Every outdoor explorer has encountered fear. There’s the kind of adrenaline-pumping, cliff-hanging, possible bone-breaking fear that grips us anytime we take on a difficult hike. And then there’s a fear not every outdoorsman/woman has experienced: the kind that makes your chest tighten, your palms clam, and sends shivers down your back.
A little heart-pounding fear can be good for your soul — it can even help make you feel more alive. In honor of Halloween we are unmasking 10 of the most haunted hiking trails in America. Travel along these trails if you dare.
1. Appalachian Trail, Virginia
The Appalachian Trail is plagued by countless stories of paranormal/unexplained occurrences but none other is more creepy than the disappearance of 4-year-old Ottie Cline Powell in November of 1891. Otto was leaving a nearby schoolhouse to gather firewood in the forest when he went missing. Five months later, a hunter discovered his body near Bluff Mountain along the Appalachian Trail. A plaque still marks the spot where Ottie was found. No one knows exactly what happened to the young boy.
Over the years, hikers have claimed seeing a child while camping at the Punchbowl Shelter, located 1.6 miles from where Ottie’s dead body was found. Do you dare take your chances of seeing Ottie by spending the night in this shelter?
2. Batona Trail, New Jersey
New Jersey isn’t just known for the Jersey Shore. It is also known for the New Jersey Devil: part kangaroo, part bat and has the head of a dog. And apparently it also has horns and a forked tail too. Since the 17000s, there have reportedly been thousands of reported sightings of this supernatural creature.
The Jersey Devil is said to lurk the marshes and locals have reported hearing its screams late at night. If you are looking to catch a glimpse of this deformed creature, take a hike along the Batona Trail.
3. Brown Mountains, North Carolina
Native Americans and pioneers have reported seeing glowing ‘spirit’ lights for the past 800 years in the Brown Mountains. In fact, the evidence caused so much controversy, the U.S. Geologic Survey investigated it in 1913 and 1922 — saying the lights were from cars, but couldn’t explain why people reported seeing them long before vehicles were invented.
Folklore says the lights are the spirits of dead warriors who roam the woods. The best spots for catching a glimpse of the Brown Mountain Lights are at nearby overlooks. Lost Cove Cliffs on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Wiseman’s View on Linville Mountain are the best spots reportedly.
4. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave is considered to be one of the most haunted cave systems int he world due to the over 150 paranormal incidents documented here. Many claim the cave is haunted due to the horrific deaths suffered by tuberculosis patients who were once housed here. There are many passages, paths, and tunnels that are not even open to the general public, further adding to the mystery of this place.
Eerie stories tell of unexplained sounds, strange lights, bizarre noises, disembodied footsteps and of course, apparitions and spirits. Other stories include encounters with ghosts told by visitors and tourists who have had no prior experience with caves and with the natural phenomena that accompanies them — which many say debunk these myths. However, park rangers, cave explorers, spelunkers and even geologists share these experiences as well. Is Mammoth Cave haunted? Only a true horror addict would travel to Kentucky to find out.
5. Spruce Railroad Trail, Washington
At first glance, no one would suspect the shimmering clear waters of Lake Crescent to be anything more than a beautiful sight. But its 624 feet pitch black depths hold more secrets than a treasure chest. But cars plunging into the water never to be seen again or the evil spirits conjured by the Klallam tribe aren’t even the scariest tales associated with the Spruce Railroad Trail.
After being brutally murdered by her husband in 1937, Hallie Latham Illingworth is now said to haunt the murky waters of Lake Crescent and the nearby Spruce Railroad Trail. Known as the Lady of the Lake, she is said to wander the 8-mile trail loop.
Even more spooky? The local fisherman who discovered her mummified corpse went missing soon after.
6. Iron Goat Trail, Washington
The Iron Goat Trail is home to one of the worst railroad accidents in US history; an enormous 1910 avalanche on Windy Mountains swept two trains off the track at the Wellington depot and into Tye Creek, killing close to 100 people.
The old railroad grade and its tunnels were abandoned in 1929 for the Cascade Tunnel, and was was left behind has been crafted into the Iron Goat Trail. While the loop presents a gentle grade for hikers, its terrifying history still haunts the trail. Hikers can still delve into the deep black tunnels left behind for ruins. Some say these tunnels are abandoned but others argue they are inhabited by the ghosts of the fallen, searching for a way out.
7. Kiona’ole, O’ahu, Hawaii
The abandoned Kiona’ole Road is said to be haunted by multiple entities including murder victims whose bodies were dumped here, restless sports residing in a tree, and by warriors who survived the fall from the Pali during the famous battle at Nu’uanu and were then pursued and slaughtered by Kamehameha’s men.
A former resident of the area claims the bodies of the warriors were left out in the sun to rot without a proper burial, which is why they now haunt the small, unmarked trail to the right of the road where there are laua’e ferns. When people pick the ferns, many of them report being followed home by shadowy figures. Some have even fallen ill, while others claim they are haunted by terrifying nightmares. Bottom line: don’t take the ferns.
8. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park has long been considered a haunted destination, dating as far back as when the relatives of the pit-dwelling Anasazi roamed the region. Today, Big Bend is still a vast plot of desert and its eerie mountains and strange whispers of the wind around the peaks and canyons are frightening for an environment nearly void of modern sounds.
There are also tales of spirits that still roam the Big Bend’s ghost towns and mining operations, and an old legend about an Apache maiden who was run down by Anglo or Mexican bandits and chose a drowning death in Rio Grande instead of being violated by her captors. The Canyon de Bruhas, or Witch’s Canyon, has had several reports of moaning sounds coming from the waters.
9. Transept Trail, Arizona
Transept Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park should be a chance to enjoy one of the greatest national parks in the country. However, some have had their experience interrupted and disturbed by a woman in a white dress, dotted with blue flowers. She paces the trail and wails uncontrollably — appropriately named the Wailing Woman. Locals say she is mourning the loss of her husband and child. Her screaming face was reportedly seen in the flames during the September 1, 1932 fire at the Grand Canyon Lodge. If you can work up the courage to make it past her and make it to the North Rim, you’ll encounter some creepy archaeological ruins.
10. Devil’s Den, Pennsylvania
It may come as no surprise that Devil’s Den in Pennsylvania is extremely haunted due to the tragic, violent slaughters that took place during Gettysburg. On July 1, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his troops from Northern Virginia to south central Pennsylvania, to a small, rural town known as Gettysburg. The bloody battle resulted in the death of 51,000 americans, including one civilian casualty, a woman by the name of Jennie Wade who died when a stray bullet entered her window at the beginning of the battle.
The most active paranormal location in the area is known as “Devil’s Den”. From that infamous day on, photographers have had inordinate amounts of difficulty taking pictures in Devil’s Den as well as in several other areas of notorious fighting. Jennie Wade is also said to wander the house where she died along with the ghost of her father, who was institutionalized after her death and ending up passing away in the “poorhouse”. Several people have reported seeing a rugged man, barefoot with a floppy hat and ragged clothes on the rocks of Devil’s Den. Those who have met the spirt report he always says the same thing while pointing toward Plum Rum: “What your’e looking for is over there.”