13 haunted hikes

Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park

Flickr, Robbie

October is a wonderful time to go hiking and witness the beauty of the changing season as well as creatures preparing for winter.

It's also a time to celebrate Halloween by seeking out spooky wild places.

Here are some wild lands where you may have a creature or two hiking with you - but not one that's still living.


1. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Sunset is when you are most likely to see Pavla Blanca, the ghost of the Great White Sands. According to native legend, it is the ghost of Mañuela, a Spanish maiden in search of her betrothed Spanish conquistador Hernando de Luna who died in the desert in 1540. She has been renamed for her flowing, white wedding gown.

photo credit: Flickr, Jöshua Barnett.


2. Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

This 8.4-mile trek will take you to Grouse Lake, where you may hear the whimpering cries of a boy who drowned in the lake, according to Native American folklore. Legend is that those who heed his calls will suffer the same fate. The Miwok tribe also believes Yosemite’s waterfalls are haunted by Po-ho-no, an evil wind that entices hikers to their edges and pushes them to plunge to their deaths. In other words, don't be too distracted by Yosemite's beautiful fall colors!

photo: Lower Chilnualna Falls at Yosemite National Park. credit: Flickr, VanZandt.


3. Transept Trail, North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

In fall, Grand Canyon's trails are alive with color but one is also haunted by death. A wail­ing woman wanders along this trail between the lodge and campground on stormy nights in a white dress dotted with blue flowers. Some say it is the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in the nearby lodge in the 1920s after learning her husband and son had died while hiking. Some say it’s the legendary La Llorona, a woman who drowned her children to be with the man that she loved, and then killed herself when she was rejected by the man.

photo credit: Flickr, Clay Larsen.


4. Norton Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Ghosts good and bad haunt this trail which passes several cemeteries as it winds through a colorful forest. The witch Spearfinger haunts Norton Creek and feasts on wayward children, according to Cherokee legend. A much friendlier ghost that appears as a mysterious floating light has been know to lead lost hikers to safety. Some say it is a settler who was murdered on the shores of Lake Fontana while looking for his daughter.

photo: Lake Fontana in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. credit: Flickr, Mark Drewe.


5. Spruce Railroad Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

This 8-mile trail is said to be haunted by Hallie Latham Illingworth, “The Lady of the Lake.” In 1937, she was murdered by her husband - and years later her body was found mysteriously preserved and floating in Lake Crescent. Olympic has other spooky marvels as well including the ghost of Carl Putvin, who perished in a snowstorm in 1913 near the Lake of the Angels.

photo: Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. credit: Flickr, Tobin.


6. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

The world’s longest cave system has had over 150 documented paranormal occurrences. At Corpse Rock visitors may hear the phantom coughs of tuberculosis patients from when the cave was a hospital in the 1880s. There have also been sightings of ghosts of the slave guides who once led visitors here, especially Stephen Bishop who was buried in the Old Guide Cemetery just outside the cave entrance.

photo credit: Flickr, Stu Rapley.


7. Gold Mine Trail, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park, Maryland

This haunted jaunt begins at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and passes by the site of an 1906 explosion that killed a miner. Afterwards, spirits known as "Tommy Knockers" began to haunt the mine. Two years later, a night watchman saw "a ghostie-looking man with eyes of fire and a tail 10 feet long" crawling out of the shaft, so the mine closed.

photo: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. credit: Flickr, Eoghann Irving.


8. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Many trails at Virgin Islands’ historical plantations, including those at Jumby Beach, are said to be haunted by mischievous spirits the locals call "jumbies." Apparently, there is a female one in particular that has it out for men walking the self-guided nature trail to Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins.

photo: Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins at Virgin Islands National Park. credit: Flickr, Navin75.


9. Appalachian Trail, Virginia

It was this time of year when four-year-old Ottie Powell vanished in 1891, while collecting firewood in a forest bright with colored leaves. His body was found five months later near Bluff Mountain, where a memorial for Ottie can still be found. Backpackers claim that those who spend a night at Punchbowl Shelter may encounter his spirit.

photo: Ottie Kline Memorial on Bluff Mountain. credit: Flickr, Mark Larson.


10. Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire

Farther north on the A.T. is another haunt. The White Mountains are a backpacker’s dream in fall - but one place may cause nightmares. The Greenleaf Hut in the White Mountains is said to be inhabited by the spirit of former hutmaster Ben Campbell. Although Campbell died on a hike in Scotland, he was due to return to the Lakes of the Clouds. His long overdue footsteps can be heard at night. You may even see his boots, which were left here by his family as a memorial.

photo: Greenleaf hut in White Mountains. credit: Flickr, Michael Tsai.


11. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend is known for its bats, but that’s not the scariest thing here. 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.'

photo: Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. credit: Flickr, Kristin Resurreccion.


12. Devil's Den, Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg was the Civil War’s deadliest battle with over 50,000 corpses. Devil’s Den is a rocky out­crop­ping once used by snipers. Today it is notorious for causing cameras to malfunction, especially when used to try to capture Gettysburg’s phantoms. The most commonly sighted is the barefoot, rifle-carrying “Hippie,” who’s thought to be a former member of the 1st Texas Infantry. You’ll know him by his calling card: pointing toward Plum Rum and saying to visitors “What you’re looking for is over there.”

photo: Devil's Den at Gettysburg. credit: Flickr, Mike Thomas.


13. Bloody Lane, Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

The bloodiest one-day battle in American history happened in 1862 at Antietam. After only 12 hours, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. The road known as Bloody Lane is said to be haunted by some of these soldiers, evidenced by sounds of phantom gunfire, shouting and singing, as well as sightings of ghosts in Confederate uniform. Many fallen soldiers were buried under Burnside Bridge, visitors have heard phantom drumbeats and seen blue balls of light moving through the air.

photo: Bloody Lane at Antietam National Battlefield. credit: Flickr, Ulises Jorge.


See also: