Are you looking to take your hiking to the next level? We have put together a list of the world’s most extreme hiking trails that need to be added to your bucket list! From breathtakingly beautiful to downright terrifying, these trails are not for the faint hearted. We rate the difficulty level for you to evaluate if your choice is for the whole family or a more advanced hiker.
Updated March 2024
1. Mist Trail, California
The 7 mile round trip takes you to two spectacular waterfalls, the Vernal and Nevada Falls, which have an impressive combined drop of 900ft. It is a very popular day hike and is busiest in the Springtime (it can get very crowded). The walk will take you roughly 3 hours from beginning to end. If you are looking for a fun outdoor adventure with the family this trail is a winner.
2. Suicide Forest, Mount Fuji, Japan
Yes, it’s as creepy as the name suggests. Dubbed the “perfect place to die” it is the source of many urban legends as well as many dead bodies. Aside from this daunting reputation, this trail is beautiful. It is located at the bottom of Mount Fuji and is 13.5 square miles of dense, lush forest. It is an easy walk that anyone can do.
3. The Narrows, USA
This has been named one of the world’s best canyon hikes and can be tailored to suit anyone’s level of physical fitness. You can go as far as you like and choose to turn back at any point, the longest option being 16 miles. If you go in summer you will be pleasantly surprised by the cool, refreshing rivers you will be crossing on your trek.
Difficulty 1/10 – 7/10 depending on your choice of route.
4. Mount Pinatubo, The Philippines
Now here’s one for the books – an active volcano!!! The most recent eruption in 1991 resulted in a lake forming inside the crater creating breathtaking scenery. The mountain is a mere 1670m in height, which makes It an easy two hour hike that can be enjoyed by both young and old.
5. Peek-a-boo Gulch, Utah
As soon as you are done smiling at the name you will see that this is a great hike for all ages. It is easily accessible with loads of canyons just waiting to be explored. It is only 3.5 miles long and requires some basic rock climbing. Perfect for a family adventure!
6. Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Its no wonder so many movies are shot in New Zealand… it’s natural beauty is simply magnificent! Sky-high mountains, deep valleys, crisp lakes and cascading waterfalls – just some of what you have to look forward to on this 19 mile hike.
7. The Maze, Canyonlands, Utah
It’s not called the maze for nothing – every canyon and crevice looks the same and getting horribly lost seems to come with the territory. You are able to spend as much time in the maze as you like with people rarely staying fewer than 3 days. It is not a difficult hike but it is taxing and confusing.
8. Angel’s Landing, Utah
This short adventure hike is world renowned and lies at 1488ft. Boasting 270 million year old rock formations, you will feel like you have time travelled back to the Jurassic age. The 5 mile trek is fairly strenuous but if you are physically fit you can take this on with ease.
9. Otter Trail, South Africa
Named after the Cape clawless otter (cute right?) and located in the Tsitsikamma forest, this is South Africa’s most well-known and oldest official hiking trail. The 26 mile hike will take you 5 days to complete, if you can get on the year long waiting list that is. The surroundings are truly spectacular and the intricate rock formations are a must-see.
10. Kungsleden, Sweden
Also known as the King’s Trail, this hike is Sweden’s premier route. Do yourself a favour and go in Autumn – the golden leaves and snow capped mountains are truly postcard worthy. It is a relatively easy walk with planks laid down to help you along but at 248 miles it can be physically challenging.
11. Torres Del Paine Circuit, Chile
This trek is known for its striking scenery and is great if you are looking to explore the lesser visited parts of Chile. It is so diverse – from flawless white capped mountains to glaciers and grassy plains. There is even a pebble beach that you can take a romantic stroll on. The full circuit takes 12 days and going in a group is recommended.
Difficulty: 7 /10
12. Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
More of a trek than a hike the Kodoka trail is a tough 60 mile walk through the picturesque mountains of Papua New Guinea. Get ready for a lot of mud as you cross over rivers, trudge through jungle and traipse over valleys. The equatorial heat and 7185 ft mountains prove to be very taxing on even the fittest of hikers.
13. El Caminito del Rey, Spain
This trail is nothing short of terrifying – it is essentially a hazardous path balanced along the walls of a narrow canyon, held up by rusted beams. Although not a strenuous hike, at 100ft high and 100 years old it’s enough to send shivers down your spine. Fortunately the broken concrete has recently been replaced with wooden slats and a handrail.
14. Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
Set aside some time because this epic 124 mile hike will take you 15 days to complete and have you endure 34 ridges. The elevation gained across the entire route is in excess of 9000 metres which in total exceeds that of Everest! The Grand Traverse doesn’t have a pre-determined route and therefore as an avid hiker, you will need to plan your route ahead of time.
15. Buckskin Gulch, Utah
Are you a serious hiker? If so this one is for you. Although this 25 mile round trip isn’t the prettiest it is definitely something worth taking on if you are looking to test your endurance. The temperatures alone will challenge you physically, not to mention the terrain… but the overall experience is worth every obstacle you will face.
16. Via Ferrata, Italy
You will need to be quite skilled to take on this hike along the Eastern Dolomites. These “Iron Paths” are named as such because there are fixed ladders and metal posts drilled into the rocks that allow you to scale the peaks without using specialised equipment. There are various peaks – the shorter via Ferrata is 623ft of vertical gain, the longer is 3940ft plus.
Once you have ticked this adventure off your bucket list make sure you spend a few days in Rome before heading home. If you play to drive the Amalfi Coastline, visit exotic Capri or explore the ruins of Pompeii, check out Venga, Vale, Vamos for some insider travel tips.
17. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
Located on the Napali coast, the 11 mile Kalalau trail is known for its extreme declines and inclines making it a tough hike. The route is very muddy and rocky. Beware of the flash floods – a few tourists have been left stranded in the rain for days!
If you plan to see more of the Hawaii, read this awesome article by Jessica Hill, who explored Maui, Hawaii in a Camper Van, an experience well worth adding to your travel list.
18. Santa Cruz Trek Cordillera Blanca, Peru
The Santa Cruz trek is the most popular hike in the white mountains of Peru and is absolutely stunning. The 31 mile trail can be completed in 3 – 4 days. The highest peak is 15 580,00 ft which makes it a tad difficult to catch your breath at the top. You will need to be a very experienced hiker to take this one on! If you are interested in other trails with varying difficulty levels, check out this link for some breathtaking hiking adventures in Peru.
19. Pu’u Manamana Hiking Trail, Hawaii
Located on Oahu Island it is one of the most dangerous trails in Hawaii and has already claimed many lives – and if that isn’t enough to scare you there is even a part of the trail called Cemetery Ridge! It is a relatively short hike (4 miles) and should only be taken on by advanced hikers.
20. Mount Hua Shan, China
This is the deadliest hiking trail in the world with a rumoured casualty rate of 100 people per year. This death-defying cliff side hike boasts a 7087 ft peak. If vertical passes and chain-lined walkways are your thing then this spine-chilling hike is definitely for you.