The World’s Most Dangerous Trail, Essential for some (not all!)

The Caminito del Rey footpath in southern Spain near Malaga was closed indefinitely in 2001 after five people attempting to cross the dicey wooden walkway plummeted to their deaths in a span of two years. But after 15 years and extensive renovations to amp up safety on the path, the Caminito del Rey reopened to the public in 2015. And starting last month, the walkway is open for another season of thrill-seeking with reinforced steel bolts upping the safety ante for tourists.

Before its renovation, the path — which is only 3.2 feet wide and nearly five miles long — had been reduced to a skeleton of itself, with portions of the wood rotting out and leaving just metal rails behind. With the path suspended to the cliffsides of the El Chorro Gorge 350 feet above the ground, any attempts to make the crossing were more ill-considered than adrenaline-pumping.  And while the Caminito del Rey was originally built more than 100 years ago as an access path for workers at two hydroelectric plants, its increasing popularity with visitors needing a jolt of adventure quickly turned it into an attraction. And with tourist attractions comes responsibility.

Since its reopening, there have been more than 600,000 tourists who have traipsed the nearly five-mile route without any incident. All visitors who walk the Caminito del Rey must wear a helmet, and there are now handrails and netted barriers to keep any spills over the edge of the cliff neutralized.

After its successful reopening, the path is back offering dramatic views of the Spanish gorge and serving up jolting doses of vertigo. And even though it’s only opening day, tickets to walk the Caminito del Rey sell out quickly. All tickets must be purchased in advance of visiting.