If you’re into extreme sports, and you’ve just recently crossed hiking off your list, step back and think about it again. Below are the most challenging hike trails that are sure to keep your heart pumping from start to finish. These trails are definitely not for beginners. The terrains have been proven deadly for some hikers, and that isn’t just a figure of speech. If you think you’ve been trained enough, though, go ahead and pack your bags.
California: Cable Route, Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
There have been a minimum of five hikers who have plunged to their deaths from the Half Dome of Yosemite. The hike is a short eight miles, but the terrain is deadly challenging, so much so that only the gutsiest hikers ever mark it on their maps. What starts off as a fairly average hike would lead you to the most difficult 400-foot climb up a granite wall. This is the last leg of the hike.
The rock wall is bolted with cables as grips, lest you slip down the wet surface. This part of the trail is never dry, thanks to the constant precipitation in these parts. You need tough leather gloves as you’d be pulling down the cable flexing to cross the gap. Don’t even try to look down. There’s nothing but air between your feet and the ground, and this lies thousands of miles below. You’d have to defy Murphy’s Law to survive.
Canada: West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
If you ignore the fact that there are wild bears, wolves and cougars in the area which all consider you prime steak, then you’ll probably feel safe in the West Coast Trail of Vancouver Island. Apparently, a lot of hikers tend to overlook these predators. Hundreds of them traverse the 48-mile route every year, some even travelling halfway across the globe. The sea-side route’s history could be part of the appeal.
The West Coast Trail was built thousands of years ago to help troubled seafarers who have lost their way from the fickle Pacific. While more powerful ships cross the waters today, and there’s little reason for travelers to make the unexpected side trip to the island, the trail’s popularity hasn’t waned. It still attracts a lot of hikers who are willing to spend at least a week exploring the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Before taking up the challenge, prepare yourself for quite a number of steep slopes, wooden ladders and bridges which might make you develop a fear for heights. The path is known to cause a lot of hikers injuries. Bring your first aid and maybe a crutch. Almost everyone who attempted the trail twisted his/her ankle at the very least.
China: Mount Huashan Trail
“Falling to your death,” is not an exaggeration in China, not when you’re crossing the Mount Huashan Trail. This hiking route will demand 100% of your attention because a single misstep can signal the end of you. This is a fairly old trail which used to be taken by wandering monks. Today, you’ll see both foreign tourists and healthy Chinese students on vacation who are still up for the challenge.
What should you expect in this trail? You’ll be climbing ladders, and hanging onto rickety ledgers and cables. There are even staircases cut into the rock which just seem impossible to climb. Your reward though is a view from the temple on top of the ridgeline. This trail is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up for it, you should bring a camera. You might not be able to climb it as successfully the second time around.
Alaska: Rover’s Run, Anchorage
If you’re in this area and you just feel like biking around, bring a pepper spray for the bears and secure your head onto a helmet. The Alaska Fish and Game Department warned that there have been more than a dozen brown bears spotted in the area. Rover’s Run is a pretty popular biking route, but if you’ll be roaming with the bears, you better arm yourself from possible mauling.
Two bear mauling have been reported in 2008. Thankfully, none of them were deadly. However, the mauled victims were badly hurt, which was enough for government officials to consider closing the trail from the public. It’s still open, now, though, and if you’re gutsy (or crazy) enough, you can give the trail a try before it shuts down for good.
Just a little history: this trail used to be a skiing slope. Now, it’s used mostly for game and biking. Alaska’s bears have been known to go here, seasonally, to catch salmon upstream. The country’s not likely to close this off from bears, so tourists will have to step down. One more mauling and we’ll probably say goodbye to this scary hiking trail.
New York: Devil’s Path, Catskills
Despite all that concrete jungle you’re so used to when you visit New York, the big city (or at least its outskirts) is home to one of the country’s most challenging hiking trails. We’re talking about the Devil’s Path, located at the Catskills Mountains. The trail starts off from the east and heads westward, and is surprisingly only two hours’ drive from Manhattan. Prepare yourself from some extremely rocky terrain.
Some slopes here, according to hikers, are almost vertical. There are also very slippery sections, a number of waterfalls, and downhill trails which will challenge your knee caps. The hike is described as long, probably because of its precipitous characteristic. It runs for only 25 miles, but it will take you days to finish. The route will take you to a total of six peaks, and there are also bears here.
Bring your pepper spray, and never travel with food without an ample bear bag. If you leave your food on the ground, you might be attacked by a black bear.
Utah: Peek-a-boo Gulch
The Peek-a-boo Gulch in Utah is pretty aptly named. With enclosed, extremely narrow spaces, the pathway to Utah dessert will certainly put any average claustrophobe. If you don’t mind the lack of personal space, though, you’ll survive the slot canyon located at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This appears as a mere slit between two walls of red, sandstone bedrock. When we said narrow, we weren’t kidding.
The slot canyon required even the slimmest hikers to squeeze through the space. There are also rock fins, tunnels, potholes, and drops to worry about. You’ll probably find the stone arches pretty, though, as they silhouette on that clear, blue dessert sky.
Be prepared to swim through a muddy pool as you near the canyon’s mouth. There’s no way you can cross this route without wading through the putrid waters.
Hawaii: Kalalau Trail in Kauai
Unless you can ignore the fact that the cliffs of the Kauai jut 4000 feet from the ocean, you will fear the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. There’s also the precipitation, mud, falling rocks and flashfloods to worry about. These are commonplace in this area, and you have to be prepared for almost anything once you take your first step into the trail.
If you can get past all of that, you’ll be rewarded with a paradise-like view of the dramatic (to say the least) coast of Na Pali. This winding wilderness path is challenging, to say the least. It’s 11 miles worth of jungles, waterfalls, hairpin switchbacks and waterfalls. The switchbacks, in particular, drop down to at least 300 feet. Should you miss a step, you’ll be crushing against the ocean’s wild surf below. That’s definitely not a nice thing to imagine.
Still, the view is spectacular from up there. Just don’t try to look down because you will lose your nerves if you do.
Guatemala: Pacaya Volcano Route
Usually volcano lovers and thrill seekers are in the same boat: they want to experience life as closely as possible, so they always go near things that threaten to end it. When you’re going up the route leading to Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala, there’s no denying the thrill. You’ll get so see streams of lava flowing from the ducts of the trail. This trail used to drive hoards of tourists, but it was recently closed down by officials.
A reported going up this route to the volcano was killed, thanks to a sudden outburst of volcanic rocks. Volcanoes, after all, don’t really announce themselves. They like the thrill of the chase. You can still go up the volcano today, but you won’t be passing through this particular route. The alternative is less exciting (and life-threatening) which may put off adventurers from seeing the volcano.
Tourists can now access Mount Pacaya through a private farm. The view is still spectacular, though, if you’re just looking to take a lot of pictures along the way. It will also be wise to check if there are any travel advisories for the area before making your arrangements.
Papua New Guinea: Kokoda Track
In 2009, four hikers lost their lives in the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea during four, separate incidences. The trail is pretty hostile, running at 60 miles, and is very remote. This means that if anything happens to you, it’s really not likely that you’ll be saved very soon. The trail runs through the Owen Stanley Mountain Range, and the climb is a precarious 7,000 feet.
Those who know their history might be enticed despite the dangers of traversing this trail because it used to be a World War II site. The battle between the Japanese and the Australians occurred here. Romantics might even spot ghosts along the way.
The route takes an average of four to ten days to complete, depending on your skill as a hiker. The weather is pretty extreme. Days tend to be sweltering, and the nights, downright frigid. Other health threats include malaria and other tropical diseases. This is, by far, one of the most life-threatening routes for backpackers all over the world.
Spain: El Caminito del Rey
The route’s name can be translated to “The King’s little Pathway”. Despite the innocent-sounding nickname, though, this is one of the most dangerous routes in the world. This trail is located in high cliffs which hang high above a very narrow river. Originally constructed as pathways for workers at a hydroelectric plant, the walkway has an average width of three feet.
The reason why it’s a dangerous trail to take is because it hasn’t been kept well. Big sections of concrete have fallen off, and there are a lot of rusty beams and ledges exposed. If you fall, you’re going to be falling on these. The only tools making the hike possible are old cables which have been bolted onto the cliff. You shouldn’t try to take this route unless you’re an extremely good mountain climber.
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