The 12 Scariest and Most Dangerous Roads in the World

Updated on April 29, 2019
Kosmo profile image

Kelley graduated from Fresno State with a degree in journalism. He has been an online writer for over 10 years.

Bolivia's Road of Death
Bolivia's Road of Death

Many People Die on These Deadly Highways

This list includes some of the most dangerous roads in the world. Videos are provided for each road, many of which show travel over some of the roughest terrain on the planet. So, if you don’t get frightened easily, fasten your seatbelt and take a virtual ride. And if you’ve actually traveled on any of these awesome avenues, please let the author know.

Now let’s begin the countdown.

Hell's Gate on Skippers Canyon Road
Hell's Gate on Skippers Canyon Road | Source

12. Skippers Canyon Road (New Zealand)

Location: New Zealand

Length: 16.5 miles (26.5 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: Unknown

Dangers: Unpaved, no guardrails, narrow, steep cliffs

When Skippers Canyon became a popular gold-mining area, the need for safer access to it increased. (Yes, while the road is still dangerous today (claiming hundreds of lives every year), it is far safer than the miners' original track.) It took seven years to carve this gorgeous and frightening road out of the cliff face. It was completed in 1890, and many sections of the road remain the same today as they were then.

Today, the road is frequented mostly by tour buses and adventure companies (pity their drivers!).

Don't Count On Your Insurance...

Skippers Canyon Road is so treacherous that insurance companies will not honor the claims of those who drive it.

Are you brave enough to drive the Taroko Gorge Road?
Are you brave enough to drive the Taroko Gorge Road? | Source

11. Taroko Gorge Road (Taiwan)

Location: Taiwan

Length: 11.8 miles (19 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: Unknown

Dangers: Narrow, blind corners, rockfalls, landslides, flooding, earthquakes

Similar to the Guoliang Tunnel Road (number 4 on our list), Taroko Gorge Road is carved out of and through the mountains. Due to the spectacular beauty of its surroundings, the road is well frequented in spite of its fearsome reputation. This means a slew of tour buses, cars, scooters, bicyclists, and pedestrians are all vying for space on the same narrow road—a frightening prospect, considering the number of blind turns and extremely narrow bends in the road. The road is also very hard to keep in good condition, as heavy rainfall and typhoons often cause landslides and rockslides that leave sections of the road impassable.

While many who have visited say that it is well worth the danger, this is not a road for the faint of heart!

Cathedral Ridge in Pakistan
Cathedral Ridge in Pakistan
Typical truck on the highway
Typical truck on the highway

10. Karakoram Highway (Pakistan to China)

Location: Pakistan and China

Length: 810 miles (1,300 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 15,466 feet (4,714 meters)

Danger: Landslides, falling rocks, floods, avalanches, cliffs, and more . . .

Built as high as 15,000 feet above sea level and under very rough conditions, Karakoram Highway is sometimes considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. Construction on the road began in 1966 and was completed in 1979, although it wasn’t open to the public until 1986.

This dangerous road covers more than 1,300 kilometers and, at least in some places, follows the old Silk Road. Cutting through the most mountainous region in the world, the Karakoram Highway is beset with hazards: rock falls, landslides, avalanches, flooding, snow drifts, reckless drivers, herds of animals, precipitous cliffs and terrible storms.

Interestingly, the road meanders through the Hunza Valley, the scene of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, a novel about the mythical Shangri-La, a harmonious place where people live for centuries.

Bonus: Fairy Meadows Road, a.k.a. Nanga Parbat Pass (Pakistan)

Length: 10 miles (16 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: ~8,000 feet (~2,400 meters)

Starting from Karakoram Highway and leading to the village of Tato, this road may only be 10 miles long, but it is absolutely harrowing. It is narrow (approximately the width of a Jeep Wrangler), unpaved, and unmaintained, and instead of guardrails, there is a multi-thousand-meter drop to the valley below. The road also climbs nearly 8,000 feet in a short distance, meaning much of the drive is composed of frighteningly steep sections. While the Fairy Meadows that await those who make the drive (and complete the rest of the hike on foot) are unspeakably gorgeous, few are brave enough to make it there.

99-Bend Road, China
99-Bend Road, China | Source

9. 99-Bend Road to Heaven (China)

Location: China

Length: 6.8 miles (11 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 3,855 feet (1,175 meters)

Danger: Sheer drops, hairpin turns

It comes as no surprise that the country that brought us the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge and the rickety wooden walkways of Hua Shan also has its share of dangerous roads. Located in Tianmen Mountain National Park in central China, the 99-Bend Road to Heaven features—you guessed it—99 death-defying hairpin turns constructed hundreds of feet in the air. If you went off the road in such places, you’d surely die in a fiery crash.

In bad weather—with the ever-looming possibility of an earthquake—the road is incredibly treacherous. How many hapless folks must have died while constructing this highway in the sky?

The World's Curviest Roads (Most Hairpin Turns)

Road
# of Hairpin Turns/Switchbacks
Elevation Gain*
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
200+
11,483 feet (3,500 meters)
Three Level Zigzag Road, Himalayas
100+
9,050 feet (2,759 meters)
99-Bend Road, China
99
3,609 feet (1,100 meters)
Tsugaru Iwaki Skyline, Japan
69
2,323 feet (708 meters)
Los Caracoles, Chile
17
768 feet (234 meters)
Lacets de Montvernier, France
17
610 feet (186 meters)
*Approximated from Google Maps
Pan American Highway in Chile
Pan American Highway in Chile
Pan American Highway in the Atacama Desert
Pan American Highway in the Atacama Desert

8. Pan American Highway (Alaska to Chile)

Location: North, Central, and South America

Length: 30,000 mi (48,000 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 10,499 feet (3,200 meters)

Danger: Inclement weather, difficult terrain, cartels, wild animals

The Pan American Highway (PAH) is not entirely dangerous, that is, it’s probably no worse than your average American highway. But in some places, you risk your freedom and even your life by using the PAH as a means of travel. Certainly, a dangerous section of the PAH winds through Mexico and Central America, where drug cartel terrorists roam.

And in the Panamanian section of the road, you could encounter FARC rebels, who often take captives and hold them for ransom, sometimes for years, while others never escape their makeshift jungle prisons. Anyway, the PAH is 30,000 miles long and the only broken section of the road is the 60-mile Darién Gap, between Panama and Colombia, where the FARC are even worse. Let’s hope they never complete the highway through there!

Fun Fact

The record for the fastest trip by car from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, is credited to Tim Cahill and Garry Sowerby, who completed the drive in just 23 days, 22 hours, and 43 minutes.

Bonus: Cotopaxi Volcano Road

This road connects the Pan American Highway with Cotopaxi National Park, and it is 25 miles (40 kilometers) of solid nope. On top of being unpaved and severely potholed, the road also features slippery slopes and a stream with no bridge. That's right—you just have to drive right through it and hope there won't be one of the flash floods the stream is infamous for.

PS The volcano is still active, with over 50 eruptions since 1738, so there's that too.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Sichuan-Tibet Highway

7. Sichuan-Tibet Highway (China)

Location: China and Tibet

Length: 1,330 miles (2,140 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 15,420 feet (4,700 meters)

Dangers: Rockslides, mudslides, avalanches, hairpin turns, cliffs

This very long highway connects Chengdu in Sichuan with Lhasa in Tibet, through an area known as Kham. Continuously beset with rockslides and avalanches, the Sichuan-Tibet Highway is a treacherous, switchback-laden highway that winds among towering peaks, often causing vomit-spewing altitude sickness in travelers.

Along the way, numerous Buddhist monasteries, red-robed Buddhists and herds of yaks can be seen. The road was built between 1950 and 1954 and since then, many thousands of people have died while traveling on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway (a shocking 7,500 deaths for every 100,000 drivers).

James Dalton Highway
James Dalton Highway

6. James Dalton Highway (Alaska)

Location: Alaska

Length: 414 miles (666 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 4,739 feet (1,444 meters)

Dangers: Extreme weather, poor visibility, difficult terrain, steep grades, isolation, wildlife

Also known as the North Slope Hall Road, the James Dalton Highway is a road used by truckers, especially those who travel to and from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the north slope of Alaska. In fact, the road supports the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

The Highway is 414 miles long, paved in places, but about three-fourths of it is not. There are no medical facilities along the road, and only three towns exist along the way. It’s advised that anyone traveling the road should bring survival gear and plenty of supplies. Interestingly, the TV reality show, Ice Road Truckers, has many episodes dramatizing the rigors of traveling on this deadly, primitive road.

The Deadliest Roads in the USA

Road
Deaths per Mile*
I-4 (Tampa, FL to Daytona Beach, FL)
1.25
I-45 (Dallas, TX to Galveston, TX)
1.02
US 192 (Four Corners, FL to Indialantic, FL)
0.87
I-17 (Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix, AZ)
0.84
I-95 (Miami, FL to Weston, MA)
0.73
I-10 (Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville, FL)
0.7
US 175 (Dallas, TX to Jacksonville, TX)
0.69
I-37 (San Antonio, TX to Corpus Christi, TX)
0.65
US 290 (Junction, TX to Houston, TX)
0.63
I-78 (Union Township, PA to New York City)
0.63
*Based on data from 2011 to 2015 (https://www.fleetowner.com/safety/25-most-deadly-highways-us)
July on the Siberian Road to Yakutsk
July on the Siberian Road to Yakutsk
Mud on the Siberian Road to Yakutsk
Mud on the Siberian Road to Yakutsk

5. Kolyma Highway and Lena Highway ("The Road of Bones")

Location: Russia

Length: 1,914 miles (3,080 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: Unknown

Dangers: Extreme weather, unpaved roads, ice, mud, low visibility

Travel through Siberia is always a challenge. Nicknamed the “Road of Bones,” this Siberian road from Magadan to Never meanders its way through one of the coldest regions in the world. It is a combination of two highways—the R504 Kolyma Highway and the A360 Lena Highway, both of which are subject to the same dangers (though the R504 is better maintained).

The highways are joined by the Lena River Ice Road, which is exactly what it sounds like: a "road" across the river that is open yearly from December through April, when the ice is frozen enough to drive on . . . or so one hopes. Sadly, dozens lose their lives each year when their vehicles fall through the ice.

The preferred time to travel on the road is winter, when the ground and water are frozen, making travel somewhat easier (though you still have heavy snow, ice, and extremely low visibility to contend with). But during July and August, when it tends to rain a lot, the road becomes a monstrous quagmire, leading to traffic jams miles long. Only the most rugged 4X4 vehicles can manage this muddy beast. To make matters even worse, people get so bored during these traffic jams that they’ve been known to rob each other to pass the time!

Guoliang Tunnel Road
Guoliang Tunnel Road | Source
Guoliang Tunnel Road
Guoliang Tunnel Road

4. Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)

Location: China

Length: 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 2,000 feet (600 meters)

Dangers: sheer cliffs, no guardrails, extreme fog, rockfalls, mud

When the Chinese government decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and expense to make a road that would be used by only 300 villagers, 13 of those villagers decided to build a 0.8-mile tunnel through the solid rock of a vertical cliff. Located in the Taihang Mountains in the province of Henan, the villagers used explosives to blow their way through this vertiginous cliff. Lacking road-building experience, some villagers died in accidents.

The tunnel is 15 feet high and 12 feet wide, barely wide enough for two cars. Taking five years to build, the road was opened to traffic in 1977. Beware: This road is particularly dangerous when it rains!

Interestingly, at least two other cliff-tunnel roads have been constructed in this area of China.

Zoji La Pass
Zoji La Pass
Zoji La Pass
Zoji La Pass

3. Zoji La Pass (India)

Location: India

Length: 5.6 miles (9 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 11,575 feet (3,528 meters)

Dangers: Extreme weather, no guardrails, steep cliffs, narrow, unpaved

Just about any road that winds through the highest mountain range in the world would probably be at least somewhat dangerous to travel. The Zoji Pass certainly qualifies in this regard, since it’s a dirt road with no guardrails or traffic signs and where landslides are a continual problem. Moreover, the road zigzags among craggy peaks at over 11,000 feet at its highest elevation.

Connecting the towns of Srinagar and Leh in the western Himalayan mountain range (Indian Kashmir), Zoji Pass is generally closed during the winter, when 50-foot snowdrifts make it impassable. Mercifully for drivers on the road, Zoji Pass is only about 9 kilometers long. By the way, it was originally built in 1947 and first used for military purposes.

A procession of vehicles making their way along Bolivia's North Yungas Road.
A procession of vehicles making their way along Bolivia's North Yungas Road. | Source
North Yungas Road
North Yungas Road

2. North Yungas Road ("The Road of Death")

Location: Bolivia

Length: 49.7 miles (80 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 15,256 feet (4,650 meters)

Dangers: landslides, rockfalls, fog, cliffs, narrow, no guardrails

If you don't want to travel on a road nicknamed “The Road of Death,” stay away from this one! Leading from La Paz to Coroico, the Road of Death is almost 50 miles of one-lane road, featuring vertical drops of as much as 3,000 feet into the Amazon rainforest below. Astonishingly, the road has over 200 hairpin turns.

Up until 1994, nearly 300 travelers died on the road every year. Numerous makeshift memorials can be seen in places where hapless folks have plunged over precipices and gone crashing down into the jungle ravines below. Fortunately, the worst part of the road has now been bypassed by a two-lane paved road, so vehicle traffic on the road has diminished. But cyclists still challenge the Road of Death, some dying in the process. Incidentally, the South Yungas Road to Cochabamba is considered almost as dangerous.

Killar to Pangi Road via Kishtwar
Killar to Pangi Road via Kishtwar
Killar to Pangi Road via Kishtwar
Killar to Pangi Road via Kishtwar

1. Killar to Pangi Road, via Kishtwar (India)

Location: India

Length: 70.8 miles (114 kilometers)

Maximum Elevation: 8,280 feet (2,524 meters)

Dangers: Steep cliffs, no guardrails, unpaved, mud, isolation

This hair-raising road is only for people who love to drive in the mountains and have nerves of steel. Open only during the summer months, this rocky, gravelly road is about 70 miles long. A six-mile stretch of it is particularly hazardous; rocky overhangs look as if they could fall upon the roadway at any moment. The road was built hundreds of years ago by local villagers and has not been repaired over the decades.

Only wide enough for one jeep at a time and having no guardrails, this dirt-and-gravel road is terrifyingly unstable in places. One false move by a driver could send a vehicle 2,000 feet down a vertical cliff. This road is so frightening that it’s hard to watch videos of people driving over it. If your bucket list has this one on it, make sure it’s your last challenge! Not sure if you're up to it? Check out this travelogue about driving the Killar to Pangi road for more photos of and details about this harrowing route.

The Steepest Roads in the World

Road
Location
Gradient
Canton Avenue
Pittsburgh, USA
37%
Waipio Road
Honokaa, Hawaii
37%
Baldwin Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
35%
Eldred Street
Los Angeles, USA
33%
Hard Knott Pass
Cumbria, UK
33%
Filbert Street
San Francisco, USA
31.5%

Questions & Answers

  • If people know these roads are dangerous, why don't they stop driving on them?

    Most people probably don't drive on them. But some are public roads or highways, and if people have to get from one place to another, they may not have much choice but to use them.

© 2015 Kelley Marks

Comments

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    • profile image

      Anup Nair 

      5 weeks ago

      Why is the road from Pokhara to Upper Mustang not in this list? It's one of the most dangerous and worst slush I have ever encountered. Someone please let the author know about it. It is a path less travelled by bikers.

    • profile image

      roman 

      2 months ago

      you know that my moms friend went to alaska i hope she was not on james dalton highway

    • profile image

      Isak 

      6 months ago

      Broke my collarbone while biking down #2 last year. Got sent to Arco Iris hospital and it was really cheap to get x rayd and some tramadol pills then they sent me on my way. Overall very nice experience was really fun biking would recommend 9/10!!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      6 months ago from California

      Thanks for the tip, Sunny. I've made the appropriate changes to my article.

    • profile image

      Sunny 

      6 months ago

      Please correct the information ( it's not 1 Fairy Meadows Road , Pakistan) . This video shoot in India Himachal Pradesh (pangi kishtwar road ) .

    • profile image

      Kosmo Kelley 

      7 months ago

      As far as I know, people still travel on all of these roads.

    • profile image

      jerry john 

      7 months ago

      do people still travel on these roads?

    • profile image

      Sahil 

      7 months ago

      Zojila* Pass is not 9km long. I have travelled on it. It stretches from the small town of Sonamarg to Kargil District, passing Zero Point (25km from Sonamarg), and continues to Leh, Ladakh. Probably the only route connecting Srinagar region to Leh. Zojila Pass is only a part of the Srinagar-Leh highway.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 months ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Suzan! I figured that video was made somewhere in Europe, which is close enough in terms of location, because it's truly a terrifying trip. Later!...

    • profile image

      Suzan 

      8 months ago

      The trucks on the Lodger road seem to have a small F in the blue part of the number plate, which would make it a French truck. It might as well be an E, which makes in Spanish

    • profile image

      Ebifa I A 

      9 months ago

      Seriously these roads are terrifying. i woun't want to embark on them

    • profile image

      Victor 

      11 months ago

      This is incredibly dangerous.

    • Amanullah Jatoi profile image

      Amanullah Jatoi 

      11 months ago from Saudi Arabia

      Very informative knowledge

    • profile image

      14 months ago

      WOW!!! OMG!!!!

    • profile image

      A.Mustafa 

      14 months ago

      Fairy Meadows obviously tops this list..i visited this area just few weeks ago, it was very dangerous and extremely beautiful piece of nature.

    • profile image

      Tebogo Dapa 

      16 months ago

      The truck we were travelling on fell from a hazardous meandering gravel mountain single lane road +- 250m down the road. The truck passed a river at the bottom. It was in 1983 october 30th cold night 20h32 LESOTHO from Mokhotlong to Maseru. We ascended up the slopy ground sat on the other side of the road and cried. No help, nothing at all until in the morning. Looking at all these roads interests me but i wouldnt try travel on them ,i can just die. LESOTHO ROADS ARE ALSO A BIT SCARY .

    • profile image

      Zivkovic 

      19 months ago

      My worst experiance were roads in Ukraina (between Kerets'ky Керецьки and Lypcha Липча) because no gasoline station, no service but holes on road was like after bombing (cca. half meter holes everywhere).

      Also in East Latvia drove 50km on road without asphalt with a lot of stoones and dust. Terrible.

      Third dangerious road were in willages in Montenegro and Bosina & Herzegovina, but it was 15-20 years ago, now there is repaired and more wide roads.

      My experiance with Russian roads was not bad as other people announce but I was in european part of Russia which were main roads are in good condition even better than most roads in EU.

      If dont beleive see one of my videos from Russian roads

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x67gQIqKoM

      or

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4pFJL3ymC4

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      2 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Spanish Food, I'll have to check out that road you write about in South Africa. Later!

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 

      2 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Fascinating. I've been on a road somewhat similar to the Guoliang Tunnel Road, from the pictures, but it wasn't quite as enclosed. It's called Chapman Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa, and it's often closed because of the rock slides. I was lucky enough to be there when it wasn't, and it was truly spectacular!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Yes, Paul Edmondson, the Fairy Meadows Road tops this list, and you can see why - just watching the video is terrifying! Later!

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      That last road is insane.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Amanda108. These roads are truly terrifying. I would drive on a few of them - but not all of them. Later!

    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 

      4 years ago from Michigan, United States

      This reveals how much of a big chicken I am, but just looking at these photos and watching the videos gave me an adrenaline rush! To actually be forced down those roads would induce true terror. My heart goes out to those who have no choice but to do so for some reason in their lives. Very interesting hub!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Hey, DrMark1961, there are many videos for traveling in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I'm still trying to find one showing travel on a dangerous road in that area. If I find one, I'll probably tack it onto this story. Later!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      No, I really wish I had taken a video though. Once we reached the village we had to travel by mule to reach the high pasture--the "road" up the sides of the mountains was usually only a foot across in some places.

      I was working, and although I lived there 7 years the Ministry never gave me permission to go up there again, in spite of the numerous diseases the shepherds face.

      (If you cannot find a video of this road, there is another up to Imilchil that is similar, although travelled by many tourists each year.)

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, DrMark1961. It appears you experienced some great adventure on that trip to Morocco. Did you bring back some video of your trip? I'd love to see it. Anyway, I'll check out YouTube and search for videos of this remote area. Later!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I travelled a road in Morocco´s High Altas Mountains, from Toundout to Tamsrit (Ouarzazate province). A car goes down it every 5 years or so-there was a lot of stopping to pick up rocks, even on the hundreds of switchbacks, and numerous times our Land Rover rolled in the gravel and almost slipped off of the edge.

      It was NOT the road of death, though, since almost no one dares use it, except with a mule. (The kids there called our Land Rover "hadeed", which means metal, since there is no word for car.)

      And, I am alive to recommend it be added to your list!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, John Albu. Videos of these terrifying roads are exciting to watch, but I wouldn't dare drive on any of them. Well, maybe I would try one or two but not the worst of the bunch. Later!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, DrMark1961. I tried to make this list as accurate as possible, and if I find a road that belongs here, I'll probably add it to the list. Later!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Torrilynn. These are truly some horrifying roads, don't you think?

    • John Albu profile image

      John Albu 

      4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102

      Wow, I got a vertigo only from looking at some of these pictures. Scary yet mesmerizing places, at the same time.

      I would like to visit the one in China, to be honest. Looks so interesting. The one in Russia seems to be the most brutal!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I am not sure I agree with all of these, but since I am alive to write this I think I could be wrong! Interesting choices.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 

      4 years ago

      I've seen the discovery channel show the different dangerous roads before and they look terrifying. This was very interesting.

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