The Spookiest National Park Trails

Here are seven trails that have a spooky story to keep you entertained while you hike.

By Courtney Johnson
Explore Ambassador

Long-lost lovers, sick patients and battlefield soldiers are just some of the apparitions that haunt the trails around some of our favorite national parks. The wails of a grieving woman, the guiding light of a man who lost his daughter in the woods and formations that you might see in the underworld all can be seen and heard along some of the spookiest national park trails. Here are seven of those trails. Hike at your own risk!

(Photo: NPS Antietam/ B.Baracz)

Bloody Lane Trail, Antietam National Battlefield ­­– Maryland

Visitors to the Antietam National Battlefield can get their scare on by walking along the 1.6-mile Bloody Lane Trail. This easy-rated hike is located at the site where one of the deadliest Civil War battles took place in 1862. Around 23,000 men were wounded, killed or went missing from along Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) during the battle on Sept. 17, 1862. The ghosts of these men haunt the national monument, where visitors have heard singing, smelled gunpowder and heard gunfire.

If you can’t get enough of the spirits, two other, longer-distanced hikes take you past more “haunts.” The looped Burnside Bridge hike passes the haunted bridge and takes visitors along Final Attack Trail and Sherrick Farm Trail for 4.4 miles. Hikers can also walk along the Sherrick Farm Trail, Three Farms Trail and Three Ridges Trail for a 4.5-mile hike.

Daytime and nighttime, guests have seen the ghosts of soldiers limping along the lanes. Unmarked graves near the Burnside Bridge may be home to spirits that can be heard at night playing the drums, while footsteps can be heard near the Piper House and Pry House.

Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park – California

As one of the most visited national parks in the United States, Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most beautiful but dangerous terrain, whether you are a climber, hiker or other adventurer. The Chilnualna Falls Trail is a difficult 8.4 miles long, meandering past Grouse Lake and three waterfalls in the Wawona Basin.

At the highest waterfall, an evil wind spirit named Po-ho-no pushes visitors to their death if they happen to get close to the edge. Considering the fall is some 240 feet down, the Native American legend from the Miwok people is not to be taken lightly.

An Ahwahnechee tribal legend states that an indigenous boy drowned at Grouse Lake. His cries can still be heard by those who pass by along the trail. According to the legend, if anyone enters the lake, to look for the boy or for any other reason, they will also drown.

Devils Garden Trail, Arches National Park – Utah

(Photo: NPS/Chris Wonderly)

The Devils Garden Trail is one of the crown jewels of Arches National Park. It takes hikers past Landscape Arch and Double O Arch for 4.1 miles out and back. The full trail, including the Primitive Trail, is almost 8 miles long and very primitive in areas past Double O Arch.

Prepare for the devil to test your skill as you scale up and down rocks that can be slippery. He tricks you in places where you may get lost or struggle to find the correct route. Steep dropoffs and possible water crossings add to the experience. The hoodoos, arches and slabs of rock along the trail resemble something you may see in the depths of hell.

Some say if you close your eyes, you can hear the cackle of the devil mixed in the winds that blow through the park. A 150-foot sandstone tower called The Dark Angel sits above the Devils Garden, towering over visitors.

Dune Life Nature Trail, White Sands National Park – New Mexico

(Photo: Ken-Redeker/NPS)

Spanishconquistador Hernando de Luna was looking for the lost Seven Cities of Cibola and Gran Quivira with explorer Francisco Coronado in 1540 in the area where White Sands National Park is located now. Both men were ambushed by Apaches and killed. Luna’s body is said to be buried in the dunes.

Luna’s fiancée, Mañuela, disappeared from Mexico City after her betrothed never returned. Her ghost, known as Pavla Blanca, can be seen around sunset, hovering over the dunes in a wedding gown, looking for her long-lost love.

Besides Pavla Blanca, the park is home to what scientists refer to as ghost fossils. The fossils of a sloth-like creature that was hunted by man through the Ice Age can be found within the park along a trackway. The light has to be just right to see these fossils. Weathering also destroys the fossils.

Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky

(Photo: NPS Photos/ Thomas DiGiovannangelo)

Mammoth Cave happens to be known as one of the most haunted natural wonders in the world. If you want to hike, there are 60-plus miles of backcountry trails on the north side of this national park. Between the caves and the south trails, visitors can find over 18 miles of additional trails.

For the real spooks, take a guided tour within the caves. Times and availability vary throughout the year, so it’s best to check the website to see what tours are running when you plan to visit. In the 1800s, a tuberculosis hospital stood where the national park is today. Visitors have heard the coughing of deceased patients in the caves. Take the Violet City Lantern Tour to view huts used by patients that are often the site of paranormal activity.

Within the caves, visitors have seen slave apparitions. People visiting the caves have also claimed to have been pushed by unknown sources. Objects have been thrown at guests, and shadows have been seen along the cave walls. The ghost of former slave and tour guide of the caves Stephen Bishop also haunts guests. Take the Heritage Trail past the Old Guide’s Cemetery and the grave of Bishop.

Floyd Collins, a cave explorer, once owned Crystal Cave, one of the caves within the park. He died exploring another cave on the property. His ghost roams the caves, and his cries can be heard within them. Park rangers Charles Hanion and Colleen O’Connor Olson wrote a book titled Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave describing the hundreds of well-documented activities that have occurred in the caves.

Norton Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina

With more than 200 cemeteries within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is sure to be some haunted activity about. The challenging, 18.5-mile out-and-back Norton Creek Trail (also known as the Noland Creek Trail) is home to some ghostly activity based on many Cherokee legends.

There are a few ways to tackle this long trail. Grab a backcountry pass and spend a few nights (if you don’t get spooked away) at one of the numerous campsites along the trail as you tackle the full 18.5 miles. You can hike sections of the trail or do a shorter out and back. All along the trail there are spooks.

This trail leads to the Upper and Lower Norton cemeteries. It passes old homesteads where the remains of homes still can be seen. Be on the lookout for Spearfinger, a witch from Cherokee legend. She wanders the trail looking for children. One of her fingers is made of stone with a knife on one end. The legend says that Spearfinger catches the children, rocks them to sleep and then uses her knife finger to cut out their organs. The liver is her favorite organ to eat. People have heard Spearfinger singing lullabies along the trail.

There is also a good spirit who helps hikers who are on the trail after dark or who have gotten lost. While looking for his lost daughter, a settler was killed by Native Americans. His “light” is said to have helped hikers who are turned around on the trail.

Other spooks have been seen and heard along the trail, especially near the cemeteries. Visit during Decoration Days, when you may see the descendants of some of the ghosts that haunt the trail visit the park to decorate the graves of loved ones.

Transept Trail, Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona

Phantom Ranch (Photo: NPS)

There are several reasons why visitors call Grand Canyon National Park one of the most haunted national parks in the world. The ghost of former railroad and hotel manager Fred Harvey has been seen at the El Tovar Hotel. Visitors also have seen lights in the sky at Crash Canyon, where two passenger jets collided in 1956.

Near Phantom Ranch, a worker was crushed by a boulder. His spirit haunts the area around the ranch. Apparitions of boys can be seen running around the Hopi House. Perhaps the spookiest place within the park is along the Transept Trail. This 3.4-mile out-and-back trail runs between the North Rim Campground and the Grand Canyon Lodge. It follows the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and passes an Ancestral Puebloan ruin.

As you hike the trail, especially if you hike it around sunset or in the dark, listen for the wails of a distressed woman. The Wailing Woman, as she is called, is said to be mourning the loss of her husband and son who perished during a hiking accident. She took her own life out of despair for her loved ones. Floating overhead in a white dress, her sobs follow hikers and echo through the canyon.

Honorable Mention: Concho Billie Trail, Big Cypress National Monument – Florida

A relative of Bigfoot haunts the trails and swamps of the Big Cypress National Monument. Known as the Florida Skunk Ape, it rises from the depths of the pungent cypress swamps or rustles through the palms and pines, looking for its next hiker to scare. Are those the eyes of a Florida panther or the ape you see? Who knows, as both roam the marshy land.

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