9 of the most dangerous vacation spots in America

Memorial Day weekend marks that time of year when families start planning vacations, and since we don’t live in Syria, chances are that the vast majority of these vacations won’t end in death. Well, depending on how liberal you are with the lighter fluid during grilling time anyway. But there are a few vacation spots within the United States that are a little riskier than you might think. Sure, no one’s going to take you out with an RPG, Call of Duty style, but nature can be even deadlier than man. A lightning strike here, a fall off a cliff there, and that vacation suddenly doesn’t seem so relaxing. And that’s why you should be extra careful should you choose to visit any of the following destinations for Memorial Day. They are nine of the most dangerous vacation spots in America.

9. Red Triangle, California

Extending from Bodega Bay, just north of San Francisco, down to Big Sur and out to around the Farallon Islands, California’s Red Triangle is one of the most scenic spots in the entire country. It’s loaded with seals, sea lions, sea otters and everything else you’d normally have to go to Sea World to, uh, see. All that sweet, sweet sea meat also means that it’s home to lots and lots of great white sharks. In fact, 11% of the total great white shark attacks on humans worldwide have taken place within the Red Triangle. Is that bad? Because that kinda sounds bad. Of course, you’ll probably be fine, but nobody needs to wonder whether their vacation will turn into a sequel to Jaws. Sure, it will spice up the slide shows, but “Hey, remember that time grandma got eaten by a shark?” isn’t a conversation you want to be having next Thanksgiving.

8. Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Rocky Mountains, but never forget one thing: it’s a freakin’ mountain. That means that it pretty much exists to kill people. But the most popular method of killing puny humans probably isn’t what you think. It isn’t avalanches or even falls, it’s lightning. I mean, think about it, you’re literally miles above ground, surrounded by peaks that serve as virtual lightning rods. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and storms move in fast. You get stuck out there on the wrong day and there’s a very real chance they’ll be able to use your corpse as an alternative power source. But even if you don’t get hit by lightning, let’s not forget that the Rocky Mountains have historically not been kind to stranded travelers. One unexpected snowfall and pretty soon you’re eating each other, and not in the good way. The Donner Party knows what I’m talking about.

7. Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai is gorgeous. But one of the reasons it’s so gorgeous is because it’s pretty much an untamed tropical paradise. That’s great and all, but it also means that it’s a goddamn jungle filled with things that will kill you. Most dangerous is probably the Kalalau Trail, where falling rocks, flash floods and the crumbling ground itself can do you in. It’s a 300 foot drop from the trail straight into the surf, and if you’re lucky, you might get stopped by a rock or a tree and just end up with a mangled face and permanent brain damage. Plus, if I’ve learned anything from TV, it’s that Hawaii is loaded with cursed Tiki dolls, and you don’t need the ghost of some ancient warrior chasing you through the jungle during your vacation. I don’t care how much CrossFit you’ve done, you’re not ready for that shit.

6. Appalachia

Look, this one is simple. You’ve all seen Deliverance, or are at least familiar with its banjo twangin’ ways, right? You come to relax in the mountains and you end up squealing like a pig for some hillbilly with three teeth who calls his sister by various names including “Ma,” and “Baby.” Sure, some will say that I am perpetuating unfair stereotypes, but political correctness never saved somebody from a corn-holing by Cletus followed by a complimentary skinning by Grandpa Jed and Cousin Leatherface. I’m just looking out for you.

5. White Mountains

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are beautiful. They’re loaded with lots of kick-ass bike trails and scenery to warm even the iciest of hearts. Unfortunately, they’re also dangerous as hell. Those kick-ass trails are great until a freak snowfall comes along and turns them into death ditches, or a rock-slide ends up chasing you down one of them like Indiana Jones running from the boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. But hey, don’t worry, because if nature decides to try to kill you, you can always escape by finding your way to Mt. Washington, where you’ll eventually be rescued by a helicopter, but not before being buffeted by the most hellacious winds in the country and losing all your fingers and toes to frostbite, even in the middle of summer.

4. Devil’s Hole, New York

Well, it’s called Devil’s Hole, so right away you know things probably won’t turn out well. Still, Devil’s Hole lures in plenty of avid fishermen, who relish the challenge of fishing the rapids. It’s also got beautiful scenery and blah, blah, blah… it’s called Devil’s Hole! Come on! And it’s called that because people try to fish there in their shitty little boats and end up getting hauled off by the ridiculously strong currents and then sucked under the rapids where they then drown and are eventually fished out by the cops, which is what the ancients liked to call irony. And also, dumb as hell.

3. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite’s famous Half Dome is a bare peak that juts out of the earth like the hand of God himself. It’s awe-inspiring and it lures hikers and mountain climbers from all over the world. Of course, since it’s a bare peak, surrounded by nothing but air, it also means that it’s a gigantic lightning rod and if a storm rolls in, you’re pretty much fucked. And the scariest part is that storms often roll in without warning. It can be a picture perfect day when you start your climb, and a couple of hours later, you’re hugging a cliff face with your boys, telling them you love them all and wondering if you should build an ark to save mankind from this hell-storm that’s never, ever going to end, all while lightning flashes around you. And then… bang! You’re dead. If I were you, I’d just stick to camping and praying that a giant redwood doesn’t fall in the middle of the night and crush you like an ant.

2. Grand Canyon

Look, just use some common sense here. The Grand Canyon is popular because it’s literally a giant goddamn chasm in the middle of the desert. This is not a place to just get shitfaced and stumble around. But even if you manage to keep your footing on one of the trails, you still have to deal with the fact that on one side, there’s a giant cliff and on the other, there’s a raging river. If things start to go south, there’s nowhere to go. And it’s not like you can just hang out for a while and wait for everything to chill out, because it’s pretty much the exact opposite of chill, with temperatures of over 110 degrees just waiting to fry your brain and make you stroke out. It’s so bad that on the Bright Angel Trail, they actually have something called a “Death Zone.” Good Lord.

1. The Maze, Utah

Located in the desert of Utah, the Maze is one of those places spoken of almost in hushed whispers in hiking circles. That’s because it’s a “trail” with no real actual trails, just identical canyons and a complex of dead-ends that make it, well, a maze. Hey, mazes can be fun, but probably not in the desert, where one wrong turn could lead to your bleached bones being found chilling with a vulture someday. There’s no water to be found anywhere, and landmarks are scarce since it’s all dead-end canyons and desert rock. Still, thousands of expert hikers tackle the Maze every year, both for the challenge and the stunning red rock scenery. The key word in there, though, is “expert.” Anything short of that and you might as well just sell all your possessions and leave a suicide note.

Skull image: Allie_Caulfield, Flickr
Kauai image: Matt Wright, Flickr
Devil’s Hole image: Curtis Anderson, Flickr
The Maze image: Nick Taylor, Flickr