Our planet is truly a treasure trove of natural beauties, and the biggest and most beautiful of them all are mountains. Scattered all across the globe are these gigantic, stunning structures of rock, gifts of mother nature that we all can enjoy and appreciate. As with most of Mother Gaia's blessings, some of these alpine miracles come with obstacles, seemingly endless voyages, at the end of which, however, you can experience breathtaking views of Planet Earth, that only a rare few ever get to enjoy, and make it absolutely worth it. Reaching the peaks of these mountains is a difficult task that only a few ever successfully undertake.
1. Mount Washington, New Hampshire
Mount Washington is 6,288 feet of pure hiking gold, for the adventurer that loves a challenge. The journey to the summit of the tallest mountain in New Hampshire is a long and strenuous one (with world record wind speeds) but paved with an undeniably stunning plethora of wildlife.
It is arguably one of the deadliest trails in northeastern America. The climb to the top can be filled with freezing gusts of wind due to the elevation and strong winds.
The two most popular routes to the summit are the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and the Lion’s Head Trail. The former is the easiest, and quite scenic, but has the drawback of being more crowded.
The Boott Spur trail is slightly longer but offers a more beautiful view. It eventually connects back to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
The Lion’s Head trail is the same length as the Tuckerman Ravine trail but is heavily laden with many steep paths and sharper edges. Facing the king of the jungle is a task left to the professionals.
2. The Maze Canyonlands, Utah
Located on the outskirts of Moab, Utah, about 250 miles from Salt Lake City, Canyonlands National Park is a valley of red-rock hills. Spanning over 257,640 acres, this massive landscape is divided into three major districts: The Needles, the Island in the Sky and the Maze.
Island in the Sky is a beautiful and great option for a challenging but not too dangerous hike. The Needles are a little harder to reach, and usually, require some mode of transport to reach the enthralling natural landscape that lay within its corners.
The Maze is ideal for the practiced hiker, looking for an off-road and off-trail experience. What this gorgeous expanse lacks in height, it more than makes up for in length and depth. It is also extremely isolated, which adds immensely to the danger.
The nearest ranger station is nearly 3-6 hours away on four wheels, which means hikers need to be trained and prepared. This does, however, make this a popular destination for mountain biking, offering an opportunity to test your skills, and enjoy the clean, sweet air of one of nature’s most beautiful landscapes.
3. Longs Peak, Colorado
Welcome to the Rocky Mountains National Park. Hidden under its massive blanket of snow, with its head poking out, is one white-sprinkled treasure called Longs Peak. While the mountain itself is only 5.3 miles wrongs, the entire trail winds around to 8.5 miles.
This particular trail starts at 9,392 feet and takes you another 3000 feet up. The summit stands at over 14,000 feet. It is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. The most dangerous part of this trail is the Keyhole route that falls between Longs Peak and Storm Peak.
The Keyhole trek comes with a high elevation gain of 5000 feet and an even higher fall-risk. Over 15,000 people a year attempt to reach the summit and recent records have shown only a 47% success rate.
Many have died attempting to climb this mountain, which is why it is only for experienced hikers. It is graded as a Grade 3 Scramble/Climb. I’m not a hiker, but I can guess what that means.
4. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
Kalalau trail is in the Na Pali Coast State Park in Kauai. The Park is named for its towering mountains, as Na Pali translates to "High Peak". It is one of the most beautiful and most dangerous treks in the world. It is especially well known for its view, which can be seen during the opening helicopter scene in the 1993 movie 'Jurassic Park'.
To get a closer and more realistic view of this stunning landscape, however, you will need to prepare yourself for a 22-mile journey along the trail and back again. The trail itself is eleven miles, stretching across the northwestern side of Kauai, and ending at the cliffs of Kalalau beach.
The trail itself offers unbelievable natural wonders, and not only ends at a beach but has a few more in the middle. The only other campsite, besides the one 11 miles in at Kalalau beach is 6 miles in at Hanakapiaai Beach. While this beach is safe for setting up camp, it is not safe for swimming. The Beach is isolated from lifeguards. Heavy currents mixed with rocky cliffs make swimming a dangerous affair, risking being swept towards the sharp rocks.
There is also little cell signal and the trail is paved with thick red mud making the trail not only long and arduous but also slippery. Anyone going on this trek needs to prepare and pre-plan, and ensure all their equipment, tents, and portable stoves are in full working condition before embarking. Also, you'll need to get a permit before trekking because the Kalalau trail is located in a state-protected national park.
5. Rover’s Run Trail, Alaska
Campbell's Creek in Anchorage, Alaska is home to one of the most dangerous hiking and biking trails, and coincidentally, one of the most popular as well.
Rovers Run is an 8-mile loop cutting through a forest, intertwined with a quiet serene stream that makes for a beautiful view while traveling. Both the run trail and the bike trail are immensely popular, though the journey itself is not for those looking for a leisurely stroll or a quick round of pedaling. The hills and wildlife combined make it a veritable obstacle course.
To add to the danger, biologists, after studying the area have noted a steady rise in the presence of bears through the park, as they often feed on the salmon that come to Campbell's Creek to spawn. Incidents of mauling have increased drastically in the last few years.
Rovers run trail is still a great try if you're an avid hiker or cyclist. Just make sure to travel in a group and stay sharp!
6. Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea is a must-try destination for the experienced climber. The trail consists of a thin winding pathway through rugged terrains and spectacular Flora and fauna. Because of the size of the trail, the trek can only be made in a single file, though it is still advisable to make the journey with a group.
This trail is also an important part of the world's history, and it is where thousands of Australians fought and won against an even bigger Japanese army during the Second World War, for claim over the land. Papua New Guinea is less than 100 miles from the Australian mainland making it a very popular destination for hikers from the land down under.
However, according to the Kokoda Track Authority, a governmental body created to manage and promote the trail for tourism, there are many parts of the trail that can be enjoyed by less experienced hikers, school kids, and retirees. What a place for a field trip!
7. Drakensberg Traverse, Africa
This magnificent mountain range is located between South Africa and Lesotho and is home to the largest mountains, and the highest peaks of both South Africa and Lesotho. With altitudes of nearly 13,000 feet, the view from the summit of the highest peak will have you looking down on South Africa.
It is without a doubt one of the most brilliant and vibrant landscapes I have ever had the privilege of seeing pictures of.
There are nearly 10 different routes that one can take to cross through this 150-mile mountainous trail. Whichever route you take, completing the trail takes a sum total of at least 42 hours and that’s for the most proficient of hikers. An ordinary or novice level hiker should set aside at least ten to fifteen days to cross the entirety of this wondrous expanse of natural power and beauty.
There are over 30 ridges and hills to be crossed while completing this trek, which reaches elevation levels almost as high as Mount Everest. The best time to visit is between summer and winter, to avoid the onslaught of thunderstorms and snowstorms respectively.
8. The Dolomites Via Ferrata, Italy
Via Ferrata’s are a type of climbing route that hikers can enjoy in certain parts of the world, and the term itself is Italian for “iron path”.
They are specifically protected pathways found through mountainous and rocky regions, consisting of rungs, ropes, ladders, bridges and many other man-made contraptions to assist you in your dangerous journey. It’s a fantastic new experience for amateur hikers and combines the fun of rock climbing with alpine hiking.
One of the most well-known and exciting challenges for every hiking enthusiast (with some training) is the Dolomites in Northeast Italy. This range takes its name from the mineral the mountainous rocks are made of, dolomite, and is also known as the “Pale Mountains”, made up of cliffs of light-gray rock, covered in a blanket of snow and peppered with elements of green and flowers.
Unlike most Via Ferrata’s, that were built for tourism and travel, this one was built during a time of turmoil in history. In the First World War, when this Via Ferrata was first set up, it was used for Italian troops to safely cross the mountains. The trail through these mountains is still layered with treasures and relics from that historical time period. Now, however, it allows us to cross safely.
9. Mount Huashan, China
Mount Huashan is only 75 miles from Xian, a very popular city in China, and can be made by car. While getting to the base of the trail might be easy, the climb to the top is everything but. It is one of the most treacherous, terrifying and risky climbs in the world. So, naturally, that means the view from the top is unbelievably gorgeous.
To get to the summit, or even close to the trail that leads to the summit, you will face a series of thin, steep stairs embedded into the surface of the mountain, along with numerous high intensity straight vertical climbs.
The 7-mile trail itself winds around the mountain and is supported mainly by wooden planks, held together with nails, and loose chains enclosing it, making it an incredibly dangerous expedition. This also contributed to the trails' second most common name, “the plank walk”.
The summit itself stands tall at nearly 8,000 feet, and while it might not be the tallest mountain, the view from the peak is a sea of white-topped mountains, with Taoists temples and shrines atop each one. This mountain range has made its place not only in the bucket lists of every adrenaline-junkie but also in the land’s ancient folklore.
10. Aonach Eagach Ridge, Scotland
Off to the land of kilts, bagpipes, and amazingly cool names. Settled in the Scottish Highlands, north of the Glen Coe region, It is well known as the narrowest ridge in the entire sub-continent, which has led to it being dubbed ‘the hardest hike in Scotland’.
The trail takes you across the whole ridge, spanning a little over 6 miles in length, coupled with a 3000-foot climb to the summit of the mountain. Hikers refer to this as a Grade 2 scrambling climb, given the narrowness and depth of the ridge.
The climb is made more aesthetic for photos, but more dangerous as well, by heavy fog and mist. Moving further up the mountain, the mist can take a sharp and cold turn. It also makes the rocky pathway more slippery, increasing fall-risk.
Once you make it to the top, though, every frightened, fearful moment will be worth it, as you look down at a fog-laden endless green, gray and blue canvas, made up of everything wonderful in this world.