HARDEST HIKES IN THE WORLD: 12 Challenging treks!
There are plenty of hiking trails around the world, but if you are looking to explore further and enjoy some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes, then these 12 challenging treks won’t disappoint you.
Difficult terrains, extreme weather conditions, strong rivers, lush landscape, and snowy mountain tops are only a few of the amazing difficulties you will encounter on these infamous routes, also known as the hardest hikes in the world!
The reason why most people are fascinated and drawn by the idea of conquering the toughest hikes in the world is unclear, perhaps the enjoyment of a challenge or know you will be part of an elite team of explores, nevertheless a very meticulous preparation is a must if you are looking to attempt any of these difficult hikes.
Some basic questions and factors to consider are the best time to go, weather conditions, camp sides and refugees, as well as food and water (a perfectly safe route in summer can easily turn into a nightmare in winter).
With the correct amount of preparation and research these challenging treks can be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, you will be inspired, challenged, and rewarded with breathtaking views, dreamy locations, and an unforgettable adventure.
12 HARDEST HIKES IN THE WORLD
Challenging Treks in North America
The Maze Overlook Trail
Distance: 8 miles-12.9 Km
Best time to visit: March-May
Situated in the southeastern desert of Utah, The Maze is the least accessible district of Canyonlands (A national park divided into 4 sections: the Island of Sky, the Needles, the Rivers, and the Maze).
Due to its remote location travelers need to be fully prepared and self-sufficient in order to visit. This includes essential supplies, like food, water, and gasoline to complete the trip safely. No wonder why this area only experiences less than 2000 people per year.
The Maze trails are characterized by a labyrinth of intricate canyons, often with dead-ends, therefore extremely difficult to navigate. A map and a GPS are essential and highly recommended.
The Overlook Trail is perhaps the most popular and challenging trek in the area, peaceful solitude combined with colorful red rocks, and an endless blue sky are only a few of the reasons why visiting the maze is well worth the challenge.
Finally, if you are interested in visiting the area but don’t want to take high risks, Canyonlands National Park has a lot to offer for every type of visitor, especially the districts of the Island of Sky and the Needles.
Distance: 11 miles-17 km
Best time to visit: May-August
The Kalalau trail is along the Nā Pali Coast of the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii. A challenging trek to paradise with thick jungles, volcanos, and a dramatic coastline.
Despite its beauty, this trail can be extremely dangerous at points, due to easily flooded streams and a narrow rocky path. Earning its spot as one of the hardest hikes in the world!
With the correct amount of preparation, the Kalalau Trail offers a challenging and rewarding experience for everyone. While it’s possible to hike the entire 11 miles in one day most people opt for a more relaxed approach and decide to spend two, or more, days on the route. Two campsites are available along the trek but you will need to book an overnight permit prior to your stay.
Along the trail, you will have the chance to visit secluded beaches, waterfalls and come across a mesmerizing landscape. If you are up to the challenge you can extend your trek by going deeper into the Kalalau Valley.
Challenging Treks in South America
The O and Q Treks-Circuits
Where: Chilean Patagonia
Distance: 74.5 miles-120 km
Best time to visit: November-March
Torres del Paine is perhaps one of the most incredible and secluded locations in the world. The National Park is home to snow cap mountains, glaciers, and a dramatic landscape. Hiking and trekking are the most popular activities, offering incredible scenery as well as a physical challenge!
The Torres del Paine “O” Circuit is a long-distance trail that explores the most remote areas of the National Park. Despite its secluded location, this challenging trek is well organized and well-marked, with solid infrastructure and refugees along the way.
The O circuit is the perfect combination of wild and comfort, camping is still required on parts of the trail and stock-up points are available not too far away.
Nevertheless, Chile is also known as the “land of extremes” and Patagonia can be a dangerous place without the necessary preparation and knowledge.
If the O Trek is simply not challenging enough it’s easy to upgrade to the Q circuit. The route is the same as the O plus an extra section to Refugio Paine Grande. This is the ultimate Patagonia Hike! Finally, use this complete Chile travel Guide to organize your perfect trip!
Challenging Treks in Europe
El Caminito del Rey
Distance: 4.7 miles-7.7 km
Best time to visit: May-June
Perhaps not as long and challenging as the other difficult hikes in the world this 3 km trek runs along beautiful cliffs and a river gorge in Malaga, Spain.
“El Caminito del Rey” translates to the King’s Path and it was constructed in 1905.
The original 100 years old trek was the reason why it earned a spot as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world: many thrill-seeking people died crossing this path due to its unstable and precarious conditions.
Fortunately, the old trek closed in 2000, and a new, and much safer option was reopened in 2015.
Today, El Caminito del Rey is not as dangerous as it sounds, it still offers breathtaking views and a good amount of adrenaline rush due to metal supported beams hanging 100 meters up on a sheer cliff face.
Distance: 112 miles-180 km
Best time to visit: June-October
The GR20 does not require advanced mountaineering skills, nevertheless, this is considered a very challenging trek due to its 34,500 feet (10,500 meters) of elevation change. The GR20 winds its way along the spine of Corsica’s mountainous center, reason why it’s considered “Europe’s Toughest Hiking Trail”, indeed one of the hardest hikes in the world!
The trail is well marked and you will have the opportunity to sleep in basic accommodation along the way, such as mountains huts, whit the option to purchase food and drink.
The route offers incredible views of the mediterranean sea, waterfalls, rugged mountains, greener meadows, lakes, and forests.
Luckily this long-distance hike is divided into smaller sections, allowing people to walk only a small part of the 180 km route.
Challenging Treks in Africa
The Drakensberg Grand Traverse
Where: South Africa
Distance: 130 miles – 210 km
Best time to visit: August -October
The Drakensberg Grand Traverse is a long-distance hike located near Clarens, Free State, South Africa that features an amazing landscape and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. Your physical strength and endurance will be tested as well as your sense of navigation and adaptability skills.
The route is not technical but a true experience of African wildness, there are no facilities or shops along the way, therefore you must carry everything you need with you.
Along the way, you’ll submit a number of peaks, all above 3000 m, climb an infamous ‘chain ladders’ which dangles mid-air, and admire the beautiful Tugela Falls, the world’s second-highest waterfall with a drop of 950 meters in five sections.
Best time to visit: April-May and Sept-October
Taghia is a very small isolated village lying in Morocco’s Albas Mountains. It consists of only a few dozen buildings, and it’s a couple of hours away from the slightly bigger village of Zaouiat.
The small hike to the town only sees less than a thousand people per year and it consists of steep canyons and a very exposed pass, this was built with wooden logs jammed into cracks and covered with rocks.
If you can reach this extremely isolated location then you are in for a treat; Taghia is Morocco’s best rock climbing destination and offers an incredible amount of outdoor activities and adventures.
If you are looking for something unique then this challenging hike and less-known location is a must. Use this Morocco Guide and Essential Information to help you plan your trip!
Challenging Treks in Asia
The Snowmen Trek
Distance: 216 miles- 347 km
Best time to visit: September-October
Continuos altitudes of over 4000 m plus the remote location and extreme weather conditions make the Snowmen hike Bhutan’s most challenging trek.
This long-distance walk crosses over 10 high mountain passes in the remote Lunana district, it’s only possible during the summer months as the path is covered in snow over winter and very meticulous preparation is required in order to embark on this adventure. Indeed, the Snowmen trek is one of the hardest hikes in the world, with a 50% failure rate each year, therefore it’s only recommended to very experienced hikers.
If you are brave enough to complete this trek you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the snow-capped Himalayas and religious temples along the way. The trail passes isolated farming settlements, and secluded villages while exploring an incredible culture.
Everest’s Base Camp
Distance: 35 miles- 56 km
Best time to visit: Sep-Nov and Feb-May
Of course, Conquering Everest remains one of the most popular and toughest hikes in the world. A bucket-list experience through challenging terrains like river rapids, rocky trails, and mountain peaks.
To actually reach the summit of Mount Everest is extremely challenging and only accessible to a small and very skilled group of people.
Nevertheless, at 5,600 meters, Base Camp is still a difficult hike that requires plenty of preparation.
As this trek is extremely popular there are many infrastructures and companies offering guided tours, even though this might not be the cheapest option.
The trek takes between 12 to 14 days as it requires extra time for acclimatization due to the altitude.
Reaching Everest’s base camp will open up a world of incredible views, the perfect way to end a breathtaking trek amongst some of the highest peaks in the world.
K2 Base Camp
Distance: 90 km
Best time to visit: June-September
Hiking the Karakoram mountains in Pakistan is an unforgettable experience and extremely challenging. K2 is the world’s second-highest mountain (8611 m) and it’s home to some of the wildest and most dramatic landscapes on earth.
Due to its remote location, this area only sees a fraction of the people compared to Nepal, perfect if you are looking for a more traditional experience.
A big section of this difficult trek is across the Baltoro Glacier ((63 km – the world’s 5th longest non-polar glacier) and the Godwin Austin Glacier. These are challenging terrains with extreme weather conditions. Camping on the glaciers is required.
The K2 Base Camp trek is an expedition-style hike, you will be far away from civilization so everything needed must be carried with you. It’s important to remember that there is no access to electricity or phone reception for the entire trek.
Indeed K2 base camp earned its spot as one of the hardest hikes in the world. The mountain has inspired thousands of people and explorers all over the planet for generations.
Mount Hua Shan
Distance: 7.4 miles-12 km
Best time to visit: April-October
This challenging trek begins at the base of Mount Hua Shan. This is considered to be one of five China’s sacred mountains; which, unfortunately, means it’s a very popular attraction and hardly an off-the-beaten track destination.
Nevertheless, the hike to the top is a unique experience, it consists of wooden platforms hanging thousands of feet in the air, a vertical stairway, and narrow paths. No wonder why this trek has caught the attention of many adventurers around the world.
Mount Hua Shan route is still known as the “most dangerous hike in the world” due to its past, today it’s accessible for most travelers as a lot of safety precautions have been taken, such as handrails, and a cableway.
The area surrounding Mount Hua Shan is also worth a visit, with breathtaking sunrises and beautiful mountains in the distance. The most popular activities are hiking and trekking and there are plenty of more traditional trails to experience!
Challenging Treks in Oceania
The South Coast Track
Where: Tasmania, Australia
Distance: 53 miles- 85 km
Best time to visit: December-March
This long-distance walk deserves its spot as one of the hardest hikes in the world. Due to its isolated location in a region of Tasmania, there is no support or infrastructure along the way. The weather conditions are often challenging and harsh, therefore, hikers must be fully self-sufficient, well-equipped, and highly experienced.
The reward of hiking such a challenging trek is to experience a spectacular and totally unspoiled wild landscape, one of the few left on earth.
Along the way, you will encounter secluded beaches, wild rivers, as well as scramble on rocky hills and mountain ranges. The South Coast Track really does have it all, it will inspire you, test you and finally reward you with a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure.
These are the hardest hikes in the world and for good reasons! With the right amount of preparation and the correct equipment and physical fitness, these challenging treks can open up a world of surprises. Dreamy landscapes and secluded locations are only a few of the things you will encounter on your expedition.
Here you can find more information on how to pack as well as some camping food inspiration and essentials!
If you found this article helpful or have experienced any of these difficult hikes let me know in the comments below…