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    The World's 18 Scariest Hiking Trails

    Precipices, bears and pyroclastic flow...

    The planet is pitted with hiking trails that are scenic and spectacular. So why do we seek out the ones that scare the living daylights out of us?

    Because standing on the precipice makes us feel alive. There's nothing more life-affirming than staring death in the face.

    1. El Caminito del Rey, Malaga

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    With every passing day, a little more of this steel and concrete path crumbles. With every passing day, the number of hikers jostling to negotiate the 100-foot-high trail increases. Only the brave and the foolhardy need apply.

    2. Hanging Bridge of Ghasa, Nepal

    ckocur / Via Flickr: ckocur

    The only way the Hanging Bridge of Ghasa could be more intimidating is if you were to meet a herd of sheep in the middle – which happens quite often. You didn't think this was just a people bridge did you?

    3. Angels Landing, Utah

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    Clowns to the left of you, jokers to the right and here you are, stuck in the middle of Angels Landing. Twin 1,200ft drops provide ample incentive to tread carefully as you cross Zion National Park’s Step of Faith. To reach the other side, you just have to believe.

    4. Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

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    Via ferrata trails, typified by steel cables that climbers can secure themselves onto, are usually found in the Alps. The highest iron road of all however leads to the peak of Malaysia's loftiest mountain.

    5. Half Dome, California

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    Anyone can climb Yosemite's Half Dome – just cling on to the cable ladder and ascend the 1,500m rock face. That doesn't mean it isn't scary as hell though – if in doubt just glance down. Hard mode: ditch the cable ladder and scale it freestyle.

    6. Wayna Picchu, Peru

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    The best view of Peru's Machu Picchu calls for scaling Wayna Picchu. To admire the Inca ruins, you'll need to negotiate "The hike of death". Successfully navigate the trail and you get to retain the greatest prize of all: your life.

    7. Salkantay Trek, Machu Picchu

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    There are numerous ways to reach Machu Picchu and they're all pretty hairy. When the fog rolls in, 1,000ft drop-offs are suddenly shrouded, while seasonal snow only adds to the fun. The aptly named Salkantay is taken from a Quechua word meaning "Savage Mountain".

    8. Striding Edge, Lake District

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    For those who enjoy living life on the edge, this Lake District peak is about as edgy as it gets. Helvellyn's Striding Edge is very high, very narrow and very sketchy – and that's in summer. Visit in winter, and the trail is as slippery as a box of eels.

    9. Kakum canopy walkway, Ghana

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    Short of growing a tail and devolving 85 million years, Ghana's Kakum canopy walkway is the closest you'll get to tree-surfing like a simian.

    10. Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

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    There's something magnificent about the sight of cascading water; even hydro dams look mesmerising when the spray catches the light, unleashing a prism of colours. Throw in some gorgeous Nordic scenery and the 900ft Vettisfossen waterfall is worth the challenging – and occasionally terrifying – trek across the tall peaks of Jotunheimen National Park. Its glaciers, crevasses and snowfields will make you grateful you brought your crampons.

    11. Pacaya, Guatemala

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    Not afraid of heights or snow? Fine, see how you enjoy hiking around an active volcano then. Pacaya in Guatemala is a peaceful beast for the most part, but it's still prone to the occasional spurt of hot lava – and when she blows, the consequences can be lethal, as three people discovered in 2010. When Pacaya starts to spew, stand well back.

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    Still, it’s not all bad: how many hiking trails allow you to toast marshmallows along the way?

    12. Mount Hua, China

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    Yes, it's this trail again. Omit China's Hua Shan plank walk and risk accusations of ignoring "The world's most dangerous hiking trail". Include it and become yet another article banging on about That Path.

    13. The Maze, Utah

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    What lured you to the remotest spot in Canyonlands National Park – was it the risk of rockfalls, the threat of flash floods or the prospect of falling into a gully? Just a few thousand intrepid souls make it here every year. Their reward? A giddying view like this.

    14. Mist Trail, California

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    3,000 people a day scale this mountain at the height of summer so it can't be that scary, right? That all depends on your fitness and the weather conditions; the steel cables that lead to the summit become an entirely different proposition when it's raining, while the exposed rock face is prone to lightning strikes. The moral of the story? Don't climb mountains during a thunderstorm.

    15. Cascade Saddle, New Zealand

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    Life is dangerous: you could injure yourself just climbing out of bed. That said, the odds of taking a tumble increase substantially should you make the two-day trip along Cascade Saddle. The breathtaking views of New Zealand's Mt. Aspiring National Park, as seen in That Movie Trilogy, make it all worthwhile.

    16. Aonach Eagach, Scotland

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    Narrow as a knife and jaggier than barbed wire, Aonach Eagach welcomes hikers begrudgingly at best. Don't let its rough edges deter you though: once you get to know Scotland's most hostile hilltop, it’s a beautiful, enchanting kind of place. That's beautiful, enchanting and extremely perilous.

    17. Bright Angel Trail, Arizona

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    We've covered heights, hot lava and hidden gullies. What does that leave? Heat of course. With temperatures nosing 45ºC, this Grand Canyon trail is not for the faint-hearted or the dehydrated. Set off too early and you'll battle the intense midday sun; visit too late in the year and you’ll face snow.

    18. Precipice Trail, Maine

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    Rocky ledges aren't dangerous; it’s what lies below that’s so terrifying. Champlain Mountain’s Precipice Trail climbs 1,000 feet in under two miles, complete with sheer drops and narrow ledges that command a firm grip.

    Written by Kai Sedgwick, a travel writer for HomeAway.co.uk.

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