There are many options when it comes to determining the location for the ideal hike. Some individuals look for casual, slow-moving hikes which hardly wear down the soles of their tennis shoes, while others seek the fastest 2-mile round-trip hike which can be finished in an hour or two. The most intense outdoor individuals, however, search for the most challenging trail they can find to push themselves to their very limits. While everyone’s definition of “challenging” will vary, here are three of what we believe to be the most challenging hikes in North America.
Bright Angel Trail, Arizona
One of the Grand Canyon’s most popular and intense trails drops travelers more than 4,400 feet over a course of 8.1 miles. The average gradient throughout the entire length of the trail is more than 10 percent, so knees are always a concern. The massive drop does not pass by many areas to replenish the water supply, so plans for water rationing must be made prior to the descent. While this voyage is not suitable for beginners, experienced hikers and climbers will certainly feel that they’ve met with a formidable challenge upon reaching its completion.
Mount Rainier, Washington
The most ice-covered peak in North America is also a composite volcano comprised of two craters at its summit. This challenging adventure results in approximately three deaths annually due to ice, rock slides, avalanches, weather conditions, and sickness. While their are more than 40 trails throughout the National Park, the one leading to the summit is among the most challenging adventures that can be undertaken in the Pacific Northwest. Only about half of all who attempt the summit the volcano ever reach the top after the 2-4 day hike.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee – North Carolina
The 36 miles which comprise the Great Smoky Mountain National Park provide dozens of trail options for visitors, so the inexperienced can feel comfortable embarking on their own journeys here. The park begins at altitudes of as low as 850 feet and scales into the clouds to over 6,600 feet. Dangers found in the region include large amounts of precipitation, both rain and snow, landslides, heat exhaustion, flooding, and losing the trail. Hikers are rewarded, however, with some of the most beautiful wildlife and plant life in all of the southeastern United States. Visitors should be aware of flooded bridges, downed trees, and the black bears who claim the region as their home.
Top image via cruiznbye