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6 Scariest National Park Hikes In America

  • By Kate Moore
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If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, than there’s no better place to go than America’s National Parks. Unlike an amusement park, you won’t find safety rails or seat belts out in the wild. All of this is the real deal.

6 National Parks have trails rated to be some of the scariest in America. These thrilling hikes have steep cliffs, narrow paths, and a deadly reputation.

If you’re up for the challenge, lace up your boots and head outdoors to one of these scenic and scary hikes.

  1. Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park Utah
  2. The Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park California
  3. Highline Trail, Glacier National Park Montana
  4. Long’s Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado
  5. Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park Maine
  6. Nankoweap Trail, Grand Canyon National Park Arizona
angels landing hike in zion national park is one of the top things to do
The Spine on Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing in Zion National Park

The hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park is about 5.4 miles and takes 3-4 hours to complete. While the path starts out pretty tame, it quickly ascends 1,000 feet in elevation over 21 tight switchbacks.

The exhausting climb will get your legs shaking before you even get to the scary part.

Scout Lookout is your last chance to turnaround before entering the exposed hiking path known as “The Spine.” Hikers with a fear of heights should not even consider attempting this route.

The sandstone spine juts out above the valley with stomach-dropping exposure on both sides.

The hiking trail is only a few feet wide, but drops over 1,500 feet to the valley floor below.

Even though chains have been secured along the route to help guide hikers you still need to take the risk seriously.

Angel’s Landing is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in America. 14 people have died hiking up Angel’s Landing since 2004.

Climbing up to the Vernal Fall footbridge in Yosemite National Park
Climbing up to Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park

The Mist Trail In Yosemite National Park

The Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park is a steep hike with 1,000 feet of elevation gain over 3 miles.

The scariest part of the trail is climbing the steps just below Vernal Falls. The granite rock gets extremely slippery when wet, and the cliff beside you drops off sharply to the river below.

Even though the trip is not to be taken lightly, hundreds of people attempt this hike every day in the spring when water levels are at their peak.

The popularity and heavy crowds is probably the most dangerous part of the hike. Not to mention the false sense of security you feel being around so many others.

Weaving in and out of people on the narrow and slippery rocks can lead to falls. This is especially important to remember on the way down when you’re tired and not thinking as clearly.

Once you get to the top of Vernal Falls, the view is incredible. But, you need to make sure to stay vigilant.

Never cross a handrail or wander to close to the water. Even though some sections of the river look slow moving and shallow, the river can quickly sweep you off of your feet.

In Yosemite National Park, more people die on the Mist Trail than anywhere else.

If you want to take the hike up a level, continue on the hike to Half Dome which is the most popular trail in the park.

hiking along the highline trail in glacier national park
Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

The Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

Leading hikers alongside the continental divide, the Highline Trail is one of the most famous, and scariest hikes in Glacier National Park.

This trail is a point-to-point hike that goes about 12 miles from the Logan Pass Parking Lot to “The Loop” on Going-to-the-Sun road.

The Highline Trail will impress you with stunning views, wildlife, and wildflowers around every corner.

Even though the elevation gain is only about 800 feet, you should not attempt this hike if you’re scared of heights.

One section of the trail, known as “The Ledge” is only about 4-6 feet wide and has steep cliffs on one side falling over 100 feet to Going-to-the-Sun Road below.

Fortunately, the park service has added handrail cables for constant support. But that doesn’t protect you much when heavy crowds are in the area requiring you to “let-go” to get around other hikers.

climbing the ledges section of longs peak in rocky mountain national park
Longs Peak Climb

Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Long’s Peak hike is a non-technical mountain climb, and one of the most popular “fourteeners” in Colorado, but you should still take it very seriously.

This 14,259 foot peak is known for the unpredictable weather and unexpected snows.

Climbing to the top of Longs Peak via the Keyhole route is 15 miles round-trip. It begins with a 5 mile hike which will lead you to the base of of a boulder field.

From there, you will scramble and boulder-hop up to the keyhole feature ahead. Then it’s just 1.5 miles to the summit. The final stretch is the most challenging and strenuous.

There is no marked path up the boulder field, instead you’ll need to follow the red and yellow bulls-eye markings on the rocks above.

The Long’s Peak hike is scary because of the unpredictable weather and slippery rocks. Combined with the high winds above treeline, the route is one of the most dangerous hikes in Colorado.

precipice trail in acadia national park maine
Precipice Trail

The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park

Iron rungs drilled into steep cliffs guide hikers across exposed rock along the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park.

The hike is only about 2.6 miles long, but it rises 850 feet in elevation and takes you to the top of Champlain Mountain in Maine.

Before entering the trail, tourists will have to challenge themselves on an “intimidator obstacle” to prove that they can traverse the klutsy iron ladders.

If you pass the test, you can continue to the hike itself.

The route zigzags up a slippery granite cliff face with only the rungs to hang onto.

Not every visitor makes it to the top, but those who do get to enjoy some of the most spectacular views in Acadia National Park.

backpackers heading down a steep trail in Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

The Nankoweap Trail in Grand Canyon National Park

Of all the trails in Grand Canyon National Park, the Nankoweap is the most difficult and dangerous.

Most hikers take 2 days to complete the trail, stopping to camp along the way. There is no water and very little shade. So on top of traversing exposed paths, you have to do it while carrying gallons of heavy water.

The outstanding views come alongside 11 miles of exposure including a 5640 foot rim-to-river drop.

And one of the scariest parts about this hike is that it’s difficult to navigate, requires some serous route-finding skills, and has zero cell phone service along the way.

America’s Most Thrilling Hikes

For those seeking a more thrilling hiking experience, America’s National Parks offer trails that will leave you breathless and impressed.

From the steep drop-offs to the unpredictable weather, these hikes are considered among the most dangerous in America.

So if you’re up for it, try one of these trails at one of our nations crown jewels.

Kate is the lead content creator for and has spent over two years living in a camper van conversion. She has traveled through 48 US states and writes about van life, camping and RV living.

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