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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


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 . . .

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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Jul 06, 2012


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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

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Apr 24, 2011

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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.

Jim Minnicks
Dec 30, 2010

I haven't hiked all of "Your Ten Most Dangerous Hikes" but having hiked five of them, I would suggest you rename the list to ""10 Hikes with Great Opportunity for Danger"". I agree with the readers writing they were surpised to not see Longs Peak on your list. I have soloed Longs Peak and Half Dome but didn't even leave the Longs Peak trailhead this year on July 30th due to heavy rains. Dry conditions on Longs Peak or Half Dome; be careful and it is a great hike. Wet conditions and Danger Danger. As for the Grand Canyon Bright Angel trail, once again it has great opportunity to become a dangerous hike in the summer if unprepared. Any other time of the year, for those prepared, it is one of if not the easiest hike in Grand Canyon.

Dec 30, 2010

I have been to Zion several times; while I have not gone up Angel's Landing, I have hiked the Hidden Canyon Trail, including a slickrock ledge that tilts perilously towards a long drop. Yes, there is a chain to hold on to (at least for part of this section) - just be sure to keep a tight grip on it. I did this trail once on a rainy day - but wisely turned around when I reached the worst spots. Some folks don't know when to turn around.

Steve Struble
Dec 30, 2010

Lightning is a risk anytime you're above treeline in the summer, and the example just proves that there's often no warning. But I wouldn't consider Pikes Peak any more dangerous than other mountains.

Dec 21, 2010

im really surprise capitol peak isnt on the list. my reasons.

Oct 12, 2010

I'm surprised Long's Peak isn't on the list as well, given the constant exposure past the Keyhole and threat of lightning/bad weather. Summiting Rainier isn't as dangerous if you hire a guide. Otherwise, you really shouldn't be on that mountain. Bright Angel trail was easy this year in the spring - knew it would be a good day when there was snow on the rim, not too hot at the river. If it's August, don't hike it.

Oct 11, 2010

I've done Mt. Washington, Half Dome, and Longs Peak. Longs is by far the most dangerous and is surprising it's not on this list.

Lee Bidel
Oct 03, 2010

hey thanks Backpacker for all your hard work intrying to let everyone know whats going on.

Aug 31, 2010

I've hiked Half Dome several times and there's nothing out of the ordinary "dangerous" about it. Each time I've done it, I've seen the stupid people climbing outside of the cables, the out of shape people that have no business hiking in sandals, and the people wading too far out into the rivers. If you are in decent shape and have common sense, there isn't anything dangerous about doing it.

Aug 19, 2010

Long's Peak being a higher altitude and not having a road all the way to the top, I would say make it a much more difficult hike than Pike's Peak.

Rick G.
Jul 26, 2010

I have hiked Mt Washington numerous times, mostly in the fall and have experianced the fury of it's well deserved reputation. What about Vancouver Island's West Coast Trail? Surely it should be up in the top 5...

Jan 14, 2010

Abrams Falls? Seriously?? Ok, the danger is in *swimming* at the Falls, not *hiking to* the Falls. Easy hike, really easy.

Furious George
Jan 13, 2010

What's with the Angels Landing talk? Buckskin Gulch is far more arduous and presents more life threatening possibilities and Angels Landing. My wife who suffers from firbomyalgia did Angels Landing with nary a problem.

Richard Ruch
Jan 04, 2010

I hiked the Kalalau Trail last August with my wife and daughter. Most of the trail is just spectacular views but the "Crawlers Ledge " part will test you. The Mt Washington summit can be reached from several different routes. If you have the time , try the southern route from Rt 302. Then go over the nortehrn peaks to rt 2 and avoid the crowds on the Tuckermans Ravine. Just use common sense on both of these trails.

Julia P
Jan 03, 2010

I did some of the Kalalau Trail in Feb 2009. There is alot of trail erosion, alot of it is caused by the wild pigs that roam the island. Even though there are controlled hunts, the pigs are prolific and dig up the trails which then erode when the heavy rains come. You need your poles and good boots, and raingear.

Dec 31, 2009

Just attempted a hike of the Skookum Volcano area in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park this summer. It's not a trail per se (it's a route... you follow sheep trails, basically), but it is by far the most dangerous hike I've ever seen. Loose footing, steep inclines, sudden drop-offs, hard-to-find trails... yeah, definitely incredibly dangerous. Beautiful, but dangerous.

Branch Whitney
Dec 31, 2009

Lame. Most of the scrambling hikes in Red Rock Canyon (20 miles west of Las Vegas, NV) are much more dangerous than any of the hikes listed. They make Angel's Landing look like a walk in the park.

Dec 31, 2009

And nothing from Alaska...really? I have an idea for an about the 10 best magazines that feature a 10 best article in every issue. I like BP mag and certainly mean no disrespect, but they'd definitely make the list.

Nov 03, 2009

Having hiked seven of the listed trails and areas solo, I can agree that the Maze may be the most dangerous. Few trails, scarce water, heat, and steep narrow canyons make prior experience and planning definite prerequisites. However, the hazards of all these trips can be minimized by checking weather reports, trail guidebooks, experience, the right equipment, and common sense. Many would agree that doing them solo increases the hazard - very true, but that is a very personal decision and can add so much to the experience.

Oct 29, 2009

The Chilkoot's not especially dangerous. Has some tricky areas, and I wouldn't recommend hiking it in wet or damp conditions, as some crossings are high, narrow and get slippery. The Golden Stairs is the worst part; steep and on loose boulders. Hiking poles recommended.

Oct 29, 2009

A little hard to believe Longs Peak wasn't listed

Oct 18, 2009

I've hiked abrams fall n the smokies n found it an easy, safe hike. Am I missing somthing far I'm planning to hike it again this week. My email;

Oct 11, 2009

I have hiked in the Maze and Angles Landing. Both have risks and rewards. I do not think that it is easy to fall at Angles Landings, but if you do you die. The reward at Angles Landings is maybe the best view in the world. Angles Landings takes no planing. Just show up and hike it. The Maze on the other hand will kill you if you are not well prepared. Hiking the Maze solo is just nuts. Way to many ways that a small mistake or mishap can lead to really bad outcomes. The reward from hiking the Maze is metaphysical. A oneness with nature that I have not found anywhere else.

steve roper
Sep 30, 2009

I have hiked 4 of these hikes on the list but the most dangerous hike I did was the HuaShan plank path in China. Here's a good good video link I found of the Plank Path hike:

Jan 28, 2009

the chilkoot is fairly easy, well, intermittent. i hiked it with a a family with 4 young teens, and 2 older women, all non-hikers for the most part. there is one part... i 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!

Jan 20, 2009

So is it the Mist Trail or Half Dome that's so dangerous? I've done the Mist Trail many times and Half Dome once, and I'd have to say that lightning and stupidity are what make that hike particularly dangerous. Granted I haven't been on any of the others listed but I'd imagine that they are inherently more unsafe.

Dec 09, 2008

Sitting on my deck looking at Mt. Washington, NH right now covered in snow. The temp at the top is -9 degrees with a wind chill of near -40 below. Just another average December day on "The Rock Pile" Yeah, it's dangerous!!

Cactus Paul
Nov 19, 2008

The two on this list that I've done, Buckskin Gulch and Bright Angel, were tip-toes through the tulips next to the last couple of hundred yards of Angels Landing.

Jason R
Nov 17, 2008

I've hiked angel's landing twice, and to me it's not bad at all! I've hiked stuff in Red Rock Canyon (just outside Las Vegas) that was just as gnarly without any aid of chains or ropes (Bridge Mt. being one of them). However, for a popular hike (one that families and people of all levels have access to and do each week) then yes, it is 'treacherous'. I'd just be careful in saying it's "extremely dangerous" or one of the "10 most dangerous hikes", b/c that might skew the description of some of these others.

Nov 14, 2008

I have hiked 3 of the 10 on this list and totally agree with Michael...Angels Landing is extremely nothing I have ever experienced before or since.

Nov 14, 2008

Any 10 most dangerous list without Angels Landing in Zion is a bit suspect!

Nov 14, 2008

How about the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska?


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