Let’s face it: Danger has always attracted thrill seekers; luckily for you, America has some of the most dangerous landscapes in the world. So, in this article, we set out to find the most dangerous hikes in America; it has everything from rugged landscapes to unpredictable weather systems and an active volcano.
If you’re looking for your next epic adventure, check out our list of the most dangerous hikes:
Table of contents
- #1 Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
- #2 Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
- #3 Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
- #4 Huckleberry Trail, Montana
- #5 Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
- #6 Bright Angel Trail, Arizona
- #7 Mist Trail & Half Dome Cables, Yosemite National Park
- #8 Camp Muir, Mount Rainier National Park
- #9 Mauna Loa, Hawaii
- #10 The Maze, Canyonlands National Park
#1 Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
Angel’s Landing is located in Zion National Park and is one of the most popular hiking locations thanks to the epic landscapes and stunning views; the thing is: One of the reasons this hike is so dangerous is the route’s popularity and the fact that it starts surprisingly easily.
The trial starts straightforwardly, leading people into false security by the time they reach Walter’s Wiggle. And by the time you reach the final section of the route, it’s too late to turn back on this crowded route up a steep slope. The last section involves many tight squeezes and exposed drops leading into the canyon below.
The park has installed chains for this section, but it hasn’t made this hike any more accessible, and it’s still regarded as one of the most dangerous hikes in America.
#2 Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
The Presidential Traverse crosses the highest mountains in New Hampshire, and one of those is Mount Washington. Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire, but it’s also known for having some of the most extreme weather in the world. The mountain stands at 6,200 ft and has logged winds up to 231 mph.
And that’s one of the reasons we listed the Presidential Traverse as one of the most dangerous routes in the US. It’s not uncommon for the weather to change instantly, turning from a reasonably lovely day to a hike of nightmares.
#3 Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
We couldn’t list the most dangerous hikes in the US without adding Alaska’s notorious Denali National Park, home to Mount McKinley.
Denali (or Mount McKinley) is the highest peak in North America, standing at 20,194 feet of elevation, making altitude sickness a genuine concern and a real danger. It’s also the third most remote mountain in the world, so summiting this snowy peak is not for the casual hiker.
To put things in perspective:
Only 50% of people who attempt Denali make it to the summit; in the past 100 years, it’s claimed over 100 lives. If you want to know precisely how dangerous the climb is, check out this video. Note: Some images in the video may be disturbing.
#4 Huckleberry Trail, Montana
Some trails aren’t considered dangerous because of the terrain or weather; the wild animals within the hike make it deadly. And there’s no place in America where this is more true than Huckleberry Mountain. It’s considered home to 35 bears per square mile or one bear within every mile radius.
And this can make your chance of running into a grizzly bear a genuine concern. The bears come here to eat the fruit that grows along the trail. In fact, bears love this area so much that the National Park closes sections during the berry season to help protect hikers.
But, even then, it’s not uncommon for hikers to pass by grizzly bears, so make sure you take a can of bear mace if you plan to explore this area.
#5 Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
The Kalalau trail has recently been reopened after extreme flooding damaged the path. The route itself follows the Nā Pali Coast of the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii.
And while it might sound like a picturesque location, the truth is the narrow trail is nothing less than terrifying. People have difficulty dealing with the steep drop-offs that would see them plunge into the rocky ocean below. The trail bed is exceptionally narrow and feels extremely crumbly under your feet, which certainly builds an uneasy feeling.
#6 Bright Angel Trail, Arizona
Bright Angel Trail, ranked one of the most dangerous hikes in America, is a stunning hike that takes you around the Grand Canyon and is known for being a bucket list adventure. It’s considered one of the most challenging trails in the area, but this is mainly due to the extreme heat you need to battle.
And when you combine this with the 4,300 vertical feet and 9.5 miles, you need to hike; you can quickly see why this route becomes dangerous.
#7 Mist Trail & Half Dome Cables, Yosemite National Park
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, located in Yosemite Valley, is one of the most iconic landscapes in America. And while it’s known for its rock climbing, over 300 people come to the National Park daily to hike, with only 50 allowed to hike this trail.
The National park Service installed steel cables and wooden planks to help people hike the 400 feet climb, but this still doesn’t make it safe. It’s thought there are over 250 incidents every year that require the search and rescue team to be deployed. On top of that, there have been 13 deaths in the last 15 years, which makes this one of the most dangerous climbs in the US.
#8 Camp Muir, Mount Rainier National Park
If you’ve been looking for a snowy hike in the United States, this 9-mile round trip might be exactly what you’re looking for. After 2.4 miles of hiking Mount Rainier, you’ll make it to the Muir Snowfield, where the fun begins.
The mountains retain the snowy peaks all year round and are vast unmarked routes. If you stay on the snowfields, you should be fine, but move too far to the right or left, and you’ll find yourself in trouble.
If you’re planning to take on this route, make sure you come prepared, you’ll need good boots, crampons, and an ice ax.
#9 Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Mauna Loa makes the list of the most dangerous hikes in America. Why, well, it’s on one of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii. It’s also the largest subaerial volcano in mass and volume and is still an active volcano. If you’re looking for a dangerous route, it doesn’t get much more dangerous than hiking an unpredictable volcano.
The hike to the top of Mauna Loa is 13,678 ft, and it can be gratifying, but it doesn’t come without difficulties. First, you must contend with the altitude, rough, jagged rocks, and loose lava. And then you must battle with the thoughts that this volcano can potentially abrupt with little to no warning. Nervous yet?
#10 The Maze, Canyonlands National Park
The final dangerous hike to make it onto the list is The Maze, which you can find in the Canyonlands National Park. Many people refer to the hike as a red rock labyrinth because it’s easy to get lost in the triangle of red rocks.
What makes this an even more challenging hike is the fact that the red rocks can heat up to nearly 115° in the summer sun. The chance of heat stroke goes up exponentially for any hiker on this trail, so seriously consider alternative trails during the summer months.
In conclusion, if you’re planning to take on this journey, be prepared to study your map and make constant adjustments for when you take a wrong turn (trust us, you will).
Scott founded FunOutdoors to connect his professional life with his passions. When Scott isn’t working, you’ll find him on the bike trail, riding a wave, or skiing down a mountain.