If those leisurely treks through the local forest preserve just aren’t doing it for you anymore, maybe it’s time to seek out something a little more challenging. With winding ledges only a foot wide, cramped passages, and the very real possibility of death, the world’s most dangerous hiking trails offer serious thrill seekers something a little more challenging. Ok, maybe a lot more challenging.
The Heavenly Stairs / Hua Shan plank path
On China’s Mt. Hua Shan lies one of the world’s most incredible – and most dangerous – hiking paths in the world, but if you can make it to the top, there’s a pretty incredible surprise waiting.
At the base of the mountain sits a massive set of stone stairs referred to as the “Heavenly Stairs”, a set that trails so far up the mountainside that it’s tough to even see where they end. As you climb the Heavenly Stairs you’ll eventually arrive at what is widely considered the world’s most dangerous trail: the Hua Shan plank path. The rickety wooden trail wraps around the Hua Shan mountainside, with nothing but rock-bolted chains to steady yourself.
While safety gear isn’t required on this treacherous climb, it is “strongly encouraged”.
When you finally reach the top of the mountain, a Huashan Teahouse awaits climbers. The teahouse is a Buddhist and Daoist temple that offers refreshments to anyone brave enough to make the crazy climb themselves. That’s a lot of work for a cup of tea.
El Camanito del Rey
Translated as “The Kings Little Pathway”, this narrow gorge in Spain was originally created to give hydroelectric power plant workers a way to cross between Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. The pathway has now fallen into a poor state of disrepair, with huge chunks of its tiny footpath crumbled away and much of it’s original handrails missing.
After numerous deaths in the late 90′s, the path was closed, though many adventurous hikers continue to disregard the signs and risk their lives anyway.
The steep inclines, steady supply of bears, and a buttload of disease-carrying bats make this particular trail one of the most dangerous in America, but it’s beautiful views and mysterious caves have ensured that thrill-seekers continue to hike its paths.
Utah’s Angel’s Landing path is one of the narrowest hiking trails in the world. Cut through solid rock in 1926, this passage through the mountain is roughly two and a half miles long, with its most dangerous portion being the last half mile. Steep inclines, narrow ridges, and slippery footing make for some particularly hairy hiking, but a series of bolted support chains mean you’ve got something to hold on to if/when you fall off the edge.
The sport is called Via Ferrata, and the best place to practice it is in Italy at the Mount Nimbus Skywalk. This bridge was constructed during WWII when italian soldiers needed a quick way to cross mountains and scale large gaps. If you want to take the first step add it to your next European road trip and prepare to test your limits on these perilous cliffs.