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Backpacker Magazine – October 2008

America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes

Like your life and limbs intact? Then you'd better get skilled before visiting these trails.

by: Kelly Bastone

The Maze, Utah (James Kay)
The Maze, Utah (James Kay)

From a slippery Sierra catwalk to a treacherous Hawaiian paradise, we name the country's 10 most hazardous hikes. Then we break down the dangers and provide local beta for conquering each route.

We mapped America's hot spots for death by lightning, altitude, extreme weather, and more. And for stats junkies, a look at who's getting rescued in national parks–and why. Read "Diagnosis of Disaster."

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star


Star Star Star Star Star
Margaret Stock
Apr 22, 2013

The list is missing "the Goat Trail" in Wrangell St Elias National Park in Alaska. Having been on many of the others on this list, I say that the Goat Trail beats them all. But then, it is so scary that many people just turn around . . .

Star Star Star Star Star
Az Hiker
Apr 18, 2013

Don't become a "missing hiker" --pack your own personal safety net; a copy of "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon) and a compass! Before you go, be sure to calibrate your compass for the declination at the location where you will be hiking. Go to: A compass doesn't need satellites, a signal, or batteries and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart." The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. Learn to stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. Learn what to pack for a day-hike, trail ethics, what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing (for the car and for the trail) just incase you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors.

Aug 04, 2012

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warm regards

john anderson
Jul 06, 2012


Recently I came across some great articles on your site. The other day, I was discussing ( with my colleagues and they suggested I submit an article of my own. Your site is just perfect for what I have written! Would it be ok to submit the article? It is free of charge, of course!

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Chris & Brenda
May 26, 2012

We just finished the Buckskin Gultch and it was amazing! We only met one other group on the trail; a far cry from the throngs doing the Narrows in Zion. If you want to hike in the desert and only see occasional glimpses of the sun, then try the gulch. Warning - it was nearly dry. Lots of dried up pools. A tiny stream appeared just up from the Confluence. Without more rain the Gultch will likely be dry.

smokies hiker
May 24, 2012

Abrams Falls is only dangerous if one is stupid. Another far more dangerous hike is the Knife Edge trail to Mt. Katahdin. With part of the trail only being 2' wide in places and a fall of thousands of feet if you misstep, it is one scary trail.

Hal Summers
May 24, 2012

I'd add the Skyline Trail in Palm Springs to that list. 8000 vertical feet to the Palm Springs Tramway and no exit if things go bad. We've already had one death this year and several rescues. You can start in the early morning before the temperatures get into the triple digits but you can't turn back if things don't go well. The further down you go, the hotter it gets.

Other times of the year aren't much better than summer. In the winter the upper reaches of the trail are chocked with ice and snow and people have fallen to their deaths.

It's best to do in the fall. That way it's only the 8000 vertical feet to deal with.

AZ Hiker
May 24, 2012

B4 you go, don't forget to read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). Learn essential hiking skills and how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass. A fast, easy read that could maybe save your life but definitely will make your hike more enjoyable and safe!

Apr 09, 2012

I'm a Colorado native and my parents and I hiked to the peak of Long's Peak when I was 10 years old, All the hiking I do in Kodiak, Alaska is way crazier than this mostly because of the critters i'm hiking with:)

Sep 24, 2011

one day i was playing with my dog and a bear came out of my garbage can and it ran at me it grab joejoe my dog i grab my green beret knive that i had in vietnam i went out side and the bear threw mydog a side i ran after stab it and he bit my hand off so i started hitting it and the bear started crying and ran in the woods and evere since that day call me daniel boone jr know every day i do 5 million push ups with one hand

Aug 16, 2011

Hiking is dangerous

Aug 11, 2011

I hear 6 people have died at Yosemite this year already. How do rank that?

Aug 11, 2011

This is just silly journalism. Obviously, as has been pointed out, these trails are very popular, so they have more incidents. I try to stay away from trails, especially popular ones. I don't go backpacking to see other people. Bright Angel isn't a trail, it's a wide tourist path full of non-hikers. This is the problem with Backpacker, that it continues to be a newbies' magazine.

Jul 21, 2011

South Kaibab Trail is worse than the Bright Angel Trail because the South Kaibab doesn;t have any water

Jun 16, 2011

After hiking part of the Whittenberg trail in the Catskills region of New York I gained a new respect for the areas environment and beauty. I plan to take a trip to return to the Devil's Path, a trail which I would think should be on the list. Some very rugged terrain and even more challenges expected when visiting the Adirondacks. Keep on chooglin!

yankees tickets
May 30, 2011

have been on some of teh mentioned hikes. if those are the most dangerous, then i am disapointed at the tame wilderness. haah - i know several harder!

May 16, 2011

Surprised Tenaya Canyon from the Valley to Tuolomme wasn't listed instead of Half Dome

May 06, 2011

hi very nice post...
Thanks for your sharing information...

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Apr 24, 2011

Hiking is adventurous.Though these hikes are dangerous it would very adventure to climb them>i like the post and eagerly waiting for such more.
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Dec 30, 2010

Are these hikes really the most dangerous or are they just easier for inexperienced/under-prepared hikers to get to? There are many hazards in a mountaineering trip to the top of Rainier, but with enough time and water hiking the grand canyon is fairly moderate. I would argue there is much more rugged terrain throughout the US, but there's just fewer people going there.

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