I am so glad you are here! If you are searching for the hardest hikes in the world, we have many things in common. Just like me and some of the top travel experts, you also love hiking and exploring the best dream destinations on the planet and their challenging hiking trails.
What makes the hardest hikes in the world? It can be an unmarked trail, hiking at a high altitude for several days, or a trail on the edge of an active volcano. With so many amazing trails to choose from, here you find the ultimate list of the top 20 Hardest Hikes in the World hand-picked by Travel Experts all over the world!
But for any adventurer seeker out there, these hiking trails are for avid hikers. It requires not only experience and bravery, but also, preparation and general physical fitness for your hiking.
These hardest hikes in the world that you are about to see, are not for faint-hearted hikers. They have a mix of climbing, some with crevasse movement, glacier traversing, exposed areas, elevation gain, muddy terrain, and even a mix of wildlife, falling rocks, or unmarked trails, these hikes are not for faint-hearted hikers.
From the trails used during World War II in the Pacific to the edges of the Grand Canyon, from active volcanos in Africa to the high altitude in the Himalayas.
I recommend you also check the following:
- Complete fitness preparation guide for hiking on vacation.
- Best Hikes in the World
- 150+ Best Captions for Trekking
- Hardest Hikes in the World | 10 Essentials Tips
- Hardest Hikes in the World: AMERICAS
- Hardest Hikes in the World: ASIA/ PACIFIC
- Hardest Hikes in the World: EUROPE
- Hardest Hikes in the World: AFRICA
- Hardest Hikes in the World | Essential Packing Gear
- Hardest Hikes in the World Conclusion
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Hardest Hikes in the World | 10 Essentials Tips
Before we get started on this amazing list of the 20 Hardest Hikes in the World, let’s remember to always travel safely:
- No Cell Phone Service: Cell phones do not work in most places in the backcountry and GPS is sometimes unreliable – Consider carrying a Satellite Phone with Maps and GPS Navigation.
- Do not hike at night: If you are camping, plan to get to your campsite before dark.
- First-aid kit: Always remember to pack a first-aid kit for your hikes.
- Difficult Hiking Trails: “Difficult Hiking Trails” are characterized by steep elevations, increasingly difficult terrain, and longer distances. Only experienced hikers should attempt these trails
- Be physically prepared: Many of these hikes are easy and can be done by anyone. A couple of the hikes are epic and I recommend following a Plan for Hiking Fitness preparation prior to attempting any long or challenging hike.
- Consider the high altitude: Many of the places listed here, are at a high altitude. Make sure you acclimate before you start your hiking, and pack an Altitude Sickness Relief.
- Bring plenty of water: Remember you will be outdoors in the sun and you will need to drink a lot of water. My LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle has been my lifesaver for all my trips. I can refill this bottle anywhere and it comes with a carabiner to connect it to my daypack.
- Bring food: You will be out doing some heavy physical activities, so it is important to pack high-energy food for hiking.
- Check the Weather: Check the current weather forecast and be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
- Leave no Trace: Be a responsible traveler, it is all about enjoying nature and ensuring you help to preserve the environment.
Hardest Hikes in the World: AMERICAS
1. Harding Icefield Trail
- Location: Seward, Alaska – USA
- Distance: 13 km | 8.2 miles
- Duration: 6-8 hours
- Best Time to Visit: May to September
- Hike Expert: Paula from Paula Pins the Planet
Let’s start this list of the hardest hikes in the world, with this spectacular day hike in the last frontier, Alaska! When you hike the Harding Icefield trail, your day starts with the easy, but also incredible Exit Glacier Hike. The beginning of the trail winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passing through heather-filled meadows, and ultimately starts to climb above the tree line.
The trail takes you directly to the Harding Icefield trail, where you start to see the breathtaking view of the Icefields.
Besides being only an 8.2-mile long trail, it is considered strenuous, gaining approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. But what makes it one of the hardest hikes in the world is that the trail is covered in snow, especially during colder months, and it is considered a mountaineering route.
Expect to find steep, snow-covered slopes, difficult route-finding, and avalanche hazards, with trails covered in varying amounts of snow. If you hike in wintertime, I recommend bringing some microspikes for hiking in the snow to be able to hike safely in this terrain.
Also, black bears are spotted daily here, so forget the altitude effects if you are short of breath, and make noise when you hike to avoid surprising a bear. And this advice goes to any hiking trail on any Alaska itinerary – Always carry a bear spray with you!
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2. Nankoweap Trail, Grand Canyon
- Location: Arizona, USA
- Distance: 22 km | 14 miles
- Duration: 3-6 hours
- Best Time to Visit: For hiking better to visit during the spring or fall
- Hike Expert: Meg of Fox in the Forest
Want to tackle one of the hardest hikes in the world? If so then one of the best things for you to do at the Grand Canyon is hike the grueling, Nankoweap Trail.
It’s easily the most difficult hike in the Grand Canyon and is a largely unmaintained 14-mile trail along the north rim of the canyon. It descends 6,040 feet as you make your way from the trailhead at Saddle Mountain, along the Nankoweap Creek, and to the Colorado River.
It’s also a largely waterless trail that features lots of exposure. Therefore, hikers should come prepared with plenty of water and gear to help with their route and altitude conditions, such as Garmin smartwatches for hiking. Also, to protect themselves from the harsh sun. Hikers should also plan to tackle this hike over the course of two days and can spend the night at either Marion Point or Tilted Mesa.
In fact, it’s about 150 yards past the point where the trail meets Marion Point that you can find some fresh water. However, pro hikers who tackle this hike will be rewarded with stellar views and a sense of solitude that is hard to find elsewhere in the Grand Canyon.
Read More: The 15 top-rated hiking in Arizona
3. Half Dome Trail
- Location: Yosemite National Park, United States
- Distance: 24 km | 15 miles there-and-back
- Duration: 10-12 hours
- Best Time to Visit: June to September
- Hike Expert: Katy from A Rambling Unicorn
If you’re looking for one of the hardest hikes in the world with stunning views, it’s hard to beat Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Located in California’s spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range, Half Dome is a striking granite formation that towers over the park. Climbing to the top of Half Dome is a difficult feat that challenges even the most seasoned adventurers.
The Half Dome Trail is a 15-mile (24 km) trek that starts in Yosemite Valley and climbs 5193 feet (1582 m) before reaching the top. One of the hardest parts about the trail is climbing the Half Dome cables at the end of the hike. The final push to the top involves ascending near-vertical cables for 400 feet.
Permits are required to climb Half Dome and they are notoriously hard to come by. Most permits are distributed by lottery in the spring, although a small number are also available via a daily lottery.
If you can’t get a permit for a day hike, consider applying for a Half Dome backpacking permit instead. Camping partway to the top is a great strategy to break the hike into shorter sections for those who can’t tackle the entire trek in a single day.
4. Mount Rainier
- Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
- Distance: 13-19 km | 8-12 miles
- Duration: 3-days
- Best Time to Visit: Summer (May-August)
- Hike Expert: Allison from She Dreams of Alpine
Standing 14,411 feet tall near Seattle, Mount Rainier is a volcano that is the highest peak in Washington (and the 4th highest peak in the lower 48 states). But the height isn’t what makes it one of the hardest hikes in the world – it’s the glaciation and crevasses that create a true technical challenge.
Of the approximately 10,000 people who come to hike Mount Rainier each year, the success rate of summit attempts is only about 50%.
There are about 40 routes that lead to the summit of Rainier, and the three most popular are Disappointment Cleaver, Emmons-Winthrop, and Kautz Glacier. All of these routes require basic mountaineering skills to reach the summit safely.
Disappointment Cleaver is the easiest route, and if you are experienced in mountaineering and crevasse rescue, you can make your way up this route on your own. However, many people will probably opt to hire a guide to safely summit Mount Rainier. It’s generally best to take at least a couple of days on Rainier and set up camp before summiting.
While standing on the top of Mount Rainier requires a lot of effort and struggle, the accomplishment and the incredible views are well worth it.
5. Angels Landing Hike
- Location: Utah, USA
- Distance: 7.2 km | 4.5 miles
- Duration: 3-6 hours
- Best Time to Visit: The trail is open year-round, but the best times to visit are February through October
- Hike Expert: David from The World Travel Guy
This list of hardest hikes in the world wouldn’t be complete without the Angels Landing hike. It is known for being one of the scariest and deadliest hikes in the United States, and it’s also one of the most amazing experiences you can have in the American west.
This is a very popular and scenic hike in Zion National Park (Utah) that now requires permits to hike the chain section since 2022. It’s safe enough as long as you walk carefully and take your time, but try to avoid doing this hike in rainy or icy weather.
The final summit view at Angels Landing gives you a 360-degree panorama of Zion Canyon, along with the tiny roads and shuttle buses below, and you can even look down at the gigantic peak you just climbed!
You will definitely need shoe spikes that fit over your hiking shoes towards the top which can be rented for $10-12 in town, or you can buy your own for about $25. There is a 10ft patch of ice just below the top and no chains on that section to hold on to. Go early and beat the crowds.
Wonderful experience and fantastic views the way up to the summit, but this hike is NOT meant for people severely afraid of heights.
Read More: The 15 most amazing hiking in Sedona
6. Kalalau Trail
- Location: Kauai, Hawaii – USA
- Distance: 35 km | 22 miles
- Duration: 2-3 days
- Best Time to Visit: Kalalau is a beautiful year-round
- Hike Expert: Jeanine from Le Wild Explorer
Kauai is one of the Hawaiian islands and is home to the stunning Na Pali Coast. The coastline can be seen via boat, helicopter, or a 22-mile hike. For those who are up for the long hike with hundreds of switchbacks, an elevation gain of over 6,000 feet, and drop-off cliffs, then you’ll be in for a real treat.
The Kalalau Trail is part of the Na Pali Coast State Wildness Park and it is considered one of the hardest hikes in the world. The reason is that the trail is narrow, steep, rocky, and dotted with natural hazards ranging from strong water currents to falling rocks. A permit is needed for the hike. Only 60 hikers are allowed on the trail each day so you’ll often have amazing views all to yourself.
Three nights are recommended to complete and enjoy the trail but many do it in two. The challenge is the constant elevation change along with often muddy terrain.
Kauai’s rainy season stretches from December to March however light rain can occur at any time of the year.
That being said temperatures are moderate and anytime outside during the rainy season is the best time to go. Those how to make the trek will enjoy the secluded Kalalau Beach and the most amazing views!
7. Volcan Acatenango
- Location: Guatemala
- Distance: 18 km | 11 miles
- Duration: 2-days
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to hike Acatenango is during Guatemala’s dry season, from November to April.
- Hike Expert: Erin from Pina Travels
Volcan Acatenango in Guatemala is a stratovolcano that is located close to the city of Antigua. It’s been dormant since the early 20th century, making it safe to hike. Hiking Volcano Acatenango is hard because most of the journey is on a steep incline which becomes tougher the higher you go.
With the total elevation gain being 5150 ft./ 1500 m, the final hour of the hike is the toughest. You are so high up that you’re climbing through volcanic sand instead of solid ground. Combined with the altitude, it’s strenuous.
Hiking Acatenango is worth the pain because when you reach the summit, you have views of an actively erupting volcano. The famous Volcan Fuego is directly next to Acatenango. Since 2002, Fuego has had many small eruptions every day.
When at the summit of Acatenango, you can see unprecedented views of the smoke, ash, and lava as it explodes from Volcan Fuego’s crater. And, you’ll feel the earth trembling and shaking as well.
To climb Acatenango, most hikers join a guided tour out of Antigua. The hike is typically done over 2 days, with one night spent in base camp so you can see Volcan Fuego erupting overnight.
8. O-Trek, Patagonia
- Location: Patagonia, Argentina
- Distance: 126 km |
- Duration: 6-10 days
- Best Time to Visit: November to March is the best
- Hike Expert: Carolina from Veggie Wayfare
The W-trek in Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most hiked paths in all of Patagonia, in fact, if your trip coincides with summer, you will need to book your camping spot or Refugio well in advance to have a chance at completing the hike.
That is unless you are up for the more challenging – yet so much more scenic – 10-day hike called the O-trek. Considered one of the hardest hikes in the world, and one of the ultimate South American hikes.
The O-trek is not for the faint-hearted, while the hike itself is not very technical it is a full 126 kilometers. In addition, you will need to carry your food supplies, tent & sleeping bag (if you choose not to sleep in a Refugio), and other trekking necessities with you on your back for the full 126 kilometers.
The hike is well-signposted and can be easily done without a guide. Make sure to book your refugios in advance at the visitor’s information center in Puerto Natales. While strenuous, the hike is much more scenic than the route taken on the W-trek. The views will serve as a reminder that those aching calves are well worth it.
- Location: Closest major city is Cusco, Peru
- Distance: 72.5 km | 45 Miles – which includes a stop at Rainbow Mountain
- Duration: 4-6 days
- Best time to hike: Dry Season, May – October, but keep in mind, that nights are much colder
- Hike Expert: Meg from Packing Up The Pieces
The Ausangate circuit is one of the best hikes in Peru, and also one of the country’s hardest hikes. This high-altitude trek never dips below 4,000 meters and includes hiking over mountain passes at a staggering 5,200 m.
It also continues to top the lists for one of the hardest hikes in the world, but also one of the most beautiful hikes. The Ausangate trek boasts trails around sparkling alpine lakes, glacial peaked mountains, free-range alpacas, and remarkable landscapes.
The standard trekking route is 4 6 days and circles around the stunning Ausangate Mountain, one of the most sacred Apus, or Mountain God to the Incas. Eager hikers should plan on a 6-day trek to include a stop at the breathtaking Rainbow Mountain and otherworldly Red Canyon. Bonus, see this popular destination without the crowds.
For those who feel comfortable in their hiking abilities, it is possible to complete the Ausangate trek without a guide. There are no villages or shops along the way, so be prepared to carry all your own food and gear in high-altitude conditions. There are no guesthouses, but there are small covered shelters to pitch a tent.
However, there are plenty of guided tour options which usually include proper equipment, all your meals, and sometimes a mule. The Ausangate Trek is a challenging, yet rewarding hike in Peru for those who want to get a taste of the untouched Andes.
Hardest Hikes in the World: ASIA/ PACIFIC
10. Kokoda Track – Papua New Guinea
- Location: Papua New Guinea
- Distance: 96 kilometers | 60 miles
- Duration: 8-10 days
- Best Time to Visit: During the dry season, which runs from April to October but you should still expect rain
- Hike Expert: Jackson from Journey Era
The most popular hike in Papua New Guinea is most definitely the Kokoda Track. The Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea is known as one of the hardest hikes in the world.
It also has an immense historical significance as it was the epicenter of the Kokoda Battle between the Japanese and the Australian Forces in WWII. The grueling battle of war along the muddy ridges of the Kokoda track was played out in harsh tropical conditions.
Today, trekkers from around the world reflect on the four pillars of Kokoda, which are mate-ship, endurance, sacrifice, and courage as they push themselves physically and mentally to complete the arduous journey across the Kokoda Track. The Kokoda Track is a challenging single-file trail, which runs right through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea.
The Track begins at Owers’ Corner in Central Province, which is 50 kilometers east of the capital, Port Moresby. The Kokoda Track finishes in the village of Kokoda, which is in the Oro Province.
The trail is a total distance of 96 kilometers, which sounds like a long way but when you break it up over 8 days it becomes a manageable 12 kilometers a day. The important part to consider is that it is very slow going due to the muddy and uneven terrain. 12 kilometers on flat terrain walking around the local park may take you 2-3 hours but on the Kokoda Track, you can expect to go twice as slow so 5-8 hours a day of hiking is about the norm.
Each night you will camp in a designated site or stay in a thatch hut at one of the local villages along the route, which is all part of the Kokoda experience.
Read More: 150+ Best Trekking Captions
11. Everest Base Camp (EBC)
- Location: Everest Region, Nepal
- Distance: 120 kilometers | 75 miles
- Duration: 12-day
- Best time to visit: pre-monsoon season from March to May, or in the post-monsoon season from late September until the end of November
- Hike Expert: Campbell and Alya from Stringy Nomads
The Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in Nepal is one of the most famous and also, the hardest hikes in the world. Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5,364m is where some of the best mountaineers in the world start their attempt to climb the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest.
The hike to Everest Base Camp is a challenging 12-day trek at a high altitude and completing this hike is a significant accomplishment. The trekking route that is most commonly followed is 120 kilometers long starting at the mountain village of Lukla in Nepal.
The trail is known for its spectacular mountain scenery, tough climbs, and fascinating Sherpa culture and Buddhist temples. The trek to Everest Base Camp is a tea house trek, trekkers stay in small local guest houses known as tea houses in the mountain settlements on the trail. Accommodation at the tea houses is cheap and basic, meals are served and no bookings are necessary.
The EBC trek can be done independently, without a guide since the route is easy to follow, there is no technical climbing, and food and shelter is available. Guided hikes are offered by many companies or a private guide or porter can be arranged.
12. Annapurna Circuit Trek
- Location: Annapurna region, Nepal
- Distance: 131 kilometers | 82 miles
- Duration: 12-21 days
- Best time to visit: October and November
- Hike Expert: Ellis from Backpack Adventures
The Annapurna Circuit trek is one of the hardest hikes in the world. Like the name suggests you hike around the Annapurna mountain range which requires going over the Thorung La pass at 5416 meters high.
The height is what makes this trek challenging. That said, anyone who is reasonably fit could do this hike with or without a guide. It is a popular trail with lots of facilities on the way. The key is to take it slow to give your body enough time to adjust.
The Annapurna Circuit trek is also one of the most diverse trails in Nepal. Going from the tropical lush and green lowlands to the farmed terraced hills and the arid high-altitude mountains. The highlights are definitely the view of the snow-capped peaks around you when you cross the Thorung La.
On the way, you will meet the different ethnic groups that live in Annapurna. The rural villages that you pass through all have their own character. On the way, there are plenty of basic hotels and restaurants to stay the night.
The full trek starts in Besisahar and ends in Beni. This would take more than 3 weeks. Due to road access, there are now many ways to make the hike a bit shorter.
13. Kowloon Peak Hong Kong
- Location: Ma On Shan Country Park, Kowloon – Hong Kong.
- Distance: 5km (3 miles) to 10km (6 miles) depending on which route you take.
- Duration: 3-4 hours
- Best time to visit: As Hong Kong is located in the tropics, winter and spring (Nov to Apr) are the best times for hiking in the territory. Avoid hiking in the summer months (May to Oct).
- Hike Expert: Steve from The Trip Goes On
Kowloon Peak is the highest mountain on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. It is only 602 meters (1,975 feet) tall, however, it is one of the toughest and most dangerous hiking trails in the territory thanks to its steep paths covered by trees, roots, and large boulders, with frequent sheer drops.
Suicide Cliff is a large, rocky outcrop near the top of the mountain offering fantastic views of the city. But be warned, it doesn’t have this name for anything, and doing the hike is considered suicidal by many. Each year people die on this trail so it is recommended for only the most experienced and prepared hikers.
There are around four main routes leading up to Kowloon Peak. The most direct routes (the south and west) are the most dangerous. The trails coming from the north and east are easier/safer and recommended.
14. Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Location: Lijiang, Yunnan, China
- Distance: 26 km | 15.7 miles
- Duration: 2 days
- Best Time to Visit: April-May, October-November
- Hike Expert: Pafoua from Her Wanderful World
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the most popular hikes in China and is considered one of the hardest hikes in the world because of the high altitude, and its incredibly steep cliffs of over 2,000 meters (6,560 ft.).
It offers beautiful views of the Jinsha River, the surrounding mountains, and the gorge. Make sure to visit during October or November, when the weather is most pleasant and the river is calmer.
The hike is well-known to be a 2-day hike with the first half taking hikers from the upper gorge through to the Naxi village, beyond the 28 bends which is known as the hardest part of the hike, and through to the Halfway Guest House where guests can stay the night and rest.
The second day will take hikers through to the middle and lower gorge to see the river down below. When coming back up from the lower gorge, hikers can climb a 90° iron ladder for even more adventure!
Hikers will not need a guide for the first half of the hike as the trail is well-marked. However, when hiking the lower gorge, there will be a guide directing hikers as it can become dangerous being so close to the river.
It’s best to book bus tickets to the trailhead as well as pick-up the next day at the scenic viewing area. Make sure to pack water and a first aid kit for any falls or scrapes.
15. Tongariro Crossing
- Location: Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
- Distance: 12 miles | 19.5 km
- Duration: 6- 8 hours
- Best time to visit: November to April
- Hike Expert: David from The World Travel Guy
The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand is one of the world’s biggest and best day hikes. This is considered one of the hardest hikes in the world because of its length and difficult terrain. A long trek that takes you through a volcanic national park on the North Island, with Mars-like peaks and smoking craters.
These apocalyptic landscapes look like something right out of ‘Mount Doom’ in the Lord of the Rings movies, and that’s because all of those famous scenes were filmed here! Tongariro is normally done as a point-to-point hike and it’s relatively safe, although it’s still an active volcano. The New Zealand government constantly monitors the volcanic activity here, but of course, there’s no safety guarantee.
It’s a very challenging hike and gets a bit crowded on weekends, but don’t let any of this put you off, because it’s incredibly scenic and the experience is once in a lifetime. You’ll want to bring lots of water and a jacket because the weather can change quickly in the mountains.
Generally, the best time to do the Tongariro Crossing is from November to April, but even in these months, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any DOC weather advisories, because the trail is sometimes closed because of cruddy weather conditions.
16. Whakaari | White Island
- Location: 48 km from North Island, New Zeland
- Duration: The total allowed time on the island is approx. 1-hour per group
- Best time to visit: ** The Island is closed for on-land operation **
- Hike Expert: Paula from Paula Pins the Planet
White Island, which is also known by its Maori name, Whakaari, is the peak of a huge submerged volcano rising more than 1,000 feet out of the waters of the Bay of Plenty. It is the only marine volcano and the most active in New Zealand. Unfortunately in December 2019, there was a tragic eruption killing many hikers, and as a result of the eruption event, there are currently no on-land tours of the island in operation.
I had the chance to hike the volcano during my trip to New Zealand in 2015, and it definitely deserves not only to be part of the hardest hikes in the world but also, the most dangerous. In a turbulent environment, visiting White Island is not for the faint of heart or for the sensitivity of the nose. The moonscape-like landscapes are in a permanent state of unrest facilitating some vigorous displays of geothermal activity.
Equipped with hard hats and gas masks hikers are advised to follow in the guide’s footsteps to assist in the preservation of the crater floor. Deeper and deeper into the crater, the sulphuric fumes gathered in the hikers’ throats.
The volcanic gases at White Island are discharged at high temperatures (100 to 800 degrees) so that anybody falling into a vent would be rapidly cooked. Visiting the island is strictly controlled and restricted to certain licensed companies by the Board of Trustees.
Hardest Hikes in the World: EUROPE
17. Hardergrat Trail Between Suggiture and Augstmatthorn
- Location: Switzerland
- Distance: 24 km |15 miles ridge hike
- Duration: 10-12 hours
- Best Time to Visit: It is very dangerous to hike in wet or snowy conditions, spring and summertime are the best time
- Hike Expert: Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
The Hardergrat trail in Switzerland has considered one of the hardest hikes in the world for a reason. Besides the stunning views, it is not appropriate for people with vertigo, as the path is narrow with 1,500 meters (5,000 ft.) of drops on both sides!
The trail starts at Interlaken and finishes at Brienzer Rothorn. To complete the trail you will need at least 10 hours, so it is essential you set off before sunrise in order to make it on time to Brienzer Rothorn’s last train down to Brienz.
If you miss the train you will be forced to descend 1,700 m after an already exhausting day. You don’t need any special equipment to complete this hike in the summer months, but extreme care should be taken, as the trail is very exposed.
The 24 km (15 miles) ridge is physically exhausting with over 3,000 m elevation gain. The views along the way are breathtaking. Below you is the stunning Lake Brienz with its turquoise water.
Jungfrau Region’s highest peaks; the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau are all visible. You might even spot some mountain goats along your hike. Hiking the Hardergrat trail is a great challenge and a huge accomplishment for any hiking enthusiast or trail runner.
- Location: Zugspitze, Bavaria, Germany
- Distance: 23 km / 14,30 mi one way
- Duration: 10-11 hours
- Best time to visit: end of June, July, August, and the beginning of September
- Hike Expert: Diana from The Globetrotting Detective
There are six routes to reach the highest mountain peak in Germany: Reintal, Höllentalklamm, Jubiläumsgrat, Kletterroute Eisenzeit, and two more routes including Via Ferrata trails which Gatterl, Stopselzieher. They are equally difficult, especially if you want to do it in one day.
The reason why hiking Zugspitze is one of the hardest hikes in the world is the elevation gain. If you choose the Reintal route, the trailhead of the hike is located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen at an altitude of 708 m /2323 ft and the summit of Zugspitze is at 2,962 m / 9,718 ft. This means an elevation gain of 2200 m / 7,217.80 ft within the course of about 10-11 hours.
If you want to do the hike in one day, you have to start the hike as early as possible, ideally at 3 am, but better at 2 am. If you start later, you will get to the top when it’s already cloudy and the view will not be clear. As you start when it’s still dark, you will need a headlamp or a torch. Because the hike is very difficult, you should carry as little as possible. On the way, there are several alpine huts where you can have drinks, snacks, and proper meals. From about 1,500 it gets rockier and steeper. The rocks are really big in some parts.
The hardest part comes at 2,600 when you are about to give up. From Zugspitzplatt (2,600 m / 8,530 ft) to the famous roof terrace of Zugspitze, Münchner Haus (2,959 m / 9708 ft), the distance is very short but imposes new challenges.
This steep part is extremely slippery and full of little rocks and rough gravel. You will need to scramble so that you don’t keep sliding back here. This is where you had better wear thin hiking gloves. They will protect your hands when putting your hands on the rocks and the Via Ferrata ropes.
Once, you reached the Münchener House, where you will find a lot of tourists who went up by cable cars, you are just a couple of meters away from the summit of Zugspitze (2,962 m / 9,718 feet).
Hardest Hikes in the World: AFRICA
19. Mount Kilimanjaro
- Location: Tanzania
- Distance: 37-90 km | 23-56 miles (depending on the route)
- Duration: 5-9 days
- Best time to visit: January-February, August-September
- Hike Expert: Jessie from Pocket Wanderings
The hike to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is a demanding but immensely rewarding feat. As the highest free-standing mountain in the world, conquering Kilimanjaro takes time and dedication. That being said, it is a very accessible mountain to climb in that it doesn’t require much technical skill – just a lot of walking and a little bit of scrambling!
There are several routes to choose from, each varying in distance and length of time. It takes between five and nine days to hike Kilimanjaro; the longer the route, the more acclimatization time you get, and the less likely you are to suffer from altitude sickness. The possibility of getting altitude sickness is what makes Kilimanjaro such a challenging, and one of the hardest hikes in the world!
By far the hardest part of the hike is the ascent to the peak. It takes around 6-7 hours to walk up to Uhuru Peak, which is usually done at night in freezing temperatures.
Combine the extreme wind chill with potential altitude sickness, and it can make for a pretty grueling few hours! It’s all worth it when you’re greeted by the sun rising over Africa at the top. Note that climbing Kilimanjaro can only be done with a licensed guide.
- Location: In Virunga National Park in the eastern DRC. It’s near the city of Goma.
- Distance: 6.5 km | 4 miles. It’s a strenuous hike up a steep incline
- Duration: Should take you about 7 hours to summit.
- Best time to Visit: December to April is the dry season, and it also won’t be so freezing on the summit (it gets very cold)
- Hike Expert: De Wet from Museum of Wander
It’s difficult to beat Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo if you’re looking for one of the most incredible and hardest hikes in the world. This active volcano is located in an area that has been volatile for decades and is still rife with militia activity between different rebel groups.
For this reason, hikers must join a small group led by armed rangers carrying AK47s from Virunga National Park.
It’s a true adventure hiking Nyiragongo. A strenuous hike straight up the side of the volcano takes visitors to an altitude of 3,470 m. Hikers overnight on the volcano rim where they can gaze into the bubbling lava lake below.
Hardest Hikes in the World | Essential Packing Gear
- Portable water bottle: Remember to bring and drink a lot of water and if you need to refill, a LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle is the best option.
- First-aid kit: Always remember to pack a first-aid kit for your hikes.
- Day-Backpack: I love my day-backpack and it is very handy for any hiking.
- Headlamps: Carry a flashlight or headlamp even on a day hike. If you have trouble on the trail, darkness may fall before you can finish your hike.
- Wear sturdy shoes for hiking: The most important thing is to protect your feet and avoid twisting your ankle and getting injured. I recommend investing in a good hiking boots brand such as Teva, Salomon, or even Keens.
- Moisture-wicking clothing: These clothes help to pull the sweat away from your body and stay cool and dry during your hiking such as light hiking pants & long sleeves shirts.
- Warm Layers: Early morning or late night can get cold so it is important to bring layers, a lightweight puffy jacket is a must!
- Packing for winter hiking: During winter make sure to have a good quality hiking jacket and pack a warm pair of pants for your hike.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses: It is always important to protect yourself against the sun. Bring a hat with a good face cover like this one and don’t forget to pack a pair of polarized sunglasses
- Bring along some food or snacks: It’s a good idea to pack trail mix or cereal bars to munch on during your hikes.
- Bring your Camera: You will see some incredible views during your hiking, so don’t forget your camera, or check some great value options here
PACK SMART ALERT!
If you are planning to carry a backpack during your hiking in Italy, I have compiled a very detailed review of the Best Backpacks for Travel in the market today –
Also, it doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter, you will need a good jacket to go hiking in Italy, so check my complete review guide on the Top Jackets for Travel
Another great item for your hikes is to invest in a good pair of leggings for hiking – Pack Smart!
Hardest Hikes in the World Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed this list of the hardest hikes in the world. They have been hand-picked by travel experts and avid hikers from all over the world.
I hope you have chosen your bucket list of hiking for your next adventure. Also, challenging yourself and building your stamina is very important for a healthy lifestyle. And one of the best ways to get stronger is to go on a challenging hike. The most important thing is to keep active and safe travels, everyone!
If you enjoyed this guide, you will also love:
- Complete fitness preparation guide for hiking on vacation.
- Best Hikes in the World
- Best Hikes in Europe
- Best Hikes in South America
- Best Hikes in Africa
- Best Hikes in Italy
- Best Hikes in Peru
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