The soulful benefits of hiking are numerous: Fresh air, natural surroundings and improved mental acuity. The physical benefits are even more pronounced: Improved cardiovascular function, decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol and increased bone density, among other things. But what about those people who are already in excellent physical shape? What motivates them to lace up their tennies and hit the trails? The simple answer is wanderlust, or, a strong desire to travel. Since the earliest days of humanity, we have spread out around the globe, driven not by a need for natural resources, but by a deeper, more primal calling—the need to explore. So, this blog will focus on people who are tired of their local hiking trails and scenic parks, and really want to explore the wild, untouched corners of the USA that few have ever set foot upon. To spice things up, we’ll include some hiking and camping gear suggestions to help get you through these savage, exciting hikes.
The bottom of this list belongs to a freezing, brutal hiking expedition—Mount Rainier. Located in west-central Washington State, Mount Rainier is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and is covered by over 30 square miles of glaciers. If that doesn’t spice things up enough, Mount Rainier is an ACTIVE volcano, which means it has been rumbling and grumbling for decades, and is expected to erupt at any given moment. If you happen to be hiking on Mount Rainier when it erupts, your chances of survival are slim-to-nil. However, hiking this mountain isn’t all doom and gloom—Mount Rainier’s premier hiking trail is the Wonderland Trail, which offers a 93-mile circumnavigation of the peak. Despite the year-round chilly temperatures, hikers will be able to see elk, deer, cougars, Spotted Mountain Owls and some of the most famous wildflowers on the planet. Are you willing to brave an active volcano to enjoy its wondrous natural features, and of course, obtain bragging rights?
One way to stay warm while you hike Mount Rainier is with this 12 Survivors sleeping bag! It is made of durable nylon and polyester, fits adults up to 6-feet tall, features an interior chest pocket, full-foot box, hang loops for storage and airing out and a draft collar with hood draw!
The next spot on this list belongs to The Maze, Utah. Located in Canyonlands National Park, in the southeastern corner of Utah, The Maze is a dizzying labyrinth of red-rock formations, and is considered one of the most remote and least-accessible places in the entire United States. GPS devices don’t work in the Maze, or if they do, they’ll likely lead you astray, so bring a map! The Maze is full of dead-end canyons, gullies and random pitfalls, and with no serviceable roads nearby, emergency services are virtually non-existent. But if you’re map savvy and adventurous, The Maze is home to black bears, bobcats, cougars, big-horn sheep, coyotes, elk and a variety of reptiles and birds. This place is truly a gem—if you can get there!
If you get lost in The Maze, what would you possibly need most (besides directions out)? That’s right…a tent! 12 Survivors offers a 2-person tent that offers two vestibules for gear storage and weather profetcion, a rainfly, nylons carrying bag, pouches, and aluminum poles and stakes!
Things only get dicier with #6—Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah. Angels Landing is a 1,500-foot rock formation deep in southwestern Utah. An interior-exterior, narrow, winding pathway leads to the summit. Since 2004, at least 10 people have died after free-falling 1,000 feet from Angel’s Landings path. The risk of falling is exacerbated by light-headedness and weakness from oxygen deprivation—making Angel’s Landing one of the most dangerous, difficult hikes in the United States. Despite the danger, Zion National Park features mule deer, rock squirrel, gray foxes, Golden Eagles and bighorn sheep, amongst many other amphibians, predators and birds.
For this breath-taking hike, BestinBunch recommends these Timberland Men’s Hiking Boots. They’re 100-percent leather, rubber-soled, durable and waterproof!
The Bright Angel Trail of the Grand Canyon in Arizona deserves the next spot. This 9-mile trek through one of the Grand Canyon’s less-accessible branches is fraught with extreme heat that can dehydrate you within minutes, sudden rainstorms that cause flash flooding, and loose rocks overhead that can come tumbling down at any moment.
Aside from the life-threatening heat, wildlife is abundant along the Bright Angel Trail. Mule deer are common throughout the park, and desert bighorn shoop inhabit the remote slopes of the inner canyon, and are occasionally seen on established trails. Bobcats and coyotes range from the Grand Canyon’s rim to the river, and a small population of mountain lions exists in the park.
For this hot, long trek, BestinBunch recommends the Tact Bivy 2.0 Emergency Kit! It features a sleeping bag, carabiner, survival whistle and a fire starter! Temperatures plummet in the desert at nighttime, in case your hike takes longer than expected!
Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California. This trail is not especially hot, high or strenuous…but it is WET. Hikers can expect a grueling 7-mile trek on stone steps carved directly into the canyon. And did we mention you’ll get WET? Like, jump-in-the-ocean, take-a-shower, stand-in-a-rainstorm wet. The mist comes from the Merced River in the nearby High Sierra, and it makes every single step of this trek a slipping, falling, cracking-your-skull on the granite hazard. All that extra moisture can soak into your clothes and sap your strength, so be sure to eat your Wheaties before attempting the Mist Trail!
What do you need when you can’t keep your balance? A walking staff, that’s what. This aluminum alloy trekking pole features a custom foam grip, padded wrist loops, and interchangeable carbide or rubber tips for varying terrain. When the primary danger is slipping, a 12 Survivors Hiking Staff is the gear you need!
Our next spot on this list belongs to Spooky Gulch, Utah. Located in southern Utah, in the heart of Grand Staircase-Escalante Park, Spooky Gulch is a dark and mysterious place. It is a series of narrow, snake-like paths that twist and turn through the bowls of the Navajo sandstone. While this place isn’t particularly dangerous, claustrophobic hikers beware: the eerie nature of the canyon, combined with jumping spiders, woodlouse, hobo spiders, black widows, California kingsnake and rattlesnakes make Spooky Gulch, Utah, a creepy trek, to say the least.
What do you need when you’re in underground tunnels and can’t see anything around you? That’s right—light! 12 Survivors offers a GeoSpark 150 Lumen Flashlight to illuminate those dark places. We also recommend a GearLight LED Headlamp, which will run for up to 45 hours on 3 AAA batteries!
The deadliest hiking trails often appear deceptively easy. Abrams Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee is short, only 2.5 miles. Trekkers can enjoy the views of black bears, deer, elk and fox among other things. The trail itself is tricky, uneven and rocky, but it is the falls themselves that create the true danger. Abrams Falls is one of the most voluminous waterfalls in the country, and when hikers finally reach the falls themselves, they are presented with a pool at the fall’s base. DO NOT JUMP IN. The falls create an insanely strong current and undertow that has claimed roughly 30 lives in the past 40 years. Accidentally or intentionally, getting into that water is akin to a death sentence.
We recommend taking a 12 Survivors Fish and Fire Survival Pod. With 7 feet of paracord and included carabiners, hikers can hook themselves to other people, tree roots or rocky outcroppings to avoid falling into Abrams Falls deadly currents!
The most dangerous hike in America, in BestinBunch’s humble opinion, is the Kalalau Trail, Hawaii. This 22-mile roundtrip hike is beautiful and deadly. It winds along the Hawaiian cliffsides, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and coastal beaches, but it also crosses 3 major streams that can rise rapidly, without warning. Falling rocks and slippery, narrow trail-points are also potential hazards. Overall, at least 85 people have died on Kalalau Trail. For this trail, we won’t recommend any specific gear, instead, we recommend buying ALL of the gear by using the above links, and once you’ve done that, get your plane ticket to Hawaii and visit the Kalalau Trail!
There are other dangerous hikes, naturally, many of which are in Alaska. Climbing Mount McKinley (Denali) or Mt. Saint Elias is obviously extremely dangerous, but because that is mountain climbing, and not simply hiking, they were omitted. For any hike, make sure that you make all the proper preparations before embarking, which often includes purchasing a hiking permit. As always, you should check with local authorities and parks officials before embarking on any hike, and you must follow all relevant laws and regulations while enjoying the great American outdoors!
As an Amazon Affiliate Writer, I earn commissions from qualifying purchases made by clicking on the links in the blog.