Gain rarely comes without pain, and higher rewards often imply higher risks. Hiking is no exception from these rules, as some of the most cherished views lie at the end of the most intimidating trails. Luckily for travelers who love to have their nerves tickled, the United States offers plenty of scary hikes.
From unexpected floods to extreme temperatures, avalanches, and wild animals, Mother Nature spares no effort to make explorers work for her most precious gems. Unhindered by her warnings, thousands of travelers depart on some of the most strenuous hikes in America in search of adventures and adrenaline. Sadly, not all of them come back.
Some 35 people a year die hiking, according to the National Park Service (NPS), and almost 1,000 get injured. While unfortunate incidents can happen almost anywhere, embarking on certain trips without proper knowledge and preparation is simply asking for trouble.
These are the most dangerous US hikes, which will take your breath away, thanks to both the stunning views and the hazards hidden along the way.
Washington's Mount Rainier Is One of the Deadliest Hikes in the World
Rising 14,000 feet above sea level, the risks associated with this climb are as high as the peak. Not only is it an active volcano, it is also notorious for its unpredictable and unstable weather, with temperatures known to drop from balmy to freezing within an hour or two. Storms are frequent guests in this area, often accompanied by snow, fog, and 70-mph winds.
Avalanches, hypothermia, falling rocks, falling OFF the rocks, drowning… Mount Rainier offers all manner of possibilities for danger and death. Over the years, it has taken the lives of over 400 people, earning itself a reputation as one of the deadliest hiking spots on the planet.
If you attempt this trip, do not be deceived by the summer weather and make sure to check the forecast and bring along warm clothes. Two feet of snow in July might seem improbable to you, but the weather gods often disagree when it comes to Rainier.
The Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail or: "Some Like It Hot"
It seems to be common knowledge that Arizona is boiling in summer, but for many travelers it's not until they are exposed to the 110+ degree heat that they realize what they got themselves into. The heat does not come alone. In addition to surviving scorching temperatures, Bright Angel Trail also requires its visitors to climb 4,500 feet over the course of 9.5 miles. If you wonder what this experience feels like, imagine doing cardio in a sauna.
Conquering this trail is no easy task, and not everyone can finish it. Some 250 hikers call for rescue every year, and death has not stayed away from the trail either. After a series of lethal incidents about a decade ago, the park even had to designate a special team of rangers to keep an eye on ambitious hikers.
Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska Is as Wild as It Gets
Conquering North America’s highest peak might sound like an ambitious project, and that's because it certainly is. The road to Denali's summit is full of challenges and dangers.
In order to get to the top, you need to hack through the bush, deal with ice, withstand the winds, and pray you don’t get altitude sickness. Also, be ready for a not-so-warm welcome from the local residents, like a moose or a grizzly bear, which by far outnumber humans in this area. If you were looking for a true wilderness experience, this is it.
On average, only half of those who set out on this journey actually make it to the top, and, sadly, over 100 hikers have perished on this trail within the last century.
Kalalau Trail in Kauai Will Keep You on Edge, Literally
If you are not particularly comfortable with heights, you should probably keep this one far from your itinerary. Kalalau Trail brings travelers to one of the world’s most pristine beaches, but makes them work harder for the rewarding view than any other hike on the island.
A 22-mile round-trip can be quite strenuous on its own, but the real challenge comes when you have to cross a narrow ledge, squeezing along a tiny path that drops 300 feet onto the not-so-welcoming rocks. The danger further increases after a decent rain (a not infrequent event in Hawaii), which makes the path perilously slippery.
Still more hazards lie hidden in the beach paradises on the way. Beautiful and tempting as they are, they also prove to be as dangerous as the trail itself. Almost 100 swimmers who jumped into the alluring ocean waters here ended up in an eternal paradise, falling victim to the location’s hazardous currents.