Amazing Places

Would You Hike the 9 Spookiest Trails in the United States?

There's something so thrilling about being out in the wilderness, far from civilization. The only thing that could make it more exciting is if there were a ... a ... g-g-g-ghost! That's why we put together a round-up of American hiking trails that have a supernatural — or just plain creepy — reputation. We're starting with the places that are reputed to have a one or more supernatural residents, and then we'll get into the really creepy stuff.

Supernatural Threats

Batona Trail, New Jersey

There isn't a ghost that's rumored to live on Batona Trail. No, it's something much worse. This 50-mile (80-kilometer) path's name stands for BAck TO NAture, but long before that rebranding, the Pine Barrens it calls home were known as where the notorious Jersey Devil was allegedly born. To this day, hikers claim to have heard, spotted, or gotten the willies from the creature.

Transept Trail, Arizona

Along the north rim of the Grand Canyon runs the Transept Trail, one of the American Southwest's most notorious hiking paths. While you make your way along the canyon, keep your eyes peeled for a figure in a white and blue floral dress. This is the Wailing Woman — legend says her family died in a hiking accident in 1920, and she committed suicide shortly thereafter.

Chilnualna Falls, California

There have been rumors of a ghost at Chilnualna Falls in Yosemite since before there was a national park there. In fact, one of the earliest white men to have claimed to have heard something was Galen Clark — also known as Yosemite's first ranger. According to indigenous legends, the spirit of a drowned child resides in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Don't fall for his cries for help: He just wants to pull you in as well.

Punchbowl shelter

Bluff Mountain and Punchbowl Shelter, Virginia

As you are traveling the Appalachian Trail on its path through Virginia, you may find a certain disturbing sign atop Bluff Mountain: A trail marker indicates that the body of four-year-old Ottie Cline Powell was discovered there more than a century ago. A short walk away from the marker, you'll find comfort at the Punchbowl Shelter, but watch out. That's where most of the ghost sightings take place.

Norton Creek Trail, Tennessee.

There are a ton of cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains — about 200, by some estimates — and you'll find the densest clump of them on the north shore of Lake Fontana in Tennessee. But that's not what makes Norton Creek Trail so spooky. Chalk that up to Spearfinger: a witch whispered about by Cherokee children, who told of her long, razor-sharp finger.

Real-Life Horrors

Ghost House Trail, Tennessee

Also in Tennessee, Big Ridge State Park is home to one of the only trails in the country that openly admits that it has a ghost problem. And if you walk it, you really will run into the titular ghost house and its attendant cemetery — it once belonged to a family called the Hutchinsons until they were brought low by tuberculosis. You'll also find a marker indicating the location of a scalping victim, and another marking an old grist mill where a father was alleged to have hung his daughter as a witch.

Bloody Lane Trail, Maryland

This evocatively named walking path lets you walk on one of the most blood-watered battlefields on the North American continent. Antietam was the deadliest battle in the American Civil War — 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers perished there. The rumors of spiritual soldiers keeping up their old marching orders are going strong today. Some people even say they can hear the songs those soldiers would have sung.

Harriman State Park, New York

Like many other items on this list, the longer you walk the paths at Harriman State Park, the more likely you are to encounter the cemetery. These are the former (we hope) residents of Letchworth Village, a well-intentioned, poorly executed mental health facility that fell into disrepair in the 1920s (but stayed in use until 1996).

Iron Goat Trail, Washington

The part of the Iron Goat Trail that's most likely to be riddled with ghosts is off-limits to hikers, but it's still a major draw for phantom hunters. In 1910, just 10 years after it opened, an avalanche at the Cascade Tunnel through the mountains resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people, whose trains were swept off the mountain. You aren't allowed in the tunnels on your own these days, but keep your ears open for any echoing wails coming from inside.

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Prefer your ghosts more bookish? Order Colin Dickey's "Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places" (free with your Audible trial membership) and meet the spirits that made this country. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Correction 10/8/2018: This article has been corrected to indicate that you can reach Letchworth Village by hiking through Harriman State Park. 

Written by Reuben Westmaas July 18, 2018

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