Hiking is a peaceful and transcendent experience. There’s nothing better than leaving the real world behind for a day or two and venturing into the wilderness. It puts things into perspective and reinforces the kinship we share with nature. However, some national parks are plagued by dark histories, local legends, and tales of restless spirits. Making them the perfect place for hikers who seek something a little more supernatural to go with their adventure in the great outdoors.
From the ghost of a little boy who roams Bluff Mountain to the Lady of the Lake who lurks in the deep waters of Lake Crescent. Here are the ten most haunted hiking trails in America.
1. Transept Trail
Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
In the heart of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, the three-mile Transept Trail is famously known to be haunted by the Wailing Woman. It’s said during storms a woman dressed in white and holding blue flowers appears on the trail, screaming in fury. Sightings of the spirit are well documented by hikers, she is also said to haunt the trail at night, manifesting from the darkness and terrifying anyone she encounters. According to one legend, her husband and son died in an accident on the trail years ago, while another claims she is the spirit of a woman who drowned her own children so she could be with the man she loved. When he spurned her, she committed suicide and was cursed to wander the trail thereafter searching for her children.
2. White Sands National Monument
Location: White Sands, New Mexico.
Those who hike the Alkali Flat Trail at sunset may just be lucky enough to catch an otherworldly glimpse of Pavla Blanca, also known as the ghost of the Great White Sands. Pavla Blanca legend comes from the central New Mexico Indians and dates back to the 16thcentury. The story goes that a beautiful young Spanish maiden named Mañuela was due to wed a handsome conquistador. Before they could marry he was attacked in the desert by a group of Apache warriors. Suffering a fatal wound he died beneath the swirling sands of the desert. It is said that the ghost of the Spanish maiden haunts the area to this very day. She comes at sunset in her flowing, white wedding gown to search for her lost love buried somewhere beneath the dunes of White Sands.
3. Norton Creek Trail
Location: Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to several ghostly tales. Multiple cemeteries span the Norton Creek trail, so it is little wonder that some ghostly apparitions have been seen wandering from their final resting places. The native Cherokee people believe that a witch named Spearfinger is also among them, and that this evil spirit haunts the area hunting and feeding on children who stray from the trail. But it’s not all bad along Norton Creek, a much friendlier ghost has also been sighted, appearing as a bright light that leads lost hikers to safety.
4. Chilnualna Falls Trail
Location: Yosemite National Park, California.
The 8 mile long Chilnualna Falls trail in Yosemite Nation Park loops around two waterfalls and follows the edge of Grouse Lake, within which lives the ghost of a boy who drowned long ago. According to Awahnechee tribal legend, the cries of a young child can still be heard, and anyone who jumps into the lake looking for the boy will suffer a watery death. Native Americans also believe Po-Ho-No (which is the evil spirit of the waterfalls) call the area home. Hikers on the trail are advised to tread carefully as the Po-Ho-No are known to lure wanderers to the cliff edge where they are pushed to their deaths, so watch your step!
5. Devil’s Den
Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Gettysburg National Battlefield was the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. With over 50,000 dead, it’s a small wonder that some of the fallen have stuck around, unable to leave the horror of war behind. The area of Devil’s Den was used for sniper fire but is now known as one of the most haunted areas in Gettysburg. Visitors to the site often report unseen hands fiddling with electronics – namely cameras. Fully charged batteries go flat in seconds and those lucky enough to snap a picture or two often find them imprinted with blurry apparitions of soldiers. Eye-witness accounts talk of ghostly figures that suddenly appear and then just as quickly disappear, mostly taking place at sunset when it’s said that the majority of the paranormal phenomena is said to occur.
6. Spruce Railroad Trail
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington.
The Spruce Railroad trail in the Olympic National Park runs through the forest near Lake Crescent. According to local lore, within the dark depths of the lake – which plunges down to 600 feet or more – lives the spirit known as “The Lady of the Lake”. In 1937, Hallie Latham Illingworth was murdered by her husband. He wrapped the body in blankets and disposed of it in the lake, however, three years later the body mysteriously resurfaced. Stranger still, when the blankets were removed she was perfectly preserved and showed no sign of decay. Her husband was arrested and sent to prison for her murder but it’s said that her vengeful spirit still haunts the area. She has been seen gliding over the clear waters of the lake and roaming the trail that runs alongside it, calling for help from unsuspecting tourists. But if you see her don’t help. It’s just a lure to drag you down into a watery grave.
7. Big Bend National Park
Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas.
They say everything in Texas is bigger, and the ghosts that haunt Big Bend National Park are no exception. Native Americans, Spanish soldiers, and cowboys are all known to haunt the park’s trails. The Chisos Mountains, in particular, are said to be haunted Chief Alsate, the last leader of the Chisos Apaches, who was killed by a Mexican firing squad in 1882. Legend tells that when his body hit the ground, the mountains shook. If you view the Chisos from the north, you can see the outline of his face etched in the peaks and valleys. Some say he’s also responsible for the Marfa lights, glowing orbs that are regularly seen in the desert northwest of Big Bend. Hikers have also reported seeing the spirit of a young girl who drowned herself to avoid capture by bandits. La Llorona or the Wailing Woman has also been spotted roaming the land, as has a phantom bull which is believed to be a harbinger of death and murders to come.
8. Gold Mine Trail
Location: Great Falls, Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park, Maryland.
The Gold Mine Trail in Great Falls Park lays claim to an abandoned gold mine that was the site of supposed “Tommy Knockers” haunting. According to legend in 1906, a miner named Charlie Elgin set his lantern down next to dynamite, igniting it and causing an explosion that killed him. When the mine reopened it soon became clear all was not right. Knocking and thumping sounds were heard in the walls and tools went missing. Being superstitious in nature, the miners blamed the strange happenings on Tommyknockers (impish spirits found in Welsh folklore). After a night-watchman emerged from the mine, shivering with fright and telling a wild tale of a demon-like apparition with eyes of fire that had appeared before him in the night, word spread, and the mine closed soon after. Today, the mine has been reopened for curious visitors who are brave enough to explore the dark tunnels and the spirits that are rumored to still reside within them.
9. Appalachian Trail (VA)
Location: Appalachian Trail, Virginia.
On the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, a small memorial sits atop of Bluff Mountain. In memory of Ottie Powell, a four-year-old boy who went missing in 1891after straying from the path whilst collecting firewood. His body was found five months later on the mountaintop, but his spirit has remained and is said to haunt the surrounding areas. Walkers of the trail and campers who spend the night at Punchbowl Shelter – which is located just over a mile from the memorial – regularly report sightings of a lone boy wandering through the woods.
10. Appalachian Trail (NH)
Location: Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire.
Farther north on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, the ghost of Ben Campbell is said to haunt the White Mountains area after dark. While Campbell actually died on a hike in Scotland, he was planning to return home to hike the Appalachian Trail. Apparently, he did just that, because his footsteps can often be heard echoing through the landscape. You may even see his boots, which were left here by his family as a memorial.