If you’re acrophobic (afraid of heights) or gephyrophobic (afraid of bridges), you are NOT going to want to read this article. But, if you’re a thrill-seeker, read on!
I think all of us have a sense of adventure. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the thrill of reading an adventure novel or biography, or personally seeking it out. But, some people take it to the extreme. Their idea of an adventure is sky diving, zip lining, bungee jumping, or hang gliding to name a few. If you’re a true thrill-seeker, you’re going to want to add a few of these to your bucket list.
1., 2. and 3. Heaven’s Gate + Big Gate Road + Glass Skywalk Trail, Hunan Province, China
There’s a good reason I mentioned these three first! First, all three of these are a thrill-seeker’s dream come true. Second, they are all in close proximity to each other. So, you get a bigger thrill-seeking bang for your buck, so to speak. Heaven’s Gate is a magnificent 430 feet tall natural wonder that towers above the trees at Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park.
It’s sometimes called “the soul of Zhangiajie,” a nearby city. In ancient Chinese folklore, Heaven’s Gate was thought to be the passage to the gods. Sitting at an elevation of 4987 feet, a person has to walk up an incredible 999 steps to get to the top. (note: the number 9 has sacred meaning in Chinese culture, so you will find variations of this number anywhere that is sacred)
Big Gate Road (or Heaven Linking Avenue) is the road that winds up Tianmen Mountain. In this case, “winds” is an understatement! It has 99 hairpin turns as it takes you from 656 feet below sea level to 4265 feet above sea level! The road is 6.8 serpentine, lunch-losing miles of breathtaking views. But, do NOT take your eyes off the road or it may very well be your road to heaven! Don’t worry, though. Luckily, there is a tram that can also take you up to Heaven’s Gate if you don’t want to risk your life driving this road.
Last, but certainly not least, is Glass Skywalk Trail. Probably the most thrilling of the thrills in this article, this trail is exactly what its name says…made of glass. Also known as the “Coiling Dragon Cliff Walk,” This glass trail juts out from the side of the cliff a staggering 4600 feet above ground. The brave souls who take this trail can see all the way to the bottom, as well as, get a glimpse of serpentine Big Gate Road.
4. Keshwa Chaca (Q’eswachaka) Rope Bridge
This hand-woven rope bridge spans 220 feet across the Apurimac canyon and 60 feet above Apurimac River. It’s thought to be the last Incan rope bridge in Peru. To craft it, Incans used the natural grass fibers available to them. The nearby residents of Quehue, Peru maintain the bridge as a way of honoring their ancestors and their traditions. The ancients held these bridges in such high regard that the punishment for vandalizing one was death.
5. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Stairs of Death, Peru
While in Peru, you must visit the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. These ruins, built in the 15th century, sit high up in the Andes Mountains. They are best known for their walls made of stone that miraculously fuse together without the use of mortar.
The trail to Machu Picchu is 26 miles long and has a LOT of narrow, steep stairs, some of which “float” from the sides of stone walls. There are three different trails to choose from – 7 day, 5 day and 2 day. Of course the reward for that long trek is seeing the wonder that is Machu Picchu.
6. Angel’s Landing, United States
Formerly known as the Temple of Aeolus, Angel’s landing is a very narrow, very long rock formation in Zion National Park, Utah. The trail is 2.4 miles long and climbs 1,488 to its 5,700 feet apex. It gets its name from the point at the peak that is so small that, according to Zion National Park, one visitor described as “only an angel can land on it.”
The final half mile of the trail is a series of steps made from rock that are incredibly narrow. Support chains are anchored here and there along the steps for added safety. But, trust me, this trail is anything but safe! It drops straight down 1,200 feet on one side and 800 feet on the other! Only the most fit thrill-seekers should attempt this trail.
7. Yosemite’s Half Dome, United States
Since we’re in the U.S., I really have to tell you about beautiful Yosemite Park’s landmark, Half Dome. Once believed to be totally inaccessible, the Half Dome looms over 4,700 feet above Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 8,848 feet.
Brave hikers can now reach the summit by hiking an 8 mile trail that is only for the fit and hearty of stomach. The trail includes lots of switchbacks and hundreds of feet of granite stairs. The final 400 feet go almost straight up with the summit being reached with the help of two metal cables. A few of the brave did not make it back alive. Consider yourself warned.
8. El Caminito del Rey, Spain
El Caminito del Rey (King’s Little Pathway) is an ancient, crumbling walkway built on the walls a large limestone gorge called El Chorro. The path is only 2 – 3 feet wide and climbs over 350 feet above Guadalhorce River.
It’s been called the most dangerous path in the world due to a few deaths along the trail. The trail was officially closed by the Spanish government in 2000. But, some thrill-seekers who don’t mind going to jail still go around the barriers to hike this dangerous path. Again…you’ve been warned.
9. Ha’iku Stairs, Hawaii
This is a dangerous, torturous path consisting of 3,922 metal stairs rising 2,800 feet up Oahu’s Ko’olau mountain range. The stairs were constructed beginning in 1942 in order to build a radio tower to send transmissions to Navy ships.
A tram was later built that became the preferred way to reach the station. The stairs became off limits to the public after a fatal rock slide killed 8 people and injured 42 in 1999. It was then heavily damaged by a storm in 2015 that made the already treacherous hike even more dangerous. Once again, it is currently against the law to climb the stairs.
10. Hua Shan Trail, China
We’re heading back to China for the final thrill-seekers’ destination on our list. This one is a doosie that I guarantee with give even the most die-hard adrenaline junkie a rush! The Hua Shan Trail can be found on Mount Hua Shan, one of China’s five sacred mountains.
Many, many sources call this trail, “the most dangerous hiking trail in the world.” While the Chinese government claims nobody has died on the trail, other sources say as many as 100 people die on this trail per year!
The trail consists of 1 foot wide wooden planks set on steel bars that jut from the side of the mountain. I feel the need to repeat…ONE FOOT WIDE WOODEN PLANKS! If you are brave enough (or lucky enough) to reach the peak, it is said that the views are nothing short of spectacular! I’ll be happy just looking at pictures of the panorama, thank you very much.
There is a chain that stretches along the side of the mountain. so you would be wise to take your harness along with you. You can also rent a harness at the base to this trail.