Hiking by most accounts involves nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other over and over until you reach your final destination. However, some of the most dangerous adventures in the world involve simply navigating a trail with nothing more than a healthy dose of fear and a desire to push your self to the edge–just not over it.
Our list below includes some of the most treacherous and thrill-seeking paths in the world.
Huayna Picchu, Peru
While the trek to Machu Picchu can be challenging, the real danger exists once inside the famous citadel. Requiring a separate ticket, climbing the famous peak that looms over the ruins can be tricky and not easily reached. Climbing over 850 feet straight up can leave even the most prepared hikers gasping for air. Known as the “Hike of Death,” the trip to the top was once reserved for high priests and its narrow, steep steps make for a daunting challenge. Rain and low hanging clouds can make the path up and down increasingly more dangerous. However, the view from Huayna Picchu on a clear day provides one of the most picturesque views of Machu Picchu below.
Mount Hua Shan, China
Sometimes referred to as the most dangerous hike in the world, the trek to the top of Mount Hua Shan has been a spiritual destination for centuries. The hike begins at the base of the mountain on the ‘Heavenly Stairs,’ a massive set of stone stairs carved into the mountainside. As you start up the mountain, you will begin to understand how this section got its name since the stairs seem to go on forever. That is the easy part. The most dangerous part begins when you reach the plank path to the South Mountain peak. Rickety planks suspended around the mountainside lead the way with nothing more than a chain bolted to the rock above the path to steady yourself. Don’t look down!
El Caminito del Rey, Spain
Constructed in 1905, the path (translated as Little King’s Pathway) was originally built to allow hydroelectric power plant workers access between Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. While the 100-year-old path closed to the public in 2000 after it had fallen into disrepair and five people plunged to their deaths in a single year, many thrill seekers disregarded the signs for their chance to skirt along the narrow gorge suspended a hundred feet above the floor. Large sections of the path had crumbled away and hikers navigated rusted metal support beams that once supported the original concrete path. However, a newly constructed path reopened in 2015 and, though safer, still consists of a narrow walkway pinned to the walls of a steep, narrow gorge. Not exactly the most dangerous of trails anymore, El Caminitio del Rey still offers heart-pounding heights and spectacular views.
Via Ferrata, Italy and Austria
Italian for “iron road,” this route was heavily used during World War I to move troops through the mountainous regions. Today, newer and more accessible routes exist, allowing tourists to get that adrenaline rush while tethered to steel cables as you navigate narrow walkways and suspension bridges. While perhaps safer than the others on the list, your safety still revolves around each individual’s ability to properly clip in along the route.