When you think of the word "hiking", you'd most likely conjure up mental images of forested hills or a decently challenging incline. But what about a hike that is a literal near-death experience and requires thick nerves of steel? If that sounds like your idea of fun, then you need to head to the province of Shaanxi, China.


One of China's Five Great Mountains, Mt. Hua - or Huashan - has been considered a holy Taoist site since the second century B.C.E. The trail as it exists today was carved out by pilgrims and monks over the centuries as they made their way to the top - so it's safe to say that the stairs and trails are at a DIY-level of safety.

Photo Credit: SunriseOdyssey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Boasting a total of five peaks for the intrepid explorer, the South Peak is by far the most famous. Standing at over 7000 feet, the view from the top is as breathtaking as you would imagine. But to get there, you have to hike up an endless chain of nearly 90° stone stairs (ironically named The Heavenly Stairs) before shuffling along the treacherous Plank Road.

Photo Credit: SunriseOdyssey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

And the word 'treacherous' is not an exaggeration; the trail is literally composed of planks about a foot wide, with a bottomless gulf and the roaring Yellow River below. Hikers regularly fall to their deaths despite the chains that hold them to the cliff-sides.

Photo Credit: SunriseOdyssey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Fortunately, rewards do await those who successfully tackle the challenge. Besides the absolutely stunning views that you can't find anywhere else, some of the best black tea in China is served at the historic temple on the mountain's tip. Added bonus: you can literally boast that you've walked the most dangerous hike in the entire world, and lived to tell the tale.

Looking at these photos alone is enough to make your hands break out into a clammy sweat. Worth it? We'll let you decide.

Photo Credit: Sunrise Odyssey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

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