World’s Most Dangerous Hikes
For those who enjoy a serious dose of adrenaline when exploring the Great Outdoors, perhaps a death-defying hike is in order. At hair-raising trails around the globe, the terrain runs the gamut from fatal fog and deathly heat to harrowing cliffsides and mountaintops of doom.
From the U.S. to New Zealand to Morocco and beyond, these are the world’s most dangerous hikes. Now that we think about it, maybe don’t attempt these hikes anytime soon?
16. The Maze, Canyonlands, Utah
While you won’t have to worry about potentially plummeting to your death from a steep cliffside or mountaintop while hiking the Maze in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, you will have to worry about getting lost in this labyrinthine, obstacle-ridden area, full of confusing twists and turns and dead ends.
In the summer especially, when temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this is not a place where you want to be trapped.
The Maze Deaths & Injuries
As depicted in the hit hilm “127 Hours,” starring James Franco, mountaineer Aron Ralston had to amputate his own arm after it got pinned beneath a chockstone in the Maze.
More recently, a man inspired by Ralston (seemingly missing the point of the film) broke his leg during a solo trek in the Maze area, and had to crawl for four days across the desert before being found.
In part because of how incredibly difficult it is to access, there have been no reported fatalities in the Maze, but these and similar stories should be enough to give you pause. (FYI there are other, safer areas of the gorgeous Canyonlands to explore instead.)
15. Bright Angel Trail, Arizona
The 9.5-mile Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park can seem deceptively easy — there are rest stations with water sources along the way; how hard could it possibly be? Well, the National Park Service had to create a special crew dedicated to helping distressed hikers on the trail, so the answer is: Pretty darn hard!
The trail is mostly uphill, scaling 4,380 vertical feet; combine that with temperatures that regularly reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Bright Angel Trail Deaths & Injuries
There are 200 — yes, 200 — heat-related rescues at the Grand Canyon each year, and most of them take place on the Bright Angel Trail. There are no official numbers on the number of deaths that have occurred here, but fatalities have been reported.
In 2005, for instance, a 28-year-old hiker died on the trail from the heat and ascent; according to “Backpacker,” he likely “experienced cramps, scorching thirst, and hallucinations” before dying.
The obvious way to avoid disaster is to simply go when it’s not too hot. (Before dawn, for instance, is generally a good time to venture out.) Hydration is also key, as is taking regular breaks to rest.
14. Rover’s Run Trail, Alaska
Rover’s Run, in Anchorage’s Far North Bicentennial Park, is a perfectly lovely trail...until you come face-to-face with a towering, snarling brown bear, that is. Area biologists have advised hikers to stay far, far away from this trail (and other streamside trails in the park) due to the sheer abundance of bears that roam the wilderness here.
Rover’s Run Deaths & Injuries
There have been numerous reports of bear maulings over the years, with two stories in particular earning notice.
In 2008, a 15-year-old boy was severely injured by a bear while biking the trail, and in 2010, a 45-year-old man was attacked by a bear protecting her cubs. In a valient move that likely saved his life, the man successfully played dead as the bear clawed at him, before managing to escape on his bike to a local medical center.
Thankfully, there have been no reported fatalities. Even so, getting your face clawed at by a thousand-pound bear sounds pretty terrifying, so maybe skip this trail altogether?
13. Caminito del Rey, Spain
Just Googling photos of El Caminito del Rey will set your heart racing. This insanely narrow cliffside route in Spain’s Malaga Mountains was built over 100 years ago to serve workers on a local hydroelectric plant, and it’s been attracting adventure-seekers ever since.
The path, which hugs the face of a cliff wall making up the El Charro gorge, is a mere three feet wide. ¡No, gracias!
Caminito del Rey Deaths & Injuries
In the late '90s and early 2000s, five people plunged to their deaths at Caminito del Rey. The situation was so alarming that the route was closed by officials in 2001. (Even facing a fine, people still attempted the trek, though, with four more dying while it was officially closed.)
In 2015, the trail finally reopened with new safety measures in place, including steel poles to keep the walkway secure and a requirement that all hikers wear a hard hat.
It's thankfully less risky now, though still not for the weak-willed. As the "Independent" put it, "There’s only so much that bleached wooden flooring, safety notices and paid staff can do to distract from the fact that you’re unnaturally high up, and on the side of a cliff."
12. Via Ferrata, Italy and Austria
Via ferrata is actually a type of climbing route that includes ladders, steel cables, wooden walkways and suspended bridges. Though this artificial equipment is typically well-maintained, your life pretty much depends on your ability to snap a specialized carabiner set (called a via ferrata set) into place. Not surprisingly, fatal accidents are a common occurrence.
There are many of these routes around the world, but one of the most popular (and dangerous) is in the Dolomites mountain range, in Italy and Austria. It was first constructed during WWI to aid the movement of troops, and today welcomes hikers willing to take a risk.
Via Ferrata Deaths & Injuries
A few deaths along the Via Ferrata route in the Dolomites have made headlines in recent years, including that of a British woman in 2009 and an Austrian man in 2017.
Knowing how to use the equipment is essential to ensuring your safety, as is using special gear like helmets and ferrata gloves.
11. El Cajas National Park, Ecuador
Hiking in Ecuador’s El Cajas National Park is dangerous for a different reason — here, it’s not the length or technical difficulty of the trails that will harm you, it’s the fog. The weather in Cajas can change quickly, and most days, a thick, disorienting fog settles over the entire park.
Even the most experienced hikers can get lost in this type of weather — and when the nighttime weather can dip below freezing, getting lost here can have dire consequences.
El Cajas Deaths & Injuries
Though there’s no official death-count number on record, many have perished here, with crosses enacted in the park to memorialize lives lost.
Some hikes here require a guide, and it’s a good idea to hire one no matter which trail you attempt. Why take the risk?
10. Angels Landing, Utah
In Zion National Park, the rock formation known as Angels Landing is named for its proximity to the heavens. But its height — 1,488 feet — is also a liability.
As hikers scale the rocky terrain, they must contend with a perilously narrow path (just a couple feet wide in some parts) and steep- drop-offs on either side. In lieu of a guardrail, just a single chain bolted into the ground separates hikers from the chasm below.
If this sounds exciting — and the views along the way worth the risk — by all means, give this a shot. But if you're inexperienced or afraid of heights or want to definitively ensure your safety, you'd be better served accessing other hikes in this spectacular park.
Angels Landing Deaths & Injuries
Nine people have died on this hike, with three perishing from falls between 2017 and 2019 alone.
Last November, a 19-year-old employee for a local lodge became the latest person to die while scaling Angels Landing. (Her fatal injuries, according to park officials, were "consistent with a high elevation fall.")
Experts suggest that those attempting this hike have prior experience with chains along exposed trails.
9. Devil’s Path, New York
Thrill-seekers (and fitness aficionados) love this challenging trail in New York’s Catskills Mountains, which snakes up and down the gaps between six towering peaks.
But the trail’s name is apt and no joke: Devil’s Path doesn’t require trekkers to hike so much as it does to climb — straight up and down, for 25 miles straight. Falls and heart attacks are not uncommon.
Devil’s Path Deaths & Injuries
Officials estimate that at least one person dies each year on Devil’s Path. The most dangerous area is a 30-50-foot vertical climb up a nearly sheer cliff, which hikers have to scale by grabbing onto tree roots.
Want to avoid an injury or worse? Only attempt this if you’re a (really) skilled hiker.
8. Striding Edge, United Kingdom
Although Striding Edge (the highest peak in England’s Helvellyn range) isn’t particularly difficult or narrow, the path is exposed in parts, and in particularly strong crosswinds or harsh winter conditions, it can be fatally slippery.
Striding Edge Deaths & Injuries
Striding Edge is a particularly dangerous part of the Lake District, which has recorded an increasing number of fatalities in recent years: 13 in 2016, 20 in 2017 and eight in just the first four months of 2018.
The situation is so dire that, in 2017, one man was seriously injured and another died at Striding Edge over the course of two successive days.
To avoid accidents, having the proper equipment is a must, including ice axes and crampons in the notoriously brutal winter months.
7. Cascade Saddle, New Zealand
A hazardous path indeed, the Cascade Saddle in New Zealand’s Mount Aspiring National Park features steep and narrow paths, as well as rocky outcrops and ledges that even experienced hikers may struggle with. Oh, and when it snows, the route becomes slippery to boot.
Little wonder this routinely comes up on “most dangerous” lists.
Cascade Saddle Deaths & Injuries
Between 2005 and 2015, more than 30 people died in Mount Aspiring park, with many reports of fatalities in Cascade Saddle specifically.
A few years ago, a local coroner suggested closing down Cascade Saddle entirely because there had simply been "too many deaths." ''If this were a highway and there were this number of fatalities on it, the road controlling authority would be looking at it very closely," he pointed out.
Still, the trail remains open. Proceed very carefully, especially if you go in the winter (ice axes and crampons are a must).
6. Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea
Even the most diehard adrenaline junkies will quake in fear at the prospect of traversing the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. That’s because, in addition to the usual rugged, remote, steep terrain, hikers have to worry about extreme heat, freezing nights, icy rains and the threat of malaria when trekking across this 60-mile thoroughfare.
And yet, despite all this, the number of people attempting this hike has been on the rise. The trail offers plenty of natural beauty, but the main draw is the chance to see the site of a significant battle between the Japanese and Allied forces during WWII.
Kokoda Track Deaths & Injuries
The death count at Kokoda is formidable; in 2009 alone, four Australians died from natural causes while attempting the brutal trek and another nine were killed just trying to reach the remote site via light plane.
It’s recommended that hikers hire a skilled porter to guide them. Then again, in 2018, even an accomplished porter died on the hike.
5. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii may be incredibly beautiful (think dramatic coastline, verdant swaths of jungle and rocky volcanic slopes), but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Water is the biggest threat here, as the trail is full of tough-to-cross waterways and slippery waterfalls. Many have also met their demise while swimming at the trail’s remote beaches.
Kalalau Trail Deaths & Injuries
There have been numerous reports of deaths and injuries on the trail over the years. In 2012, a woman fell to her death near a beach waterfall and a man was critically injured after being pushed off a cliff (which, to be fair, was not entirely the fault of the trail’s treachery; the man who pushed him was ultimately sentenced to prison for second-degree murder).
The next year, a woman drowned while trying to cross a stream during a flash flood. And in 2015, a hiker died after falling 50 feet onto rocks.
And that’s to say nothing of the 100-plus people who have died while swimming the turbulent waters of the trail’s beaches.
It’s recommended that you check the weather conditions before hitting the trail, and that you always travel with at least one other person in case you need to be rescued (cell phone service is limited and there are no available emergency services).
It’s also probably best to avoid swimming the beaches entirely.
4. Half Dome, Mist Trail, California
Yosemite National Park’s most demanding hike takes adventurous trekkers to Half Dome, a spectacular granite dome rising 5,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley. Accessible via the 14.5-mile Mist Trail, this natural feature affords extraordinary views of one of the country’s most popular national parks.
The downside? It’s also easily one of the most dangerous routes in the world.
The trek claims lives for myriad reasons — in addition to risking dehydration, altitude sickness and fatigue, hikers must climb the final 400 vertical feet using steel cables, which become extremely slippery when it rains. And you can imagine the perils during an electrical storm!
Half Dome Deaths & Injuries
According to a Yosemite website, over 60 people have died on Half Dome and the trail leading up to it. Last year, witnesses recounted trying to catch a 29-year-old woman after she slipped and fell beneath the guardrails; unable to grab her, she plummeted 500 feet to her death.
"Me and my friend both reached out to try and grab her but she was too far away," one witness wrote on Facebook. "Definitely not something you ever expect to see or be a part of."
Hikers are advised to look out for wet rocks and to keep tabs on the forecast to avoid attempting the trek during a thunderstorm. To combat overcrowding, a permit system has also been implemented, which has seemingly helped to reduce accidents and fatalities.
3. Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
This risky journey through the Drakensberg Mountain Range entails scrambling up two rickety ladders to the ridge and traipsing across 40 miles of rocky terrain, all while reaching total elevations that exceed that of Everest.
It’s a beautiful route — hikers love how remote and untouched the landscapes are — but a risky one that only the most accomplished (and brave) hikers should attempt.
Drakensberg Traverse Deaths & Injuries
Before 1985, 55 people lost their lives on the Drakensberg Traverse. After that, officials apparently grew tired of keeping track, because there are no post-1985 records available — although deaths continue to be reported nearly every year. Just last year, a 23-year-old woman lost her footing on the trail and fell nearly 200 feet onto a tree, ultimately dying from her injuries.
The surest way to avoid peril is to hire an experienced guide for the trek.
2. Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Every year, injuries, deaths and helicopter rescues are common occurrences on Longs Peak, in Rocky Mountain National Park. To summit Colorado’s most dangerous peak, hikers must be prepared to cover 15 miles, with 5,000 feet of elevation gain, plus do a casual technical climb (the Keyhole) at the end, where they’ll be expected to traipse over massive boulders, at times completing Class 3 scrambles. Yikes!
Still, this trek is bound to remain popular, since Longs Peak is a "Fourteener" — a peak surpassing 14,000 feet in height that serious hikers are keen to tackle.
Longs Peak Deaths & Injuries
Between 1915 and 2017, 67 people perished attempting the Longs Peak hike, a significant share of the 374 total deaths recorded at Rocky Mountain National Park. Of these fatalities, 70 percent were the result of a fall, with other deaths causes by hypothermia, cardiac events, lightning and exhaustion.
Since those numbers were reported, more deaths have made headlines, including that of a New Jersey hiker last summer who died, it’s believed, as a result of exposure or a fall.
The Rangers here take safety seriously; seek them out to ask their advice before attempting this treacherous route.
1. Huashan Trail, China
This scary trek features an array of insanely treacherous barriers — the plank trail to the South Mountain, for instance, is just a series of wooden platforms bolted onto the side of the mountain, thousands of feet above the earth. Serious daredevils only need apply.
Huashan Trail Deaths & Injuries
It’s been reported that 100 people a year die hiking Huashan, but this number is not substantiated and is likely quite overinflated.
Still, this hike is often cited as the most dangerous in the world as a result of just how many people are killed or injured while attempting it — most recently, just last November, a young woman died while taking a selfie as she traversed the mountain route (her family blamed officials for inadequate safety measures; officials blamed her for taking selfies).
A couple years ago, after another death, it was reported that visitors would have to register to go on the hike. Those looking to hedge their bets can enjoy the trail without attempting the dangerous planked section.