How would you define “craziest”?
Is it steep, like the roads in Valparaiso, Chile with 40-degree gradients? Or is it crooked, like Lombard Street (San Francisco), known as the “Crookedest Street in the World”? Or is it like the ones encountered by Trippy member, Janelle Kennedy:
Any road in Israel scares the crap out of me. Not because of the road itself but because of the drivers. Apparently you need 3 hands to drive in Israel: one hand to work the gearshift, one hand to hold your phone and the third hand to honk the horn and stick out the window to make obscene gestures at other drivers. Seems like most Israelis think the steering wheel exists primarily for decoration.
For this article, we’ve featured some of the craziest – as in adrenaline rush inducing – roads. These roller coaster-esque roads are unnerving yet exhilarating. They have mesmerizing views but aren’t for the faint-hearted. Looking for your next road adventure?
Here are 10 roads with tight bends, hairpin turns, and steep gradients:
1. Umbrail Pass, Switzerland
The road has existed since Middle Ages. By the late 15th century, it became an important route for Austrian delegations to Rome. The current pass was built in 1901 for wagons and carriages. By 1925 onwards, it was used for motor vehicles.
Today’s Umbrail Pass is a popular route for adventurous cyclists and for those who like zigzagging through the mountains. It’s one of the craziest roads in the Alps. Definitely one thrill ride for mountain views and hairpin turns.
2. Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina
On the right side of the U.S. is the Dragons Tail. It’s an 11 mile road with over 300 hairpin turns. Mostly known among motorcyclist, there is a growing amount of car enthusiasts now using it as well. The road starts in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park of NC and crosses over into Tennessee on the other side. The scenery is beautiful, especially in the fall, if your not focused on staying in your lane and not careening off the sides.
The scenery will take your breath away, but be careful. Keep your eyes on the road. Stop at the pull off points to enjoy the beauty of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Tail of the Dragon should be in every experienced motorcyclists’ bucket list. Start your ride from Deals Gap on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. It ends at Highway 129 North (Graham-Swain Counties).
3. Yungas – Death Road, Bolivia
Camino de la Muerte or Death Road is for thrill-seekers. You’ll bike downhill from the Andes highlands to the Amazonian jungle of Bolivia. It was a tour option for me when I was in La Paz for four days. I didn’t make it there but heard stories from fellow travelers from our tour group.
They started the tour with a one-hour long van ride from La Paz to La Cumbre Pass (over 15,000 feet above sea level). At La Cumbre, each member picked their bike and safety gear. After a brief time dedicated to safety instructions, they headed out for the adventure, that is, biking downhill to the rainforest near Coroico (3,900 feet above sea level).
Trippy member Nina N wrote:
…the Yungas road aka “death road” in La Paz Dept. it’s an amazing yet scary experience full of sharp turns and steep hills. you start off high in the mountains in the snow and end up in the humid tropical jungle!
4. Road to Hana, Maui
The road to Hana in Maui scared me so much!
Expect sharp curves and single lane bridges. According to GoHawaii.com, the website of the Hawaiian tourism board, Hana Highway has 620 curves and 59 bridges. 46 of these bridges are single lane bridges.
5. Tianmen Mountain Road, Zhangjiajie, China
Take a look at this 8-minute video from Beautiful Places To See:
Besides having one of the craziest roads in the world, Tianmen Mountain has a series of cliff-hanging walkways, a glass skywalk, and the world’s longest cable car ride.
6. Route 622, Iceland
I found a video on Vimeo by Rudy Junod that captures the essence of driving on Route 622 in Iceland. Take a look:
This is how Trippy user Pamela Rieser described the roads in Iceland:
There is only one road around the island and some parts are single lane over the outflow from glaciers. The narrow roads often climb with a grade of 15% and you hope that no one is climbing up on the other side to meet you at the top. I cannot remember the section of the ring road seared into my memory with fear but it was on our tour around the island.
7. Road to Strawberry Hill, Jamaica
Perched 3100 feet above sea level, Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica is worth a visit even if that means having to endure the craziest road in the island. Kelly Dawson from Los Angeles wrote:
One road trip that definitely takes some courage is the ride from Kingston (Jamaica), the capital of Jamaica, to a mountain resort called Strawberry Hill. The trip takes you from the city into the lush Blue Mountains, but the switchback turns, high altitude, and narrow roads contrast the peace of the natural surroundings.
Nevertheless, the ride is worth it. Other than being a luxurious hideaway in a setting that’s internationally known for its coffee, Strawberry Hill is also famous for its celebrity guests. As you stroll the property, and shake off the adrenaline rush from the road, seek out the photos of familiar faces — like the island’s icon, Bob Marley.
8. Kunzum Pass, India
Driving on the road means taking a steep ascent and zigzagging on unpaved gravel roads. You’ll also spot snow-capped mountains and rugged terrains in the high valleys of Himachal Pradesh, a northern Indian state in the Himalayas.
Sunil Purushe said:
The Himalayan road in India, from Shimla via Reckong Peo to Kaza in the Spiti valley is a crazy yet fun drive. It’s listed (sign boards along the road too) as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Narrow 5 feet wide roads and multiple landslides along the way keep you on the edge all through. From Shimla to Kaza, its about 18 hours of driving so best stop to spend the night someplace. I did it in winters with icy roads and 5 feet snow, but I’m sure its pretty challenging all year round.
9. Titus Canyon Road, Death Valley
This is a 27-mile road that requires two to three hours of driving time. It is infrequently patrolled and summer travel is not recommended. This is the road condition according to the National Park Service:
One-way road from east; this dirt road is rough, steep and narrow; often closed due to snow, mud, or wash outs; two-way section from west is graded dirt road.
To Pamela Rieser, Titus Canyon Road is
… amazing, frightening and I was so glad to be the passenger not the driver. This is a single lane track which begins on the Nevada side outside of the National Park.The first part of the trip climbs over two folds in the Grapevine Mountains winding up and down the mountains with spectacular drop offs, no guard rails.
Eventually you arrive at Leadfield Ghost Town which is a great place to take a break before continuing onto the rest of trip. The single lane track continues between stark canyon walls rising above you twisting and turning showing walls of different colors and shapes bending around you.
When we stopped to take photographs in the canyon there was complete silence around us, awesome. It took us over three hours to drive through the canyon including stopping to take photographs and a brief walk around the building ruins in Leadfield. There are no toilets on this trip, the only one is in the parking lot at the exit of the canyon. OMG!
10. Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
Paolo Martini from Rome, Italy asked:
Transylvania holiday by motorcycle on a budget – ideas and routes?
The answer from Trippy members was Transfagarasan. Mircea O. from Romania said:
…best destination by far in the Transylvanian Alps if you are a biker is the Transfăgărășan road, open between June and October. It’s a MUST. Try Casa Mosului for housing option at 40 euros per night, if you are looking for cheaper option they can help in the neighborhood.
56 miles long and 7,000 feet above sea level, Transfagarasan is a winding road that will take you on sharp hairpin curves, crossing lakes, viaducts, and tunnels. The area offers views of mountains, lakes, forests and Romania’s largest manmade reservoir.
Have a burning question like Paolo about adventure travel? Or need suggestions for a road trip route?