The Canyonlands National Park offers you a great desert experience, but it’s also equally hard to navigate and prone to rockfalls and flash floods. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can be catastrophic, especially if you don’t know your way back, while the trail is also full of dead ends. That’s probably why only around 2,000 people visit the remote sections of the national park each year.
As the name suggests, the trail is known for treacherous and deceptive rock scrambles and is not recommended for the inexperienced. The 24-mile-long trail includes a six-mile stretch of unrelenting climb, requiring hikers to grab slippery roots to avoid tripping and falling. Water on the path, moss-covered rocks and deep mud are some other challenges hikers have to face on the trail.
The trail is one of the most popular paths to reach the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The 14.5-mile trail can leave hikers seriously injured if they leave unprepared and are not ready for the tricky spots. The trail leading to the Half Dome has taken over 60 lives so far. Although steel cables make the task easier, hikers still need to be in excellent physical condition to hike the trail.
The part of the trail in Corsica might not be the most difficult to walk, but it is prone to sudden weather changes with the way back being even more terrifying than the climb. Long, steep descents coupled with weather challenges and exposed paths means hikers need to be prepared and ready for technically difficult sections. In some sections, hikers need more than 5 hours to hike less than 4 miles.
The under-6,000 summit might not be the tallest of the toughest, but it has claimed many lives, especially those who left unprepared or got caught by a storm. Winds over 200mph can catch hikers off guard, which is why it’s no surprise Mount Washington is also known as the deadliest small mountain in the world and considered to be the home of the worst weather in the world.
The trail is famous for encounters with an aggressive breed of Brown Bears that can do anything to protect their young or themselves. Signs are posted at different spots throughout the trail, warning hikers to be careful and avoid becoming a prey. Bears flock in the area in summers when there is plenty of salmon in the nearby creek. The authorities are considering diverting the trail away from the creek due to frequent bear encounters.
The trail is challenging right from the beginning and requires hikers to use chain rope to move forward. Deaths are frequently reported every year with 55 people losing their lives every year until 1985, after which officials stopped counting the number of deaths. Over 40 miles of untamed trail, rock scrambles and exposed terrain make it a challenging hike with rewards that hikers consider to be worth it.
The granite Stairs of Death is not for the faint hearted and gains over 1,000-feet elevation in just under a mile. Some people even lose their lives every year while attempting to climb the stairs. Crumbling rocks, rotting, exposed corners, slippery stones, mist and clouds are some other factors that make the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu incredibly dangerous and breathtaking at the same time.
The two-day hike covers only 11 miles with the trail passing through alpine meadows and beech forest. However, at least 12 people lost their lives in pursuit of incredible views, mostly because of falling while descending. Slippery rocks have caused a loss of many lives, prompting locals to demand closure or re-making of the trail.
The 22-mile trail (round-trip) follows the Na Pali Coast through steep volcanic slopes, isolated jungles and a pristine beach. The three main stream crossings can swell without any warning and turn an otherwise great hike into a sour trip. Falling rocks around the waterfalls and rain are the other two main concerns, which is why the trail has caused a lot of accidents in the past and has taken more than a hundred lives.
The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most famous trails in Grand Canyon National Park. A dedicated scouting crew was created to help distressed hikers in the trail, which is only a 9.5-miles round trip but has taken many lives over the years. The trail is fairly easy to access, but the way out is uphill and temperatures usually hover around 110 degrees (can be 20 degrees hotter inside than the rim). So much heat and an uphill climb to get out can be a real challenge, especially if you are not carrying enough water and fail to take rest breaks frequently.
This trail in Acadia National Park requires confidence and constant vigilance to complete one of the most dangerous trails. A small misstep can have fatal consequences due to scrambling or falling rocks. The three-mile ascent turns into a hard climb and although the path has secured iron rungs, these can be slippery and send a hiker plummeting hundreds of feet below.
This 12-mile trail in Glacier National Park passes through exposed cliffside and provides a rare chance to experience the area's wildlife, including Black Bears and BigHorn Sheep. Its close proximity to wildlife makes it one of the most challenging trails. The park is known for the number of people killed due to bear attacks. In addition to bears, aggressive goats and sheep also pose a serious threat to hikers as charged animals can knock hikers off the thin cliffside.
Being a remote region in a country still hampered by a civil war, Taung Wine Mountain is a stunning yet dangerous hiking destination. Unmarked dirt roads, security concerns, venomous snakes and unpredictable weather are the main reasons that make it a challenging hike. Blistering sun at the summit also awaits those who eventually make it to the top.
Although only 3 miles, the trail is located in Death Valley National Park, the hottest place on earth. It does not take long for heat stroke to occur here, where temperatures can reach 120+ °F (49+ °C). GPS service is known to be poor in the area, so finding your way around and out is also a challenge. No one can afford to lose the trail even for a few hours in scorching heat. The area is also home to three species of venomous snakes, which coupled with no cell service makes any hiker think twice!
The trail consists of narrow planks made of wood and some loose pieces of turf built around a mountain. Careful maneuvering is needed to complete the trail, which was built to enable the locals and pilgrims to visit temples atop. The hike is also regarded as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. Getting to the trail is a challenge itself and involves climbing up a vertical rebar staircase.
The 60-miles track remained dormant until recently and experienced intense fighting in 1942 between the Australians and Japanese. Among many who got killed in the area include 13 who died in a plane crash in 2009 and four hikers who faced extreme heat, malaria, afternoon rains and frigid nights. Although the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have invested heavily in the trail since 2009, hikers still have to face most of the challenges mentioned before. Read more in our dedicated article about the Kokoda Track.
Mount Ijen is an active volcano and considered to be one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. It holds an acid lake that can sear skin and melt metal. Adventure seekers walk in darkness hoping to see the blue flames that lick the night sky. A gas mask is needed to breathe comfortably in an area where the air is filled with toxic gasses, including sulfuric gas. Winds can rip volcanic ash into the air, which can blind hikers and make it very difficult for them to find their way out.
The 12-mile trail (round-trip) takes hikers through some stunning landscapes, but it’s full of steep paths, rock fields and many places where it’s easy to get lost. The climb gets tougher with gain in elevation, especially after 11,000 feet. It’s also known as the Deadly Bells because of five separate incidents involving the death of eight people.
Considered to be the most dangerous hike in the US, Angels Landing in Zion National Park is known for its razor-thin edge and 1,000 feet rock walls on both sides. The real danger is not challenging terrain or the weather, but surprisingly, its overcrowding. Inexperienced hikers walking shoulder-to-shoulder can make it difficult to keep footing and safely pass exposed sections, which are barely wide for one person.
Locally known as Cuidad Perdida, The Lost City is centuries older than Machu Picchu and is located deep in the jungle. Hikers need to hire a local guide to navigate through the remote and rugged terrain and 28 miles of thick Colombian jungles. Militancy in the region is one of the main threats to safety and although things have improved a lot in recent times, you still have to deal with slippery river crossings and other obstacles.
Adventure seekers try to climb the Star Dune in the national park, which is a 755-feet high sand dune that requires hikers to traverse an ever-changing sandscape. Winds can throw sharp sand particles into the eyes, nose and mouth, and can make it difficult to cover short distances, which require a lot of energy and determination in 150-degrees plus temperatures.