In the mood for a hike this weekend? Check out this list of the scariest hiking places in the U.S. Hopefully one is in your area! (Make sure to pack some marshmallows and your Kindle to tell scary ghost stories if you’re going for an evening hike.)
1. Bluff Mountain and Punchbowl Shelter, Virginia
Four-year-old Ottie Cline Powell died on the mountain over a century ago after wandering away from his schoolhouse, says Backpacker.
The Blue Ridge Country website says many hikers feel “an eerie, unseen presence near the mountain top.”
2. Black Diamond Mines, Antioch, California
Black Diamond Mines are located way out in the San Francisco East Bay (I’ve been there). The Wailing Witch is thought to haunt the mines after she was executed for failing to take care of children in her care, which led to their deaths. And a lady named Sarah Norton was crushed to death by her carriage, so she hangs out at the nearby Rose Hill Cemetery. If my wife and I had known this, we might’ve just spent the day at Six Flags instead.
3. The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles
Yes, that Hollywood sign. It’s been a landmark for ages, but there’s a story. In L.A. there’s always a story. It seems back in September of 1932, an actress named Peg Entwhistle decided to climb up the back of the “H” and then leapt to her death. Modern Hiker says on September 18, her purse, shoes and jacket were found along with a suicide note. “I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”
Here’s a live webcam of the sign. Do you see her?
While her body was cremated and buried in Ohio, there are those who claim to have seen her apparition fall from the H and vanish before it hit the ground, and spotted her wandering hiking trails in Griffith Park and near her old home on Beachwood Canyon Drive. You might even catch a whiff of her favorite gardenia perfume at those spots, too.
4. Bloody Lane Trail, Maryland
The name alone should tip you off. In the Civil War, more than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam. Here are details on the 1.5 mile route. Don’t go alone—Travel Channel says visitors report “seeing ghostly soldiers both day and night, and phenomena include witnessing balls of blue light, hearing drumming, gunfire and battlefield songs, and smelling gunpowder.”
5. Chilnualna Falls Trail
This one is located in Yosemite National Park, and the 8.4 mile trail passes Grouse Lake. As the legend goes, a young boy from a local Native American tribe drowned in these waters, and you can still hear his cries. If you try to help him…you’ll be pulled under, too. Just sayin’.
Oh… and one more thing about the Chilnualna Falls Trail. Stories say there’s an evil spirit named Pohono—and if you get too close to the edge of the highest waterfall (which you shouldn’t be anywhere near anyway, evil spirit or not) the spirit will push you over the side.
6. Spruce Railroad Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
The trail runs along Lake Crescent, and that (allegedly) is the home of “The Lady Of The Lake.” According to Backpacker, the husband of Hallie Latham Illingworth killed her back in 1937, and fisherman found her mummified body three years later. FWIW: Keep an eye peeled for her ghost on the 8-mile loop trail. Maybe keep two eyes peeled.
7. Long Path, New York
You wanna follow the Long Path to Theills in Rockland County, New York. You’ll eventually pass Letchworth Village Cemetery. Letchworth was a mental institution built in 1911 for the “epileptic and feeble-minded” that housed mostly children, and hundreds of anonymous grave markers note their final resting places. Travel Channel notes they were subjected to clinical drug trials and suffered from abuse and extreme neglect. It was shut down in 1996, and trespassing is illegal. Except for ghosts.
8. Transept Trail, Arizona
This three-mile trek along the Grand Canyon North Rim is known for its striking beauty. Oh, and, as the story goes, the Wailing Woman. Wearing a white dress with blue flowers, she’s often spotted at night crying for her husband and son, who died in a hiking accident.
9. Ghost House Trail, Tennessee
This trail in Big Ridge State Park is known for a witch-hanging and a Native American-scalping. The hanging isn’t confirmed but a plaque on the nearby Indian Rock Trail does mention the, um, other thing. What is noteworthy here is that the trail was named for the house of the Hutchinson family. Their daughter Mary died of tuberculosis in the 1800s. Neighbors reported hearing cries and spotting ghosts long after the family left, and people still report the sounds of a phantom dog running up and down the trail, panting.
10. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Holy disclosure, Batman—let’s get this right out up front: Big Bend is known for its bats. Wilderness.org says “The Chisos Mountains are named for the spooks that make noises at night. Various ghosts include a betrayed Indian chief, a band of Spanish warriors, and even a horse seeking revenge against the cowboys who branded him with the word ‘murder.’”
11. Iron Goat Trail, Washington
Located in Stevens Pass in the Cascades, this was the site of one of the worst train disasters in U.S. history. An avalanche crushed two trains while they were at a depot, and 100 people died. The Great Northern Railroad abandoned the tracks and built new tunnels and routes, but the old ones remain. Hikers report still hearing screams and shouts along the Tye Creek crash site, in the now-ghost town of Wellington. Hikers are not allowed on the trail at night, and no one should enter the tunnels. Except for ghosts.
12. Norton Trail Creek, North Carolina
This one is almost too scary to even write about. According to Mother Nature Network, there’s a witch named Spearfinger, and she has “long, sharp finger made of stone, and she walked the Smokies’ trails disguised as an elderly woman and lured children who wandered too far from their village. She’d hold the children and sing them to sleep…” And, well, let’s just say it doesn’t end well. (There’s also a story about a fellow who was looking for his lost daughter, and was killed by Native Americans. But he’s OK; apparently, he helps lost travelers.)
13. Batona Trail, New Jersey
This 50-mile trail in rural New Jersey is supposedly home to the Jersey Devil. It seems back in the 1700s, a Mrs. Leeds was pregnant with her 13th child, and cursed it and wished it were dead. The state takes this one seriously—the New Jersey NHL team wasn’t named “Devils” by coincidence. And The X-Files did a show on this one, too. So the truth IS out there… somewhere. The website for Atlantic County, New Jersey says the cursed child “was born normal and took on odd characteristics later, characteristics such as an elongated body, winged shoulders, a large horse-like head, cloven feet and a thick tail.”
14. Warm Springs Canyon Road
Located in sunny Death Valley (that should tip you off), the 16-mile Warm Springs Canyon Road leads to a place called Barker Ranch, which was home to the infamous Manson Family in the late 1960s. Fire destroyed it in 2009, and hikers are allowed to camp on the site. Travel Channel says some hikers reported “hearing screams, the feeling of being watched, and smelling decomposing bodies.” ‘Nuff said.
15. Violet City Lantern Tour and Heritage Walk, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Apparently this part of the huge cave complex was once used as a hospital for tuberculosis patients in the 1800s. A fellow named Dr. John Croghan believed that the cave had healing powers, so he built 11 huts within them. Several patients died there (imagine that) and the good doctor gave up his experiments.
A few of those huts remain, as does Corpse Rock, where bodies were temporarily housed. Some visitors report hearing… coughing. I went to Mammoth Cave way back in the day—if someone had mentioned all this, I would’ve stayed in the car.