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Backpacker's Most Dangerous Hikes: The National Parks are Well-Represented


Is the Muir Snowfield in Mount Rainier National Park one of America's 10 most dangerous hikes? Photo by Nomadic Entrepreneur via flickr.

Today's younger generations want thrills? Well, the National Park System has plenty of them, from incredible white-water opportunities and climbs to some of what Backpacker magazine calls the most dangerous hikes in America.

In a story chronicling America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes, half of the cited hikes like within the parks: Half Dome in Yosemite, the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, the Muir Snowfield on Mount Rainier, the Maze in Canyonlands, and the Abrams Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains.

How sound are the magazine's picks? Should Angels Landing or the Zion Narrows hikes in Zion National Park been among the chosen few? I mean, more than a few folks get the willies climbing to the top of the landing, and flash floods have killed more than a few in the Narrows.

And what about the hike to the top of the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park? Crossing the snowfields in early-to-mid-summer can be dicey, and when you stand atop the Grand you're little more than a fleece- or down-encased lightning rod. Of course, try this climb in September and you run the risk of an early season killer snowstorm, like the one that swirled about the peaks back in September 1985.

Would anyone nominate the hike to the top of Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park?

And then, of course, there are the dune fields in Death Valley National Park. Enter them in the middle of the day in the middle of August and, if you neglected to bring enough water, your odds of getting back to your car are going to slide.

Of course, there are dozens and dozens of candidates for such a list, no? Perhaps Backpacker restricted its candidates to day hikes, whereas some of the ones I mentioned above involve multi-day excursions.

Nevertheless, which hikes would you nominate for such a list?


If you are using casualty rates as your barometer for what makes a trail the most dangerous, then Zion's Angel's Landing and the Death Valley dune fields wouldn't make the cut.

From a historical perspective, the Chilkoot Trail, aka "the meanest 33 miles in history," has killed hundreds of people. (Klondike Gold Rush National Park in Alaska).

The park's website posted Ranger Tim's top 10 list of how NOT to prepare for the Chilkoot Trail.

My favorite was Number Two: Thinking "30,000 stampeders did it 100 years ago...It can't be that bad."

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