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The most challenging hiking trails in America

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There comes a point in every passionate hiker’s life when they want to pit their skills against very challenging trails. There’s just something about conquering hiking trails that other hikers dare not set foot on that really gets the adrenaline pumping.

Conquering the most challenging hiking trails in America takes dedication, training, courage, and endurance. It certainly is not a challenge for everyone who enjoys being in the woods. However, you’ll have no problem knowing if you’re the type of person who wants to test yourself on a challenging trail. It’s just something that will speak to you when you ponder a challenging hike.

If you’re ready for an extreme hiking challenge, consider the following trails when you are ready to conquer them.

Skyline/Muir Skyline Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Let’s see…an ascent of 2,800 feet in only 2.2 miles. Check. Close to 90 hiker fatalities. Check. Sudden, vicious, and unpredictable storms blowing off the Pacific without warning. Check.

If those three things don’t make a challenging hiking trial, then I don’t know what does. The hike starts out innocuously enough, with a brief walk through a peaceful mountain meadow. However, the serenity doesn’t last long as you emerge onto the Muir Snowfield. That is where the real challenge begins. As long as the weather holds, you won’t have too much trouble making the ascent and you’ll be rewarded with some killer views and an up close look at Mount Rainier. The hike is nine miles round trip and is best conquered with a group. Oh and did I mention that Mount Rainier is an active volcano?


The Maze, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah is the home of one of the most challenging hiking trails in America. Known simply as The Maze, this trail will not only test your endurance, but also your skills with a map and compass. The name pretty much explains why. The 13.5 mile long trail leads hikers through twisting canyons and amongst sandstone ledges. It doesn’t take long for everything to start looking the same, and in a place with temperatures commonly reaching into the 100s and scarce water, getting lost is a death sentence. (Pro Tip: Don’t watch the movie 127 Hours before setting off on this hike!)

If you plan to conquer this trail, make sure to bring plenty of water and that your map skills are at a high-level. Carrying a GPS unit with you is a good idea, and an emergency response beacon wouldn’t be a bad idea either. There’s no shame in ensuring your safety while on a challenging hike. Aside from the challenges, The Maze offers absolutely stunning scenery and rock formations. It can almost seem like a different planet at times.


Presidential Traverse, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

For daring hikers on the East Coast, the Presidential Traverse is a true test of stamina and skills. Located within the White Mountain National Forest, the Presidential Traverse presents hikers with the challenge of reaching the summit of 11 different mountain peaks and over 9,000 feet of elevation in a single day. Six of the mountains, which are all named after former Presidents, have a peak elevation of over 3,500 feet.

Many hikers get lost above 3,500 feet due to the barren landscapes above the tree lines. These areas can even see snow and ice in the middle of the summer’s warmest months. Being able to say that you climbed 11 mountains in one day is an accomplishment that any hiker would be proud of.

The three hiking trails that I mentioned above are definitely some of the most challenging hiking trails in America. However, there are many more where that came from. Conquering and completing anyone of them would be an accomplishment to be proud of for a lifetime. Just make sure that you’re ready for the challenge before you leave, and when the going gets tough, keep pushing with that indomitable spirit that hikers possess!

While making your way to one of these challenging hikes, jump over to KOA.com to plan your stays!


Writer. For Roadtrippers. For KOA. For sanity. Catcher of fish. Baseball fanatic. Proud to call Ohio home.Brian Belko

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