Not for the faint of heart, the ten most dangerous hiking trails in the world will test your nerves, push your boundaries, and provide quite an adrenaline rush along the way. If you're looking for a relaxing walk in the woods, these aren't the hikes for you. But if you're in need of some serious adventure, any one of these routes will give you everything you could ask for—and probably a whole lot more.
China's Mount Huashan has lured pilgrims for centuries, with only the bravest rewarded entry into the ancient temples at its summit. Since a large portion of the "plank walk" consists of narrow, wooden boards attached to the side of the mountain, hikers walk precariously along the route, holding onto rusty chains as they go. In some sections, the boardwalk disappears altogether; only shallow foot supports, carved into the rock, take their place. This is as scary as it gets, particularly if you happen to be afraid of heights.
El Caminito del Rey
Built more than a century ago to provide maintenance access to a nearby hydroelectric dam, the 2-mile long El Caminito del Rey trail in Spain has since become a magnet for thrill seekers. The steel-and-concrete route is bolted to steep limestone cliffs 350 feet above the rocky ground. For years this hike was incredibly dangerous as sections of the path were broken and it was officially closed to hikers. After an extensive, complete renovation the path is reopened to visitors and is now quite safe, though still thrilling.
Angels Landing (Utah)
One of the most popular trails inside Zion National Park, much of the 2.5-mile-long Angels Landing isn't particularly scary. As hikers near the final half-mile, though, they can choose to press towards Scout Lookout. Proceeding forward means walking a steep and narrow ridge with dangerous drop-offs on either side. A set of chains have been anchored into the path to provide a bit of support—but even with those in place, it can be frightening to navigate. Those who do make it out to the lookout are rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable.
Drakensberg Grand Traverse
Stretching for 40 miles across Natal National Park in South Africa, the Drakensberg Grand Traverse is a backpacking route well-known for its incredible views. The path wanders along some very exposed ridges and pathways, which can become quite treacherous at times. But the most dangerous section comes right at the start, where two chain ladders must be climbed just to reach the trailhead itself.
Kalalau Trail (Hawaii)
The Kalalau Trail falls along Hawaii's Nā Pali Coast, making it an utterly spectacular hike when the conditions are right. The 22-mile roundtrip hike even provides access to one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, for those willing to make the walk. That said, frequent rainfalls can make the trail incredibly slippery and cause several stream crossings to become treacherous, too. One wrong move can send hikers sliding over the edge of a nearby cliff, resulting in severe injuries and even death.
Another dangerous hike located in Utah? The Maze. As its name implies, The Maze is made up of a series of interconnecting canyons that are incredibly easy to get lost and disoriented in. Many of the 2,000 annual visitors that hike this route become turned around, frequently running into dead ends and finding it difficult to navigate through the narrow passageways. The remote nature of the trail, located inside Canyonlands National Park, also makes it a challenge to find. While it is in a beautiful location, The Maze's confusing structure means hikers have to be rescued from the labyrinth on a regular basis.
The first clue that Peru's Huayna Picchu trail is dangerous is that it is often referred to as the "Hike of Death." That's because it often claims a few lives each year, particularly among tourists who risk its steep ascent without wearing the proper footwear. The route gets extremely slick when it's wet, too, prompting it to be routinely closed during the rainy season. To make the hike even more treacherous, much of the trail is crumbling away, so it is rather difficult to keep your footing on the way up and down.
There are few places on Earth that offer as much great hiking as New Zealand, but some of those routes can be extremely dangerous. Take, for example, the Cascade Saddle: An 11-mile hike that typically takes two days to complete, this trail offers visitors a glimpse of some of the views found in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. However, descending from the high alpine environments can be extremely dangerous, particularly if it is raining. Numerous hikers have suffered severe injuries or even perished on the trail after losing their footing. The incredibly gorgeous landscapes don't help much either, as they can be a distraction when it comes to making sure your feet are on solid ground.
Bright Angel Trail
Hiking in the Grand Canyon can be epic, but always keep in mind that what goes down, must come back up. A lot of hikers seem to forget about that when they descend into the canyon via Bright Angel Trail. Park rangers are routinely called to assist hikers on this 9.5-mile roundtrip route simply because it is a challenging trek back to the parking lot. In fact, so many people run into trouble that there is a special team of rangers who are designated to this path alone. It turns out, heat and exertion can be extremely dangerous.
Yosemite's Mist Trail takes hikers to the summit of Half Dome, making it one of the most iconic routes in the entire world. The path is extremely popular, drawing hundreds of trekkers on its busiest days. To complete the 14.5-mile route, they'll need to climb Half Dome's famous steel cables, which assist hikers as they descend the side of the massive granite slab. Those cables (and the rock itself) can get very slick in the rain, causing the careless or unprepared to slip and fall. Frequent lightning storms are also a concern, with other sections of the trail turning treacherous when wet, too. In fact, more than 60 people have reportedly perished on the Mist Trail, making it one of the most dangerous and deadly in the world.