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The Best Hikes for Thrill-Seekers

Wild, adventurous, and possibly dangerous trails.

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Scaling this short, steep trail up the east-facing cliffs of Champlain Mountain takes more than just cardiovascular fitness. You'll need some…

Scaling this short, steep trail up the east-facing cliffs of Champlain Mountain takes more than just cardiovascular fitness. You’ll need some courage, too. The route gains nearly 1,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile by linking a series of challenging natural and man-made features. Climb sheer rock walls on ladders and iron rungs, and tightrope walk across exposed ledges. Catch your breath with summit views across Frenchman Bay and Mt. Desert Island. [image: Garden State Hiker/Flickr]

If the 4,000-plus-foot elevation gain and white-knuckled exposures of this classic 14-miler aren't compelling enough, wait until the sun sets and…

If the 4,000-plus-foot elevation gain and white-knuckled exposures of this classic 14-miler aren’t compelling enough, wait until the sun sets and hike it under the glow of the full moon (and your headlamp). Link the Mist and John Muir Trails before climbing past dizzying drop-offs on Half Dome Trail (a set of cables lines the final, steep stretch of sleek granite). Pack warm clothes and stay for the sunrise. [image: Cyril Fluck/Flickr]

Want one surefire way to get your adrenaline pumping? Attempt the 1,500-foot climb to this airy perch high above Zion Canyon. From the footbridge…

Want one surefire way to get your adrenaline pumping? Attempt the 1,500-foot climb to this airy perch high above Zion Canyon. From the footbridge spanning the Virgin River, the 2.5-mile (one-way) route switchbacks up sandstone cliffs to a pinched slickrock ridge with hair-raising drop-offs on either side. Hoist yourself to the summit using chains bolted into the rock face, then peer down on the valley far below. [image: Ada Be/Flickr]

This roughly 15-mile overnight in the heart of Denali packs in all the elements of a backcountry adventure: untamed wilderness, non-existent trails,…

This roughly 15-mile overnight in the heart of Denali packs in all the elements of a backcountry adventure: untamed wilderness, non-existent trails, lively river crossings—and grizzly bears. Take the park bus to Grassy Pass, then descend to a creek-veined gravel bar. Choose your own route around the base of 5,802-foot Mt. Eielson, keeping watch for resident caribou and grizzlies. On day two, crisscross the Thorofare River’s braided channels before finishing with a steep climb back to the park road. [image: Kim Phillips]

The lack of oxygen on this 14,130-foot peak is only one of the reasons hikers may feel dizzy climbing it. After winding through high-country meadows,…

The lack of oxygen on this 14,130-foot peak is only one of the reasons hikers may feel dizzy climbing it. After winding through high-country meadows, aspen groves, and talus slopes along Capitol Creek Trail, the 8-mile (one-way) climb culminates with a thrilling—and vertigo-inducing—traverse of Capitol Peak‘s serrated knife-edge ridge. [image: Mostly Deserts/Wikimedia]

Hikers may have to immerse themselves—literally—in the landscape on this 6.4-mile out-and-back. The lush, wooded trail (2 hours north of Atlanta)…

Hikers may have to immerse themselves—literally—in the landscape on this 6.4-mile out-and-back. The lush, wooded trail (2 hours north of Atlanta) continually crisscrosses lively Emery Creek en route to five secluded waterfalls that pour into sun-dappled pools. Bring dry bags for camera gear and electronics—and plan on getting more than just your feet wet. [image: John David Johnson/Flickr]

The trek to this 10,100-foot basecamp on Rainier's southeast face is anything but routine. In just 4.5 miles (one-way), you'll encounter glaciers,…

The trek to this 10,100-foot basecamp on Rainier’s southeast face is anything but routine. In just 4.5 miles (one-way), you’ll encounter glaciers, crevasses, and more than 4,600 feet of elevation gain. When the established Skyline Trail ends near 7,300 feet, find the best route up the Muir Snowfield, avoiding 2- to 4-foot-wide crevasses. Reward yourself at Camp Muir with high-altitude views of Mt. Adams, the Tatoosh spires, and the Cowlitz Glacier. [image: Ralph Arvesen/Flickr]

You don't have to have claustrophobia to feel the walls tightening in around you on this 20-mile point-to-point. The demanding route, which starts an…

You don’t have to have claustrophobia to feel the walls tightening in around you on this 20-mile point-to-point. The demanding route, which starts an hour east of Kanab, snakes through the country’s longest and deepest slot canyon. Along the way, you’ll scramble over boulders, wade across frigid ankle-to-waist-deep pools, and squeeze through shoulder-wide narrows. [image: Pierce Martin/Flickr]

There's never a dull moment on this obstacle-laden route up 6,288-foot Mt. Washington—New England's tallest peak. Ascend west up Tuckerman Ravine…

There’s never a dull moment on this obstacle-laden route up 6,288-foot Mt. Washington—New England’s tallest peak. Ascend west up Tuckerman Ravine Trail to its junction with Huntington Ravine Trail. Then prepare yourself for the upcoming climb. You’ll face nerve-wracking scrambles up expansive boulder fields, exposed granite slabs, and tight gullies. And did we mention Mt. Washington’s notoriously vicious weather? [image: Jaine/Flickr]

Adventure seekers who head just 45 minutes northwest of downtown L.A. will find this sunlit cave set into a band of cliffs lining the Simi Hills.…

Adventure seekers who head just 45 minutes northwest of downtown L.A. will find this sunlit cave set into a band of cliffs lining the Simi Hills. Ascend a knobby ramp at the base of the cave to the 15-foot-wide cleft in the rock face, then explore the cave’s multiple chambers. Up for more? Scramble up boulders and outcrops to an opening at the top of the cave, and follow the rocky ridgeline northeast to crest Castle Peak. [image: Wikimedia]