Challenges are fun! Hiking through snow, steep paths and dangerous creatures, makes getting to the peak (or lake or waterfall) all the more rewarding. These are some of America’s most challenging hikes we’ve tried this year. Have you tried any of them? Let us know how they went in the comments below!
Abrams falls trail – 5 miles roundtrip
Abrams Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains, and for good reason. One of the best parts about Abrams Falls is that it’s located just a few miles from Cades Cove, making it easy to visit on a day trip from Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.
Abrams Falls Trail: 5 Miles Roundtrip
The hike to Abrams Falls is only 5 miles roundtrip, making it an easy day hike for families with kids or anyone looking for a short hike near Gatlinburg. The trailhead can be found at the Sugarlands Visitor Center off Newfound Gap Road (US-441). From there, you’ll follow the Laurel Branch Trail as it winds its way through forested terrain and past several other waterfalls.
Halfway through your hike, you’ll come upon a junction where you can choose to continue on the Laurel Branch Trail toward Laurel Falls or take a right onto the Trillium Gap Trail that leads to Abrams Falls. It’s worth taking at least 10 minutes to explore these two beautiful waterfalls before heading back down to your car at Sugarlands Visitor Center.
The Maze, Canyonlands NP in Utah – The remoteness
he remoteness of the Maze is part of its allure. The area is so remote that it’s not even accessible by road; you have to hike in or fly in by helicopter. And if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, this is it!
The Maze is a labyrinth of towering sandstone rock formations and narrow canyons that twist and turn through the desert landscape. This labyrinth was formed over millions of years as water carved out the canyons.
The Maze is located in Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. It’s one of four areas that make up Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky (a scenic overlook), Needles (another scenic overlook), the Maze, and riverside hiking trails along the Colorado River (which flows through all four areas).
The landscape around The Maze doesn’t change much throughout the year. During cooler months, temperatures range from 40 degrees F (4 C) at night to 80 degrees F (27 C) during the day; during warmer months, temperatures range from 50-95 degrees F (10-35 C).
Huckleberry Mountain Trail Montana – The grizzly bears
The Huckleberry Mountain Trail Montana is a trail which travels through the Bob Marshall Wilderness. It is one of the best hiking trails in Montana. The trail is named after the huckleberries which grow along it. These berries can be found in abundance during late summer months.
The trail is quite easy to follow and is marked with cairns throughout its length. There are several waterfalls along this trail, which makes it especially attractive during spring and fall when they are flowing with water.
The trail passes through a variety of terrain and ecosystems, including grasslands, forests, meadows and subalpine regions. This makes it an ideal place for viewing wildlife such as elk, moose and bear!
Pikes Peak Trail, Colorado – the unpredictable weather and lightning bolts
The Pikes Peak Trail is a rugged 12.4-mile out-and-back hike through the Pike National Forest that climbs to the summit of Colorado’s storied 14,115-foot mountain. The trail gains about 6,700 feet in elevation and offers spectacular views of Pikes Peak along with some challenging terrain.
The trip starts at Manitou Springs and follows the Barr Trail up the lower portion of Pikes Peak before veering off onto its own path to the summit. The trail passes through high alpine meadows, aspen forests and open areas with views of Ute Pass, Mt. Rosa and Mt. Evans.
The trail can be difficult to follow at times due to numerous intersecting trails and confusing signage, but it’s easy to stay on track if you take your time and pay attention to detail (the summit sign is hard to miss).
Bright Angel Trail, AZ – the heat!
Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. This trail is a hot, dusty, and steep hike that leads to the Colorado River below. Hikers should be in good physical condition, as it will take at least two days to complete.
Bright Angel Trail starts at the Grand Canyon Lodge and ends at Indian Garden Campground. The distance between these two points is 11 miles (18 km), but there are three different campsites along this path where hikers can spend a night or two. Along the way, you will cross streams and pass through narrows that require you to squeeze through some spots.
The Bright Angel Trail descends from 6,560 feet (2,000 m) to 3,250 feet (1,000 m) over its length which makes for a steep decline if you aren’t ready for it! You’ll also be hiking through deep sand in some places so make sure you have sturdy shoes on!
Devil’s Path, Catskill mountains – 14000 ft and 25 mile
If you’re looking for a monster hike, the Devil’s Path is it! This 25 mile trail is one of the most challenging hikes in the United States. It’s so tough that only about 10% of people who start the trail make it all the way to the end.
The Devil’s Path is located in the Catskill Mountains, about an hour north of New York City. It begins at the highest point in the Catskills – Slide Mountain (4200 ft). From there, it follows a circuitous route through 4 other mountains: Doubletop, West Kill, Blackhead and Plateau, ending at Dutcher Notch (about 4000 ft). The path is mostly above 3500 ft for its entire length.
The Devil’s Path gets its name from a Native American legend that tells how a demon named “Old Scratch” used to travel up and down this mountain range while hunting humans as food. He would trap his prey by making them feel safe by pretending to be their friend, then kill them when they were least expecting it!
Muir Snowfield Hiking Trail, Washington – Snowstorms
The Muir Snowfield is a hiking trail in Washington that is known for its snowstorms. It is located in the Olympic National Park and it is named after John Muir, who was one of the founders of the Sierra Club. The hike takes about 10 hours to complete and it involves crossing over a glacier, which can be dangerous. The Muir Snowfield Hiking Trail is also known as the Snowpack Pass Trail.
The trailhead for the Muir Snowfield Hiking Trail is located at Hurricane Hill on Highway 101. It starts out with an elevation of 1,300 feet above sea level, but it eventually rises to 3,500 feet above sea level at its highest point. You will find many different types of wildlife along this trail including mountain goats, deer, marmots and black bears. You also might see some bald eagles flying overhead as they look for their next meal!
Mt Mckinley, Alaska – Avalanches and landslides
The mountain is located in the heart of Denali National Park, which is home to some of the largest concentrations of grizzly bears and caribou in North America. The park is also home to seven rivers that run through it.
Mt McKinley, named after President William McKinley, stands at an impressive 20,000 feet tall, making it the tallest peak in North America. The mountain has been climbed only twice: once in 1913 by a party led by Hudson Stuck and once again in 1953 when Bradford Washburn and Dick Bass became the first people ever to reach its summit via its south face (the most difficult route).
The mountain has a highly varied terrain, with glaciers that are 6 miles long on its north face, icefields that cover 2/3rds of its surface area, and granite peaks that rise up to 20,320 feet above sea level. The mountain rises 18,000 feet above lake level (sea level), making it the highest peak in North America.
Mt McKinley experiences several types of avalanches and landslides every year because of its steep incline and high elevation. These types of natural disasters can cause extensive damage to both wildlife and humans who may be caught in their paths.
Mist trail, Yosemite – Rain, mist, slippery rocks and a challenging last stretch!
The Mist Trail is one of the most famous trails in Yosemite. It leads to the top of Vernal Fall, one of the two main waterfalls on the Merced River that flows through Yosemite Valley. The trail is a short hike (2 miles) but it’s not an easy one! There are no railings to hold onto; most of it is covered with rocks, so keep your eyes open! And there are a few slippery stretches as well.
It’s best to start your hike early in the morning, before it gets too hot because even though this trail is short, it’s pretty tiring. It’s also best to avoid it during or after rain storms because some parts can be very slippery and dangerous.
The trail starts at Happy Isles and ends at the footbridge across from Vernal Fall. The first part of the trail is quite steep as you climb up from Happy Isles but then it flattens out and becomes a more gradual climb towards Vernal Fall. Along the way you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall along with lots of other things going on around you: birds chirping happily in the trees, squirrels running around looking for food and even deer grazing peacefully among them!
Mount Washington, New Hampshire – strong winds, extreme cold
It’s the most extreme weather in the world. Mount Washington, New Hampshire is known as “the windiest place on Earth.” The highest peak in the Northeast, it can reach hurricane force winds up to 200 mph. Only those with a death wish would climb it without a guide.
Mount Washington is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world because of its unpredictable weather conditions. The mountain is home to some of New England’s most extreme storms and even has its own weather station!
The summit sees an average of 310 inches (788 cm) of snowfall per year. It’s so snowy that if you dug a hole down through all that snow and into bedrock, you’d find yourself at least 100 feet (30 m) lower than when you started digging!
The winds are so strong that they’ve been clocked at over 200 mph (320 km/h). The wind chill factor there is often below -50°F (-45°C). In other words, it’s so cold that it can literally freeze your flesh solid within minutes if you’re not dressed properly or protected from the elements by some sort of shelter.
If you love a challenge and want to get your cardio on, try hiking some of the hardest trails in America. Just be sure to dress appropriately and take plenty of water! Check out our summaries and let us know what you think!