi Province, China, Mount Hua Shan (2,154m/7,070ft) is famous for its impressively steep walls that guard a multitude of temples and shrines on its five peaks. The mountain itself has been considered a sacred place, particularly among Daoist monks, since at least the second century BCE.
The paths on the mountain, though, are truly a wonder to behold – if you’re not afraid of heights. One path in particular – the Plank Walk, is made almost entirely of wooden planks bolted to the mountain.
While there are steel chains anchored into Mount Hua Shan’s rocky face for hikers to clip into, people have fallen from the peak, thousands of meters to the valley below. However, visitors to the mountain now have to register before starting their climb, and safety harnesses are required.
3. Drakensberg Traverse – Maloti-Drakensberg Park, South Africa
The Drakensberg Traverse has long been heralded as the quintessential South African hike, taking people along the main ridge of the Drakensberg Escarpment. It is about 220km (137 mi) long and gains more than 9,000 meters (30,000 feet) of elevation along the way.
But the traverse isn’t a maintained trail and it crosses some of the most exposed alpine terrain in the country. The most dangerous part of the hike, though, might be the beginning. To get to the ridge, hikers have to climb their way up to a set of very rickety chain ladders that look like they might just need to be replaced.
Even then, however, the trail is exceptionally difficult and requires a significant amount of climbing each day. While hundreds of people certainly complete the Traverse each year without issue, coming prepared with all the right gear is a must for a successful – and uneventful – trek.
4. Crib Goch – Snowdonia National Park, Wales, UK
Crib Goch follows the long knife-edge arête that extends down the eastern ridge of Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), the highest mountain in Wales. Although thousands of hikers make their way to Snowdon’s summit each year along the Pyg Track, the Miner’s Track, and any of the other casual walk-ups, the scramble up Crib Goch is not for the faint of heart.
An ascent of Snowdon via Crib Goch involves steep third-class scrambling through exposed terrain with as much as a 923m (3,028ft) drop on either side. While the scramble isn’t difficult by technical climbing standards, the mountain is one of the wettest places in the United Kingdom. This means that the hike is often wet and slippery – not a good combination if you’re perilously high above the ground.
The real danger on Crib Goch is that people come unprepared. Lured in by the possibility of stunning views, inexperienced hikers find their way in terrain that they’re not quite equipped to handle. Overcrowding is also an issue on the route, so it’s best to get an early start and attempt Snowdon during a weekday rather than on the busy weekends.
5. El Caminito del Rey – Málaga, Spain
El Caminito del Rey, or The Little King’s Pathway, is a world-famous hike in the province of Málaga in southern Spain. The 3km (1.9mi) path was originally built in the early 1900s to provide workers with access to a number of hydroelectric power plants at nearby waterfalls.
While the original path was built out of concrete and steel straight into the staggering cliffs in the narrow El Chorro Gorge, it eventually fell into a state of disrepair with large gaps in the walkway overhanging hundreds of meters of open air. Despite the dangers, thousands of hikers still flocked to El Caminito for a chance to experience the adrenaline rush of the path first-hand.
After two people died between 1999 and 2000, the walkway was closed, but people still managed to sneak in and complete the hike. After four more people died between 2000 and 2013, the governments of Andalucia and Málaga invested approximately €9 million in renovations to the trail. Although the trail is now much safer than it was before, it still provides a whole lot of excitement for adventurous hikers to enjoy.
6. Half Dome – Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Half Dome is one of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic features, so it’s no surprise that it’s an incredibly popular hike. Despite its popularity, though, few people realize how dangerous the granite dome actually is.
These days, there’s a lottery system in place for anyone that wants to climb the “cables route” to the top of this 2,696m (8,846ft) peak during the summer months. Getting to the summit of Half Dome requires a 22.5-25.7km (14-16mi) round trip hike, but the most difficult, and dangerous part is the last 121m (400ft) to the summit.
Here, the National Park Service has installed steel chains to keep people safe on this steep and slippery ascent. However, people have slipped, fallen, and died on the route even since the chains were fist constructed in 1919.
7. Mount Washington – White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, USA
Unlike most of the other hikes on our list, a hiker’s biggest danger on Mount Washington (Agiocochook) isn’t the heights – it’s the weather. Although it stands just 1,916.6m (6,288ft) high, Mount Washington is located at the intersection of three major weather patterns.
Due to its location, Mount Washington routinely records wind speeds higher than 160 km/h (100 mph) and once held the world wind speed record of 372 km/h (231 mph) until 1996. It also gets some of the harshest temperatures in the Northeastern United States, down to a record low of -46ºC (-50ºF).
To date, Mount Washington has claimed the lives of over 160 people, many of whom succumbed to the mountain’s harsh weather. So, if you do decide to hike to the summit, be sure to check the weather forecast and come prepared with the right gear.
8. Striding Edge & Swirral Edge – Lake District, England, UK
Situated in the heart of the Lake District, Helvellyn is the third-highest mountain in England. While the peak is just 950m (3,117ft) tall, it has two super narrow knife-edge ridges – Striding Edge and Swirral Edge – that descend from its summit.
Like Crib Goch on Snowdon, both of these ridges on Helvellyn aren’t technically demanding from a climber’s point of view. But, they both involve scrambling over a very thin arête that, at points, is just wide enough for a single person, with hundred-meter drops on either side.
Striding Edge is a well-known accident location, having claimed the lives of dozens of hikers, including Charles Gough, the early English romantic-era painter. Swirral Edge is slightly shorter than Striding Edge, but getting from the ridge to the summit plateau is particularly challenging and has caused quite a few accidents in the past.
9. Kalalau Trail – Kauai, Hawaii, USA
Located on the northernmost edge of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the Kalalau Trail is an incredibly rugged 17.7km (11mi) trail that takes hikers through dense forests and fantastically steep volcanic cliffs.
The trail itself is the only way to access this part of the island by land. It traverses some of the most difficult terrain in the state, crossing three major streams that can swell up significantly after a large rainstorm.
For hikers, the Kalalau Trail is full of beauty, and dangers. In addition to a number of deaths from falls, surging rivers and waterfalls on the trail have trapped hundreds of hikers on the island’s remote beaches in past years after particularly heavy rains.
10. The West Coast Trail – Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
The West Coast Trail, on Canada’s Vancouver Island, was originally built to help stranded shipwreck survivors escape from the island’s most remote sections of coastline. When Pacific Rim National Park was established in 1973, the path became a recreational trail, which is now highly popular among backpackers.
But, this 75km (46.6mi) long trail is no walk in the park. Hiking the West Coast Trail involves climbing steep ladders, using cable cars, traversing very steep slopes, and crossing major rivers. Floods on the trail have stranded hikers for days and dozens of hikers need to be evacuated each year.
But, thousands of backpackers head to the West Coast Trail for a week of true adventure in British Columbia’s backcountry. If you do want to hike the trail, though, be sure to reserve your permit in early January for the upcoming summer season.
Not For The Faint Of Heart
Hiking any of these ten famous trails is an adventure in itself. If you enjoyed reading our list or if you’ve ever hiked any of these awesome trails, let us know in the comments below! Otherwise, feel free to share this article with your friends so you can start planning your next trip.