Last Updated: May 10, 2021

Is Hiking Dangerous? A Guide To Safe Hiking

Is hiking actually dangerous? Yes and no. Yes, there are some things about hiking and certain hiking trails that are absolutely dangerous. But in most cases, hiking is perfectly safe if you’re sticking to the marked trails.

In this guide, I’ll cover some common hiking hazards, as well as the most dangerous hiking trails in the world. I’ll also touch upon the dangers of hiking alone and all the things you can do to stay safe on the trail. Whether you are looking for tips on safe hiking or just want to know what the most dangerous trails are, we’ve got you!

Hiking Trail Difficulty And Conditions

Hiking Trail

It’s dangerous for a hiking newbie to set out on a trail that’s rated as difficult. That’s why you should always check just how difficult a hiking trail is supposed to be and avoid anything that seems like it might be too challenging for you.

Also, look at the total elevation change and terrain type. If there are too many rocks, switchbacks, narrow ridges, or via ferratas and you don’t have that much experience with those, you might want to go with an easier trail.

For hiking trails in national parks, you can usually get all the info you need on the park’s website. They will often list the estimated length and elevation change of the hike, as well as any additional things hikers should prepare for. Other than that, it’s also a good idea to check what the community is saying. Use sites like Alltrails to get the most recent information on hiking trail conditions.

Finally, don’t ever underestimate a hiking trail. Going out into the wild unprepared is something that can make a hike more dangerous than it should be, and it’s best to avoid that.

Prepare For The Hike

If you prepare for the hike adequately, there’s no reason to be scared. The main reason why people get injured while hiking is because they set out on the trail without all the equipment they need. But hiking injuries can happen for several reasons – sometimes it’s as simple as wearing the wrong shoes, which is exactly why it is so important to inform yourself about the hiking trail and be prepared.

It will help to read up on the hiking trail conditions and prepare for what to expect. If the water sources are scarce along the way, make sure that you pack enough water for the hike. In case you have to climb some rocks along the way, pack all the rock climbing equipment you have. Wear appropriate shoes and clothes, check your GPS often, make sure that you have every single item you might possibly need on that trail, and there won’t be any dangers for you to worry about!

Wild Animals

Hike Animal

Always check for sightings of wild animals before you set out on a trail. It’s not that uncommon to encounter a bear or a snake on a hike, especially when you’re in a national park or a desert. That’s why it is important to prepare for a hike – check out what other hikers are saying about animal sightings and make sure that you’re prepared for any possible encounters.

Dress appropriately, bring the bear spray, and do not turn over any rocks you see on the ground in the desert.

Unmarked Trails

Potawatomi Trail

Hiking is rarely dangerous if you’re sticking to marked trails. It’s when you step off the beaten path that things start getting scary.

Exploring the unknown is exciting and can be exceptionally rewarding. But it can also be extremely dangerous because you never know what’s waiting for you. It’s easy to get lost when you’re not following a marked trail, and who knows what else you might encounter from wild animals to poisonous bugs.

If you’re with someone who knows the area really well and has a lot of experience hiking in the area, then you will likely be fine if you step off the beaten path. But if you’re hiking alone in an area you are not that familiar with, the safest thing is to stay on the marked trail.

Lack Of Confidence Is Extremely Dangerous

Lack of confidence can be more dangerous than even the scariest switchbacks. Some hiking trails require you to have absolute confidence in your every step because if you make one single mistake, you’re in trouble.

Hikers who are not confident enough should never set out on trails alone. They should follow experienced guides who can help them become more confident on various terrain types. Only when you’re absolutely sure in your every step are you ready to take on the thrilling trails without risking anything.

Hiking Alone

hiking alone swiss alps

Anna hiking alone in the Swiss Alps

Hiking alone is not dangerous, but it’s not as safe as hiking with a partner. The main problem with hiking alone is that you’re doomed if something actually happens. Say you trip and fall, and you hurt your leg – without someone to lean on, it’s going to be a lot harder to get back to the trailhead. Naturally, other hikers you encounter on the trail will be more than happy to help you, but what happens if when you go out on a trail that’s mostly deserted and without any cell service?

There’s also the possibility of getting lost, and that’s much harder to deal with when you’re on your own. It’s even worse if you accidentally get injured since you pretty much have to sit and wait for someone to cross your path.

Keep in mind that these are all worst-case scenarios – if you’re an experienced hiker who is going out on a trail they know by heart, chances that something like this is going to happen to you are minimal. But just in case, if you intend on hiking alone, it’s best to notify at least one of your friends. Tell them which trail you’re going to explore, and have them call someone for help if they don’t hear back from you by a certain time. Then, if you do get lost, at least you know someone is coming to rescue you.

Most Dangerous Hikes In The World

In case you’re only reading this because you’re interested in tackling the most dangerous hikes in the world, I’ve got a treat for you. These are the top seven most dangerous hiking trails you can explore!

Photo credit: KrisNM via Flickr

Angel’s Landing is a hiking trail in Zion National Park that is thought to be the most dangerous hike in America. So far, 13 hikers have died on this trail since 2000, so it’s definitely not something you should attempt unless you’re 100% sure you’re up for the challenge. The trail features a narrow stone staircase and a scarily narrow ridge, both of which are wide enough for just one person. Overtaking another hiker can be deadly, so it’s crucial to be patient and confident on this trail.

The Maze is a close second when it comes to dangerous hiking trails in Utah. It’s very difficult to navigate, there are barely any water sources on the trail, and in case you need help, it will take hours and maybe even days before they can reach you. The trail is not marked very well and getting lost is the main danger. The problem is that GPS is not that accurate here due to remote location. It can get extremely hot in the summer, so if you ever decide to take on this challenging hike, you’ll need to be prepared for every possible scenario.

Caminito Del Rey

Caminito Del Ray is widely agreed to be Spain’s most dangerous hiking trail. Why? Because you have to walk for 3 kilometers over steep rocks and steel beams that are over 100 years old, and more than 100 meters tall. Looking down is enough to have your entire life flash before your eyes, and one wrong step can be fatal. There is a via Ferrata cable that you can use to clip yourself, but the safety cable is not actually maintained by anyone so there’s no guarantee it will work.

Mount Hua in China is thought to be the deadliest hike in the world. There are (unsubstantiated) rumors that more than 100 people die on this trail every year, but don’t let that scare you – there’s absolutely no proof for those rumors. The main hazard on the hike is the steep plank walk on the side of the mountain – one wrong step equals a fall to your death. The hiking trail is within a national park and it’s accessible to everyone, which should mean that the dangers are minimal as long as you use a harness and take all the necessary precautions.

Striding Edgee

Striding Edge in the UK is one of the most famous trails in the country. The hike features scrambles, switchbacks, and a notorious ridge that is the main hazard on the trail. There are multiple ways to approach the ridge but the steep and rocky sides are not very forgiving of any mistakes. The trail is rewarding with spectacular nature views, but only if you safely make it to the end.

Half Dome

Half Dome in Yosemite is a thrilling ascent to the top of the mountain that can be incredibly dangerous. The Half Dome cables are the main hazard on the trail – they allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without using any equipment. Most accidents on this segment occur in wet weather, so as long as you attempt the climb while it’s warm and dry, you should be fine.

Wendenstock is an exciting but terrifying hike in the Swiss Alps. The route is narrow, rocky, steep, and always wet, which is exactly why so many hikers give up or get injured trying. Appropriate hiking boots are crucial for this hike, as is a heightened sense of direction. The multi-peak trail is difficult to navigate and follow, so expect a lot of trial and error.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: