Hiking is usually reserved for people who enjoy a peaceful trek out into nature, not those seeking out an adrenaline rush. Sure, some of the more arduous trails can you leave you huffing and puffing on the way to the top, but few of them are treacherous enough that just attempting them could put your very life in jeopardy. These dangerous hikes, however, are going to take more than just a good pair of shoes and some bug repellant if you want to make it out alive.
South Mountain, Mount Hua Shan, China
There are five spires leading to the top of Mount Hua Shan, all of which pose a formidable threat for hikers and pilgrims hoping to make their way to the temples above. The trail to the South Mountain is considered the deadliest in the world. Hikers must hook into a chain running along the boards built into the side of the rock, hovering thousands of feet in the air and roughly 200 feet across, after making their way up to a vertical staircase. Trying to scale the boards without buckling in is tantamount to suicide. At certain points on the trail, the boards disappear entirely and hikers are forced to dig their toes into small divots in the rock in order to keep from falling to their doom.
If you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and give it a shot. Hopefully, you won’t be one of the estimated 100 hikers who meet their end here every year.
The Maze, Canyonlands, Utah
One of the toughest hikes in the world is right here in our own backyard. Oddly enough, the Maze in Canyonlands National Park hasn’t managed to snuff out the life of any hikers yet, but this can largely be attributed to staunch patrols and great public outreach by rangers. If you were ever to sneak in unencumbered expect to face down dead-end gullies, an endless labyrinth of red stone tunnels that all look alike, 100-plus degree temperatures, rock falls and the potential for raging floodwaters with no escape. Only the most experienced climbers are permitted to enter the Maze, so don’t be a fool and turn into the only one who has never come back out.
Drakensberg Grand Traverse, South Africa
Perhaps the worst part of the Drakensberg Traverse is that there really is no set path to choose from. Two chain ladders you’re encouraged to cross at your own risk mark the beginning of the trail, then you have to navigate a haphazardly spaced collection of rocks and tracks and hope you’re heading in the proper direction. The real danger, though, is exposure to the heat.
There are few if any, spots to stop and rest where you’ll find reprieve from the South African sun. Without suitable amounts of water and food on hand, which only add to your pack weight, you’re likely to suffer from heatstroke before making it to the top. Once you’re up, though, the views from the Amphitheater are out of this world.
Aonach Eagach Ridge, Scotland
The Aonach Eagach Ridge is one of Scotland’s most prominent traverses and a popular hike among scramblers. It’s also considered the narrowest ridge on the Scottish mainland and is home to numerous accidents each year and the occasional death. Steep scree dots the landscape making the trip downward treacherous in the event the weather turns on you high above, which isn’t at all unusual for this area.
Technical scrambling is a necessity to make it from one end of the four-mile hike to the other and there are no shortcuts to get off the ridge in case of an emergency. Once you start, your only way down is at the other end.
Maroon Bells, Elk Mountains, Colorado
Nicknamed the “Deadly Bells,” the twin 14ers have claimed the lives of many unassuming hikers and climbers throughout the years. The 12-mile hike is home to deceptively steep paths and gullies as well as tumbling rocks that are liable to crumble underneath you and send you tumbling down the moment you lose your focus. Once you rise above 11,000 you begin entering climbing territory where it begins to become more and more technical in approach.
The instability of the rocks combined with weather patterns that turn on dime have given the Maroon Bells a reputation as being one of the most unpredictable hiking and climbing trails in not just the U.S., but the entire world. Stick to the prescribed path and pay close attention to the weather if you’re going to make an attempt, but don’t step foot on the trail until you’ve got some experience under your belt.