The hardest hikes in the world each come with their own challenges. For some, it is the steep ascents and rocky ridges. Other trails will test your metal with unpredictable weather conditions.
One thing these treks have in common is the sense of adventure. The reward of reaching the trail's end is all the sweeter when you have conquered some obstacles along the way.
In this article we look at 11 of the most difficult hikes in the world, as rated by the experienced team here at Mountain IQ.
Top 11 Toughest Hikes In The World
In no particular order, these are ten of the most difficult hiking trails in the world. Before you take these on, make sure you have the required experience and fitness.
1. Snowman Trek, Bhutan
The Snowman Trek in Bhutan is considered one of the most challenging treks in the world. It is a 217-mile (350 km) journey that takes around 25-30 days to complete.
The trek begins in the district of Paro. From here hikers will pass through lush forests and cross nine high-altitude passes along the way. At the trail’s highest point, you reach an altitude of 16,100 feet (4,908 meters).
The hike is challenging not only because of the high altitude but also due to unpredictable weather. Bhutan has a very short period that is suitable for trekking, usually October is best.
Trails are remote and the terrain is rugged. You will need to be both physically fit and mentally strong. You shouldn't attempt this trail unless you have experience in high-altitude trekking.
If you have what it takes, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Himalayas, unspoiled wilderness, and a chance to immerse yourself in Bhutan’s culture.
See all hikes in Bhutan.
2. GR20 France - Europe’s Toughest Trek
The GR20 is a long-distance trail that traverses the interior, mountainous region of Corsica. This 180 km / 12-mile trek is considered one of the best hikes in France. It is also one of the toughest long-distance hiking trails in the world. Completing the trial takes about 15 days.
The trail includes mountain passes and steep ridges. Some of these passes are more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) high. The total elevation gain is 12,000 feet (3, 600m). This is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest from base camp!
This is a fairly technical trail that includes rocky sections where some scrambling is required. Corsica’s weather can also be unpredictable. It is not uncommon for hikers to get caught in thunderstorms. On top of that, facilities are very limited, you will need to carry almost everything in your backpack.
3. Kalalau Trail, Kauai
The Kalalau Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails on Kauai, Hawaii. The classic day hike is 11 miles (18 kilometers) each way and follows the rugged Nāpali Coast. This trail is pretty tough and, thanks to some steep and scary parts, we rate it among the most dangerous hikes in the world.
Many people walk the two mile trail to Hanakapi'ai beach as a day hike. The full 11 miles to Kalalau beach will take a full day, even for fit hikers. Start early to avoid being out too long in the heat of the day
You need to plan ahead and prepare for camping overnight. A permit is required for anyone trekking further than the Hanakapi'ai valley. The camping permit costs $30 for non-residents, you can apply for it here.
Note: Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park requires an advance reservation to enter. However, if you already have a valid camping permit, you are exempt from needing this reservation.
The Kalalau Trail is considered a strenuous hike. Be prepared for stream crossings, navigating narrow paths and full exposure to the elements. There are some steep climbs including a 800m killer of an ascent.
4. Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
The hike to Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) is a challenging but rewarding trek in the Colombian jungle. The trail takes you deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. The goal is to reach the Lost City, an archeological site that dates back over 1,000 years.
The trek covers approximately 46 km (29 miles) and takes around 4-6 days to complete. The trail has steep inclines, muddy paths, and river crossings. These paths are particularly tricky during the rainy season.
Another factor adding to the difficulty of this hike is the humid and hot climate. You need to prepare for potential insect bites and encounters with wildlife. If you are terrified of snakes and spiders, you are not going to love this jungle trek!
5. Hardergrat Trail- Switzerland
The Hardergrat trail, also known as the "Queen of the Alpine Ridges," is a challenging and spectacular hike in Switzerland. The trail runs along the Hardergrat ridge, which separates Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The trail starts in Interlaken and follows the ridge for approximately 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) before ending in Brienz. The narrow ridges, steep drop-offs, and exposed sections make it a technical hike.
In total, this route takes 10-12 hours to complete. Hikers need to have good mountaineering skills and carry a helmet and climbing equipment.
6. Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek, Nepal
The trek is a grueling 21 days with challenging and technical terrain. Distance varies depending on your itinarary but is generally between 140-180 km (87-112 miles).
It starts in Beni, a small town in the Kali Gandaki valley. From there, the trail follows the Myagdi Khola river and climbs up to the Italian Base Camp, where hikers can enjoy stunning views of Dhaulagiri Mountain, one of the world’s 8000ers
The trail then crosses the French Pass (5,360 meters/17,585 feet) and the Dhampus Pass (5,200 meters/17,060 feet). You will also visit the hidden valley, a high-altitude valley that was only opened to trekkers in 1990.
The Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek requires a high level of fitness and experience. The trail is not well-traveled, and hikers need to be self-sufficient and carry all their supplies and gear.
7. Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Trail is approximately 96 kilometers (60 miles). The trail is historically significant as it was the site of the Kokoda Track Campaign, a series of World War II battles between Japanese and Australian forces. The route starts in Owers' Corner, near Port Moresby, and ends in Kokoda Village.
The trail is not well-maintained and can be steep, muddy, and slippery. It passes through dense jungles and over mountains. Hikers need to be experienced and in good physical condition.
Many hikers choose to go with a local guide or join a guided trekking tour to ensure safety and navigate the trail's challenging terrain
8. Chadar Trek, India
The Chadar Trek is a difficult winter trek in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. It is considered one of the best treks in India. The trek is approximately 65 kilometers long and takes around 6 to 9 days to complete. The hike is all at an altitude of over 11,000 feet (3,300m).
What makes the Chadar Trek unique is that you will walk on the frozen Zanskar River. Other highlights include seeing frozen waterfalls and ice caves along the way. There is also an opportunity for interaction with locals. It is interesting to learn about people’s way of life in this remote region.
9. Devil’s Path, USA
The Devil's Path is a challenging hiking trail in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, USA. This route is only 25 miles (38 km) long but takes 2-3 days. Exceptionally fit hikers have completed Devil’s Path in a single day.
There are many steep ascents and descents to up to six different peaks. In total, you will be climbing up and down 8, 000 feet (2438 m). The trek is a lot more difficult than other hikes near New York. It requires experience and a solid level of fitness.
As a reward for some tough trekking, hikers enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding Catskill mountains and Hudson River Valley.
10. Pyrenees Haute Route, France
The Pyrenees Haute Route, also known as the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP)is a 800km (497 mile) epic trail . It follows the Pyrenees mountains that form the border between France and Spain .
This hike takes trekkers all the way across France from Hendaye, to Banyuls-sur-Mer. This is from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Ocean with many parts crossing over the Spanish border. you can also do it in the opposite direction.
To complete the whole trail can take anything between 45-50 days. As this is too long for most people to get off work (or afford the associated expenses), many opt to do a short section of the trail which lasts 4-6 days.
The trail has some serious mountain passes. Hikers can stay in huts and wild-camping is allowed in most places. The trekking season for the HRP is short, over July & August.
11. West Coast Trail, Canada
This 75km (48 mile) trek in British Columbia is one of Canada's most famous hikes. Completing the trail will take you about 6 -8 days .
The trail, along Vancouver's west coast follows rocky coast and steep sections along the cliffs. It is generally pretty tough going. What makes this hike even more difficult is that you will need to carry all your own gear as well as food supplies.
Some sections on the West Coast Trail have ladders and suspension bridges. This pristine natural area is also home to wildlife including wolves and bears. Hikers need to be both fit and mentally prepared.
Toughest Treks In The World - FAQs
Here are some of the most common queries regarding the World's hikes. If you still have questions, feel free to ask us in the comments box below.
What is the steepest trail in the world?
Mount Huashan, China is said to be the steepest hiking trail on earth. The narrow pathways have you hanging over the edge of a cliff for a good part of the trail. I also rate it as the world's scariest hike.
What is Europe's Toughest Hike?
Most trekkers who have hiked extensively in Europe will tell you that the GR20 is the most challenging hike on the continent. We can agree! Check out our full article on the GR20 Hike.
You can also find info on another famously tough day hike in Europe, Mount Olympus summit.
What is the most difficult terrain for hiking?
Different people will have a different opinion on this. Personally, I find deserts and sand dunes to be the toughest terrain for trekking. The soft sand puts a lot of strain on your ankles and there is almost no shelter from the sun.
What is the Worlds toughest mountain climb?
K2 is one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the world, very few people actually summit. I didn't include mountain climbing in the list above but, if I did, the K2 base camp trek would be right at the top!
This route is treacherous and the weather turns foul without warning. The trek requires real mountaineering and is more technical than Everest base camp.