The World's Most Scariest Hikes
Half Dome’s Cable Route, Yosemite National Park, CA
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 precipitous path, where hikers wear leather gloves and pull the cable flexing, with nothing but thousands of feet of air below their feet.
West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island, Canada
A man-eating trifecta of bears, wolves, and cougars call the woods around this trail home. Yet adventurers come from all over the world to hike the 48-mile route, which was built decades ago as a seaside trail to aid troubled ships that came in from the fickle Pacific waters offshore. Today, hikers spend up to a week attempting to traverse the trail, which is inside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Steep slopes, bridges, and wooden ladders up cliffs create an injury-prone path where a twisted ankle can leave you out of luck for days.
Mount Huashan Trail, China
With one mistake on the Mount Huashan trail, you will certainly fall to your death. This old mountain trail, near Huayin, is used by wandering monks, Chinese students on vacation, and tourists alike. Ladders, cables, ledges, temples atop ridgelines, and impossible-looking staircases cut into rock define this unique and dangerous route.
Rover’s Run, Anchorage, AK
Bring your bike helmet and your bear pepper spray! According to the Alaska Fish and Game department, a “few dozen” brown bears roam the area around Rover’s Run, a popular mountain-biking trail in the outskirts of Anchorage. Indeed, a mauling this year and one in 2008—both nonfatal—have prompted local officials to consider shutting down the trail. It is a former game trail converted for biking and skiing use. Alaska Fish and Game says it “has long been a place where bears come down from the mountains and congregate for salmon heading upstream to spawn.”
Devil’s Path, Catskills, NY
Often cited as the toughest hiking trail in the East, this east-to-west voyage in the Catskill Mountains of New York traverses the spine of the mountain range. It is just two hours north of Manhattan, but the route is wild; hikers will find rocky and near-vertical sections, waterfalls, and slippery slabs of rock on knee-crushing downhills. Long, precipitous, and difficult, the path travels 25 miles and ascends six major Catskill peaks. And did we mention the bears? Be sure and hang your food supply in a tree at night to avoid black bear harassment.
Peek-a-boo Gulch, Utah
Do you fear being in narrow or enclosed spaces? This route in the Utah desert, near Escalante, is a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. Peek-a-boo Gulch is a slot canyon and a popular hike in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that cuts through sandstone bedrock as a narrow slit. Walls squeeze in on both sides. Hikers face interlinked potholes, tunnels, drops, fins of rock, and arches of stone silhouetted on blue sky. From the top, Peek-a-boo is a precipitous scramble into a crack, down small cliffs, inside potholes, and to a mandatory swim through a putrid pool near the canyon’s narrow mouth at the end.
Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI
Cliffs rise 4,000 feet out of the ocean. Falling rocks, copious mud, rain, and flash floods are commonplace. Traversing Kauai’s paradisiacal Na Pali Coast, this dramatic and remote wilderness path is a winding, 11-mile feat complete with waterfalls, lush jungle, slippery descents, and hairpin switchbacks abutting 300-foot drops directly into the ocean surf below.
Route up Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
A trek uphill to see steam vents and rivers of lava on Guatemala’s Pacaya Volcano is a popular tourist hike, since it’s near Guatemala City. But after a shower of volcanic rock killed a reporter this spring, Pacaya National Park closed the trail. Visitors were soon bypassing the usual route, according to an Associated Press article, and heading up the volcano through a private farm in a nearby village.
Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea
For various tragic reasons, four hikers died in separate incidents on the Kokoda Track during the 2009 trekking season. The trail runs for 60 extremely remote miles overland through Papua New Guinea’s Owen Stanley Mountain Range, climbing to more than 7,000 feet. A journey on the trail—which was the site of a World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces—takes 4 to 10 days for most groups. Weather swings between hot days and frigid nights. Malaria and other tropical diseases are constant threats on what is among the world’s most dangerous long-distance backpacking routes.
El Caminito del Rey, Spain
Translated as “the King’s Little Pathway,” this cliffy route near Málaga has been closed for years. But it remains one of the world’s most famous dangerous paths. Built into the cliffs above a narrow river gorge in the district of Málaga, the El Caminito del Rey path was originally for hydroelectric power plant workers. It has three-foot-wide walkways hundreds of feet off the ground. Concrete sections have collapsed, leaving steel beams and rotting ledges exposed. Old cables bolted to the cliff provide some grip as trespassing hikers make their way along the route.