When you’ve had your fill of haunted houses and scary movies, a long walk on a creepy outdoor trail can be the best activity to raise your goosebumps. We’ve picked out some of the eeriest walking trails in the U.S. that are perfect for a fall evening in the woods.
Are you brave enough to take these hikes?
1. Bluff Mountain (Lexington, Virginia)
People who live around Bluff Mountain all know the story of little Ottie Powell, even though it’s about 100 years old now. Ottie, a 4-year-old boy, is said to have died on the mountain after wandering away from his one-room schoolhouse. The Virginia Trail Guide blog notes that you can follow Ottie’s path and even see his grave marker if you take the Appalachian Trail hike, which ends at the Punchbowl Shelter.
2. Black Diamond Mines (Antioch, California)
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is located way out in San Francisco’s East Bay. The Wailing Witch is thought to haunt the mines to this day after being executed for failing to take care of children in her care, which led to their deaths. There’s another ghostly presence here: A woman named Sarah Norton was crushed to death by her carriage, so she hangs out at the nearby Rose Hill Cemetery. My wife and I visited this trail and, had we known these creepy facts, we might’ve just spent the day at Six Flags instead.
3. The Hollywood Sign (Los Angeles)
It’s been a sunny landmark for ages, but there’s a story that makes this American icon a chilling spot to hang around. In September 1932, an actress named Peg Entwistle decided to climb up the back of the “H” on the Hollywood Sign and leap to her death. Vanity Fair says that on Sept. 18, Entwistle’s 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.”
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 hitting the ground. Some have even claimed they’ve spotted her wandering hiking trails in nearby 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. Ghost House Trail (Big Ridge State Park, Tennessee)
This trail in Tennessee’s Big Ridge State Park is known for grisly incidents, like a witch-hanging and a scalping. The hanging isn’t confirmed, but a plaque on the nearby Indian Rock Trail does mention the scalping. 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 Mary’s phantom dog running up and down the trail, panting.
5. Bloody Lane Trail (Sharpsburg, Maryland)
The name alone should tip you off for this one. In the Civil War, more than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam. It’s been called the bloodiest day in American history. The Bloody Lane Trail, which goes around the battlefield, is 1.6 miles and very eerie. 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.”
6. Chilnualna Falls Trail (Wawona, California)
This one is located at Yosemite National Park, and features an 8.4-mile trail that passes Grouse Lake. As the legend goes, a young boy from a local Native American tribe drowned in those waters centuries ago, and you can still hear his cries. If you try to help him, you’ll be pulled under, too, according to the story, which has been around since at least 1857.
One more creepy thing about the Chilnualna Falls Trail are stories about an evil spirit named Pohono. If you get too close to the edge of Bridalveil Fall (which you shouldn’t be anywhere near anyway, evil spirit or not) the spirit may push you over the side.
7. Spruce Railroad Trail (Piedmont, Washington)
This eerie trail runs along Lake Crescent at Olympic National Park, and that, allegedly, is the home of “The Lady Of The Lake.” According to Backpacker, Hallie Latham Illingworth was killed by her husband in 1937. Three years later, fishermen found Illingworth’s mummified body. Keep an eye peeled for her ghost on the 8-mile loop trail. Maybe keep both eyes peeled.
8. The Long Path (Thiells, New York)
The Long Path is an epic stretch of hiking that spans more than 350 miles from New York to Albany, but the creepiest part is in Rockland County, near Thiells. Here, you’ll eventually pass Letchworth Village Cemetery. Letchworth was a mental institution built in 1911 that mostly housed children. Hundreds of anonymous grave markers note those kids’ final resting places, giving the entire area a grim atmosphere.
Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” notes the young patients there were subjected to clinical drug trials and suffered from abuse and extreme neglect. Letchworth was shut down in 1996, and trespassing on the property is illegal … but that apparently doesn’t keep ghosts from walking around.
9. Big Bend National Park (Brewster County, Texas)
We’re not going to single out one trail at Big Bend National Park, we’re just going to say the whole place can be a chilling hike. First, the place is known as a haven for bats, which is creepy enough, and the trails there are known for being challenging and empty because it’s one of the least-visited national parks. Massive spiders and venomous snakes have been known to be found around the park, and because it’s so remote, the skies here are quite dark at night, making it extra scary for people who are afraid of the dark.
10. Iron Goat Trail (Wellington, 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 for anyone wanting a ghostly experience. 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 the spirits who still have an unpunched ticket.
11. Batona Trail, New Jersey
This claustrophobic, 50-mile trail in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens is supposedly home to the Jersey Devil. It seems that in 1735, a Quaker woman was pregnant with her 13th child, and cursed it and wished it were dead. 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.”
If you walk the Batona Trail, you will have that legend in the back of your mind for every step, making it a chilling, desolate walk.
12. Transept Trail (North Rim, Arizona)
This 2.9-mile trek along the Grand Canyon’s 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.
13. Warm Springs Canyon Road (Death Valley, California)
Located in the brutally hot Death Valley, the 16-mile backcountry walk on Warm Springs Canyon Road leads to a place called Barker Ranch, which was home to the infamous Manson Family in the late 1960s. Fires destroyed the ranch in 2009, but hikers are still allowed to camp on the site. Travel Channel says some hikers reported “hearing screams, the feeling of being watched and smelling decomposing bodies.” Temperatures on this trail also routinely rise near 120 degrees.
Ready for a hike?
14. Norton Trail Creek (Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina)
This one is almost too scary to even write about. According to Blue Ridge Outdoors, there’s a witch named Spearfinger that haunts this trail in the Smokies. As you can imagine, she has long, sharp finger made of stone and has been known to lure children into the woods before singing them to sleep — forever. There’s also a creepy story in this area about a fellow who was looking for his lost daughter and was killed in the woods on the trail. But his spirit has, apparently, helped lost travelers over the years.
15. Violet City Lantern Tour and Heritage Walk (Mammoth Cave, Kentucky)
Apparently this part of the huge, protected cavern 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.
What makes this all even scarier is that during the Violet City Lantern Tour, all the electric lights inside the cavern will be turned off, with the tour leader using only a lantern light to guide visitors. It’s during these blackout periods that many people report hearing creepy noises.
Additional reporting by Clint Davis.