The World’s Deadliest Hike: Mount Hua Shan’s Plank Walk in the Sky


At the peak of the Mount Hua Shan, a series of flimsy-looking wooden planks are nailed into its rocky walls with a near-vertical drop below that measures over 7000 feet. Rows of tourists follow this treacherous trail everyday, gripping onto the metal chain, trying to reach the small shrine at the trail’s end. This is the Mount Hua Shan hiking trail in Xian, and is regarded as one of the deadliest hiking trails in the world. Rumour has it, around 100 people fall to their deaths each year, but this statistic is denied by the Chinese government.

Mount Hua Shan is a precipitous mountain near the city of Huayin and is one of the Five Great Mountains of China: the “Western Mountain”. The sacred mountain, dotted with Toaist temples and shrines, has a deep religious history and spiritual importance in China. The plank walk was constructed by a Toaist preist over 700 years ago, but is now maintained by the local government to ensure safety for visiting tourists.

The hiking trail actually covers a total of 12km and takes you from the base of the mountain up a very challenging ascent with absurdly steep stairs and sheer climbs. But, the trail is most famous for the 100 metres where you must traverse the mountain top by shuffling along narrow wooden boards is known as The Plank Walk in the Sky. You end at a small shrine with breathtaking views of the lush mountainous landscape.

The plank walk is famous for pictures of thrill-seeking tourists dangling from the side of the cliff with just a harness. Amazingly, flocks of excited tourists travel to complete this nerve-shredding plank walk. In fact, ask anyone who’s visited the Mount Hua Shan hiking trail and they’ll tell you the hardest part is actually beating the crowds.

The Plank Walk in the Sky is that much more difficult because you’ll likely be shoulder-to-shoulder with other terrified tourists, or passing around them as they come back the other way. You may have to step out as they pass underneath you while you hold onto your harness for dear life. Some sections of the plank walk have iron rails, but other sections do not, the harness is your only consistent lifeline as you complete this journey. During one section of the plank walk, the planks even disappear and so you will find yourself shuffling slowly across a tiny ledge chiseled out of the cliff-face with a sheer drop below that looks endless.

If you complete the trail in full it takes roughly 5 hours, but you don’t have to complete the whole trail. If you want to fast-forward to the scary plank walk, then you can take up a cable car up to the summit. Start the day early if you plan to complete the full trail and have time to take in the impressive (and terrifying) views from the summit.

The months of April to October are the best time to visit for cool, milder temperatures. Of course, try and choose a clear, sunny day for best visibility. Also, avoid public holidays at all costs as Mount Hua Shan is already one of the most visited mountains in China.

For more of the world’s most dangerous bridges, please go here: The 69 Most Dangerous Bridges in The World