Gallery: 20 Terrifying Trails Around The World

Published on 04/03/2013

by Arya Roerig

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  • Hiking is a personal thing. Communing with nature and testing out personal limits is why so many of us venture into the out-of-doors.  And seeing how far you are willing to go is an important part of human life.  But one person’s day hike can be another’s Mount Everest. So cinch those boots on tight - these 10 trails maybe some of the reasons many people stick to walking in the park.

  • The Narrows, Longs Peak, Colorado

    In the late spring months The Narrows at Longs Peak can see a hundred ascents a day.  And, with a summit over 4000 meters above sea level, it’s pretty common to feel a little light-headed while navigating the peak's most exposed sections. Although the Keyhole is the “easiest” route to the top of this Colorado peak, a dozen hikers have perished in falls on the route– the most fatalities on any route on the peak.

  • Half Dome Cable Route, Yosemite National Park, California

    At least five hikers have fallen to their deaths on the final pitch of Yosemite’s popular Half Dome formation. In the running as America’s most deadly trail, the total hike is about eight miles, but the final leg, a 400-foot ascent on slick granite to the top, is the most dangerous. Cables bolted to the rock provide grip on the path but there is nothing but thousands of feet of air to catch a fall.

  • Rover Run, Alaska

    Once a ski slope and currently a popular biking route, Rover’s Run could be called Bear’s Run. Two mauling were reported in 2008 and the Alaska Fish and Game Department warned that there have been more than a dozen different brown bears spotted in the area.  Government officials have considered closing the trail from the public in recent years though the bears, who move along the trail seasonally to catch salmon upstream, continue to be a big attraction for tourists.

  • El Camino del Rey, Spain

    Translated as “The King's Little Pathway”, this route leading along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, Spain, was constructed in 1905 so the workers at the hydroelectric power plants could cross between the falls.  Today the route is in a hazardous condition as some parts of the concrete path have collapsed and there are only steel beams that allow you to cross the walkway. There is no handrail and the stability of the cable that runs along the length of the path is shaky at best. Several people have lost their lives on the route in recent years.

  • Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

    Though recently closed by officials, the route leading to Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala once rounded up hordes of tourists crowding to see the streams of lava that flowed from the ducts of the trail.  Though it looks menacing, only one hiker has been killed on the route, and that was from a sudden outburst of volcanic rocks. It is still possible to assent the volcano, though the trek is decidedly less intimidating.

  • Peek-a-boo Gulch, Utah

    Claustrophobics best stay home for this Utah adventure. At times measuring less than 10 inches in width, the slot canyon located at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument appears as a mere slit between two walls of red, sandstone bedrock. If you don’t mind the lack of personal space, though, you’ll be treated to rock fins, tunnels, potholes, treacherous drops and a swim through muddy water to reach the route’s only entrance.

  • The Trift Suspension Bridge, Swiss Alps

    The Trift Suspension Bridge in Switzerland, one of the Alps' longest and highest pedestrian suspension bridges, was built in 2004 to reconnect hikers to a hut made inaccessible by a retreating glacier. A replacement in 2009 gave this bridge higher handrails and stabilizing cables to prevent it from swinging violently in the wind.

  • Wendenstock, Swiss Alps

    The trails around the base of this massive peak in the Swiss Alps have claimed the lives of more than a few experienced climbers. Tiny, difficult to follow trails are covered with slippery grass, often wet from morning dew, and a fall would result in a tumble of several hundred feet.

  • The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

    A popular tourist and hiking destination, The Cliffs of Moher are a designated UNESCO Geo Park. The Cliffs are about 650 feet at the highest point and range for 5 miles over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare. Though for safety reasons efforts have been made recently to discourage foot traffic, Hans Rey embarked on an intense mountain biking adventure with fellow rider Steve Peat for this death-defying photo.

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  • Huashan, china

    Technically speaking, you don’t need any special expertise to climb China’s Huashan Mountain.  But a general disregard for personal safety wouldn’t hurt. People have been climbing to the mountain for more than 2000 years and Huashan is regarded as one of the most sacred Taoist mountains in China, as well as the most dangerous hike in the world. Chains serve as the only safety precaution along the carved stone that resembles more of a ladder than a stairway on the way up the mountains North Peak. The most treacherous hike available on Huashan is the horizontal climb from the North to the South Peak. The trek actually follows a narrow wooden outcropping next to the cliff face, barely wide enough to accommodate two feet in hiking boots. Once again, only a chain stands between the climber and a mile-high drop off.

  • Racetrack Playa, California

    More spooky than terrifying, the “sailing stones” of Racetrack Playa, located on the northwestern side of Death Valley National Park, slowly crawl across the desert floor, seemingly all on their own. The stones, usually dolomite, inscribe visible tracks as they slide across the playa. The tracks have been observed and studied since the early 1900s, yet no one has seen the stones in motion. Racetrack stones only move once every two or three years and most tracks last for three or four years. It’s generally thought that the stones are moved by strong winter winds when the playa has just enough groundwater to be muddy and slippery. But this explanation doesn’t lessen the otherworldly sight of the tracks, especially if you’re brave enough to hike Death Valley in the moonlight.

  • Mount LeConte, Tennessee

    Bats and heights- two of the most common fears around. The Appalachian Trail-Boulevard Trail combo never dips below 5,000 feet. It pairs airy ridges with dense spruce-fir tunnels, and adds a total elevation gain of 3,700 feet in 8.1 miles. The second highest mountain in the Smokies, Mount LeConte, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, features some beautiful wild flowers, scenic ridge walking and heart-stopping vistas. It’s also rich in caves and has one of the highest densities of bats in the U.S.

  • Barr Trail, Pikes Peak, Colorado

    While Pike’s Peak’s Barr trail is a beautiful and mostly easy 14er for the experienced hiker, the real threat comes from straight statistics. As the state with America's highest average elevation, almost 7,000 feet, Colorado sees a shocking amount of electrical activity, and 20 of the 48 lightning incidents reported in Colorado since 2000 have involved hikers and campers. The most active lightning spot surrounds 14,115-foot Pikes Peak. The Barr Trail, the most popular footpath, gains 7,400 vertical feet over 13 miles (one way), much of that through exposed meadows and boulder fields above tree line. Hikers can easily find themselves trapped with no fast escape from instant incineration. The light show almost always occurs around noon, so proper planning usually keeps hikers out of harm’s way.

  • Skyline/Muir Snowfield Trail at Mount Rainier, Washington

    A scenic hike on a 9-mile loop featuring wildflowers, forests and lakes, this trek is pretty innocent until you reach the 2.3-mile stretch known as the Muir Snowfield. The unmarked Muir Snowfield climb is a 2,800-vertical-foot hike but the elevation isn't only the physical strain. Vicious storms can unexpectedly roll in from the Pacific, making for volatile conditions. Named for Sierra Club founder John Muir, it is said that around 90 climbers have slipped and fallen or have become frozen in an attempt to ascend this fierce mountain. And just in case the threat of freezing to death isn’t enough, Mount Rainer is also an active volcano.

  • Aokigahara, Japan

    Don’t image search Aokigahara on Google. Just don’t. Also known as the Sea of Trees, or Suicide Forest, this 14 square mile forest lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns and, due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet and serene. All this would make for a beautiful hiking destination if it was for the forest’s historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and its popularity as a place for suicides. Because of the density of the trees, ropes and lines have been strung throughout the woods, not only as a trail of bread crumbs for explorers but as an obvious plea for people to reconsider their actions.

  • Angel Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

    Angel’s Landing in Utah is one of the narrowest hiking trails in the world. Zion's pride and joy runs along a narrow rock fin with dizzying drop-offs on both sides. One of Zion’s most popular hikes, climbers scale its big wall while hikers pull themselves up by chains to catch a glimpse of the culminating view. The towering monolith is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Southwest.

  • West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island, Canada

    Surrounding the area known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific”, the 48-mile West Coast Trail was built in 1907 to rescue survivors of shipwrecks along the coast. Today, the WCT is within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Along the rugged route live three nightmare critters- bears, wolves, and cougars. But you’re more likely to twist an ankle than encounter a wolf. Terrain on the WCT is notoriously harsh. Muddy trails, hand-over-hand ascents, and wooden ladders positioned for passage up vertical valley walls.

  • Glass Skywalk, Tianmen Mountain National Park, China

    The Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park in Zhangjiajie, China has some spectacular scenes, but none quite as death defying as the “Skywalk”. A glass path built on the side of a cliff, the sidewalk is about 4700 feet above sea level and 200 feet long. The 3ft-wide, 2.5in thick glass walkway is so amazingly scary that the company that built it has been unable to find anyone to keep the sidewalk clean. Until they do, daredevils are asked to wear cloth slip-ons over their shoes to keep the view clean.

  • Stairs of Death, Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

    The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is pretty famous, extremely demanding and definitely well worth the effort. The aptly named “Stairs of Death” may not be the most difficult part of the trail but they will certainly be one of the most memorable. At 8,000 feet, these floating steps are bound to make even the most seasoned hiker a little dizzy.

  • Keshwa Chaca ,Peru

    Believed to be the last remaining Inca rope bridge, Keshwa Chaca is made with natural fibers that have stood the test of time, allowing people to still cross it today. The Keshwa Chaca is 118 feet long and hangs 220 feet over the Apurimac River. Built hundreds of years ago by the Inca civilization, the bridge is still functional mainly because it is re-constructed annually by the local villagers. Each year in June the people of the village of Huinchiri come together to reconstruct the bridge over the Río Apurimac Canyon, using the same techniques used by their Inca ancestors. But it still looks more than a little intimidating to cross.

  • Kokoda Trail, Papau New Guinea

    Hiking for 60 miles (for 4 to 10 days) through remote terrain where weather ranges from hot days to freezing nights might have you thinking twice before jumping on this excursion. Don’t forget to consider tropical diseases such as Malaria that could slow you down. 

  • The Maze, Canyonlands Utah

    This section of Canyonlands National Park is 50 miles from any paved road, making this the most remote location in the park. You will need a permit for any overnight stay and make sure your sense of direction is superb as they call it the maze for a reason. 

  • Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

    A journey to some of Hawaii’s most wondrous terrain and secluded beaches will require a 22 mile hike, where rock fall, swelling streams, and overflowing waterfalls can cause trouble in a hurry.   Over 100 people have lost their lives swimming in the remotes beaches along the trail. 

  • Cascade Saddle, New Zealand

    This hike sits in New Zealand’s Mt. Aspiring National Park on the South Island. This hike will lead you through two days and 11 miles of treacherous terrain where falls have taken many lives. The local coroner has had enough and demanded that the route is closed or made safer to stop these deaths from occurring so frequently. 

  • Devils Path, Catskill Mountains, New York

    This is considered the hardest hike in Northeastern part of the U.S. and possibly the lower 48. This trek will take you up to 18,000 feet across 24 miles. Start early if you want to wrap this up in one day!

  • Via Ferrata, Italy

    These routes in the Italian dolomites are not for those with a weak stomach. Built by troops during the first world war and improved since then, these treks will have you scaling walls and climbing sketchy ladders to reach the top.  

  • Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

    An active volcano that most recently erupted in 1991 attracts thrill seekers from across the globe. One of the highlights along the boulder-strewn trail is Crater Lake. With a sparkling surface and a mixed range of blues, trekkers can enjoy a refreshing dip after the tiring hike to its edge. 

  • Preikestolen, Norway

    Around 2,000 feet from the ground you will have to choose carefully when deciding on how close to get to the edge of this cliff. The hike to the top is only about three hours, but will definitely get your heart pumping, and talk about a rewarding view.

  • Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

    The name of this volcano should already have you wondering what you’re getting into. This eight hour round-trip hike will take you up steep terrain and will require some roping up for safety. The constant thrill that this volcano could erupt at any time will keep your adrenaline going. 

  • Julian Alps, Slovenia

    With no climbing gear required you might want to bring a few safety devices for this one. With exposed traversing, ladders that move straight up into crack systems, and loose rock you will want to be prepared. Make sure you give the plaque commemorating someone’s death a rub for good luck as you pass by. 



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