This Hike In China Is Considered One Of The Most Dangerous In The World

Adventure beckons climbers and hikers to the most unexpected places. In Huayin City, Shaanxi province, China, the Hua Shan Trail is considered the most dangerous hike in the world. It is rumored that around 100 people plummet to their deaths every year in an attempt to complete the trail. The courage required is not for the faint of heart — climbing Mount Hua is a daredevil experience that literally and figuratively pushes you to the edge.

Mount Hua, a soaring giant that reaches approximately 7,000 feet at its South Peak, is as stunning as it is treacherous. Also called Huashan, it is one of the Five Great Mountains of China and holds sacred meaning in the Taoist religion and Chinese folklore. Local legends claim that Mount Hua was the residence of immortals and gods in ancient times. Emperor Xiyue, a deity of this holy mountain, has a saying, "If you do not visit Huashan, you are not a true hero ... your life is in vain" (via Tonglishi). 

The five mountain peaks resemble an opening lotus flower, dotted with Taoist monasteries and over 210 interesting attractions. At the summit of the hike are teahouses. Hikers can rest and enjoy a warm cup of tea while soaking in the panoramic views. Despite its dangerous reputation, many pilgrims, local Chinese, and international travelers embark on this trek every year. For those who want to enjoy the views without the deadly hike, a 15-minute cable car ride transports visitors close to the summit.

Hua Shan Trail: A daredevil's ultimate dare

However, we're not here for cable cars. The Hua Shan hike will send shivers down the spine of even the bravest souls. As you begin your ascent, a narrow wooden plank trail from over 700 years ago awaits you, suspended thousands of feet in the air (let's not even question how they built this in the first place). The one-foot-wide plank road doesn't have guardrails or nets, and it's a two-way path — with hikers coming in from both directions. Every step is critical, and any misstep can be fatal.

The scary Plank Road in the Sky only makes up approximately 150 feet of the Hua Shan trail. Although Mount Hua is regarded as the most perilous mountain in China, there are some less frightening trails. The Cloud Ladders are walkable-ish with steep stone-carved stairs. Such a path leads to the Chess Pavilion, where you can play chess at dizzying heights. Some trail sections have footholds in the stone. Others, like the Thousand Feet Zhuang Path, have metal handrails and ropes. 

You might imagine hardcore adventure enthusiasts in high-tech gear taking on this monstrous trail. But surprisingly, many young college students (in casual T-shirts and sneakers) tackle this hike with admirable nonchalance. Many even choose to climb the mountain at night to reach the summit in time for sunrise. That said, if you're considering this daring adventure, some preparation won't hurt. Tactical clothes, grippy gloves, and sturdy hiking boots are definitely advisable.

To hike or not to hike?

Mount Hua can be completed in one or two days, depending on your energy and itinerary. Two days allows you to hike all the peaks. You'll stay the night at one of the mountain-top inns, like Wuyunfeng Hotel, and enjoy the sunrise or sunset. If you plan to accomplish this feat in one day, you'd better get to the tourist center before everybody else — earlier than the 7:00 a.m. booth opening time. Ticket lines are notoriously long, and crowds become agoraphobia-inducing by 9:00 a.m..

The best time to hike the Hua Shan Trail is between April and October. Although this is considered peak season, the weather is at its safest. Off-season climate in the mountains of Shaanxi province is snowy and windy, making the climb practically impossible. As far as costs go, the entrance to Huashan is 180 RMB, a cable car ride one way is 80 RMB, a return ride is 150 RMB, and a harness rental is 30 RMB. 

Whatever it is that drives individuals traveling to China to the Hua Shan Trail, one thing is certain: it's an experience they'll never forget. As they stand atop the South Peak, gazing at the world below, the journey's dangers transform into memories of an adventure like no other. But — to hike or not to hike, that is the question. If the answer is yes, make sure to place a red string and wishing lock at the Gold Locks Pass before you descend.