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, when you’re on a treacherous trail that’s considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, you’ll need a healthy dose of fear and a desire to push your self to the edge — just not over it.
Huayna Picchu (Peru)
While the trek to Peru’s Machu Picchu can be challenging, the real danger exists once inside the famous citadel. Requiring a separate ticket, the famous peak that looms over the ruins can be tricky. Known as the “Hike of Death,” the trip to the top was once reserved for high priests, who had to tackle the narrow, steep steps. Climbing over 850 feet straight up can leave even the most prepared hikers gasping for air, and rain and low hanging clouds make the path increasingly more difficult. However, the view from Huayna Picchu on a clear day provides one of the most picturesque views of Machu Picchu below.
El Caminito del Rey (Spain)
Constructed in 1905, the “King’s Little Pathway” was originally built to allow hydroelectric power plant workers access between Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls in Spain. While the 100-year-old path closed to the public in 2000 after it fell 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 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. El Caminitio del Rey still offers heart-pounding heights and spectacular views.
Via Ferrata (Italy and Austria)
The “Iron Road” was heavily used during World War I to move troops through the mountainous regions of Italy and Austria. Today, newer and more accessible routes exist, allowing tourists to get the adrenaline rush of exploring walkways and suspension bridges while tethered to steel cables. The support makes this hike the leas dangerous on our list, your safety still relies around your ability to properly clip in along the route.
Mount Huashan (China)
Sometimes referred to as the most dangerous hike in the world, the trek to the top of Mount Huashan has been a spiritual destination for centuries. The hike begins at the base of the mountain on the Heavenly Stairs, a massive stone stairway 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 — and that’s the easy part. The most real peril begins when you reach the plank path to the peak. Rickety wooden boards suspended on 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!
Article originally published April 27, 2018. Last updated April 10, 2018.