The Scariest Haunted Hiking Trails in the U.S.

By: Meredith Rosenberg

Bloody Lane Trail, Maryland

This 1.5-mile trail in Antietam National Battlefield was the site of one of the deadliest Civil War battles in 1862. As a result, visitors report seeing ghostly soldiers both day and night. Many soldiers are buried around Burnside’s Bridge, and phenomena include witnessing balls of blue light, hearing drumming, gunfire and battlefield songs and smelling gunpowder.

Chilnualna Falls Trail, California

Yosemite National Park is home to some of the country’s most beautiful (and deadly) hiking paths. The Mist Trail is more popular for its two gushing waterfalls, but the Chilnualna Falls Trail is more haunted (and boasts three waterfalls). The difficult 8.4-mile loop passes Grouse Lake, where, according to Awahnechee tribal legend, the cries of a young boy who drowned in the lake can still be heard, and anyone who jumps into the lake looking for the boy will also drown.

Long Path, New York

It’s not the easiest to find, but follow the Long Path to Thiells in Rockland County and it will eventually pass Letchworth Village Cemetery, a sprawling plot with hundreds of T-shaped markers instead of tombstones. The markers bear numbers, not names, and serves as the final resting place for residents of Letchworth Village, a nearby mental institution built in 1911 for the “epileptic and feeble-minded.” The asylum housed mostly children, who lived in overcrowded conditions and were subjected to clinical drug trials—most notoriously an experimental polio vaccine. Patients were also victims of abuse and extreme neglect, which was documented by ABC News in the ‘70s.

Transept Trail, Arizona

The three-mile Transept Trail in the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is one of the best-known haunted paths, since stories of the Wailing Woman are well documented by hikers. She’s often seen at night wearing a white dress with blue flowers, bemoaning, according to local lore, her husband and son who died in a hiking accident.

Ghost House Trail, Tennessee

This part of the remote Appalachians in Big Ridge State Park is known for a witch hanging and a American Indian scalping. The former may or may not have happened, but there’s a plaque commemorating the latter along nearby Indian Rock Trail. However, the 1.2-mile Ghost House Trail is even spookier and earned its name for the onetime house of the Hutchinson family, where daughter Mary died of tuberculosis in the 1800s. Neighbors reported hearing cries and seeing ghosts in the house even after the family no longer lived there. While Mary doesn’t show up on the trail today, her dog does, and many people have reported hearing a phantom dog running and panting.

Iron Goat Trail, Washington

The Iron Goat Trail in Stevens Pass in the Cascades was the site of one of the worst railroad accidents in U.S. history. In 1910 an avalanche knocked two trains off the tracks while they were snowed in at the Wellington depot, killing almost 100 people. After the accident the Great Northern Railroad abandoned the tracks and built new routes and tunnels. The abandoned tunnels and snowsheds still exist on the trail, and hikers share tales of hearing voices, screams and sounds around the crash site of Tye Creek in the (now ghost town) of Wellington. However, hikers aren’t allowed on the trail at night, and under no circumstances should anyone enter the tunnels, which are all in danger of collapse—if they haven’t already.

Norton Creek Trail, North Carolina

While the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is the most famous, and has its own share of creepy tales, the Norton Creek Trail is more notorious. Two legends are strongly associated with it: The first revolves around a settler killed by American Indians while searching for his lost daughter. On the plus side, he’s considered a benevolent spirit who helps guide lost hikers out of the woods. The other ghost isn’t so friendly. Cherokee legend warns about a witchy spirit aptly named Spearfinger, who lures children into the woods and eats their livers with her razor sharp finger. Oh, and did we mention that there’s a large number of cemeteries near Fontana Lake, which is also along Norton Creek Trail?

Batona Trail, New Jersey

The 50-mile long Batona Trail runs through the Pine Barrens in rural New Jersey, home to the legendary Jersey Devil. Folklore dates back to the 1700s, when Mrs. Leeds, upon learning she was pregnant with her 13th child, cursed it by wishing it were the devil.

Warm Springs Canyon Road, California

This extreme 16-mile hike in Death Valley National Park is not for the faint of heart, and not just because of extremely hot temperatures and abandoned homes along the route. Despite the pleasant-sounding name, Warm Springs Canyon Road leads to Barker Ranch—the former hideout of the infamous Manson Family. Charles Manson and his followers lived at the ranch for a period of time in the late ‘60s while on the run following the tragic Los Angeles murders of Sharon Tate and six others.

Violet City Lantern Tour and Heritage Walk, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park offers numerous tours that touch upon its haunted past, including the three-mile Violet City Lantern hike through some of the oldest parts of the cave. Be warned the tour is a challenging one. Those up for it will discover a part of the cave once used as a hospital for tuberculosis patients in the 1800s. Then owner Dr. John Croghan believed in the cave’s healing powers, and built 11 huts for patients. Unfortunately, several patients died in the cave, forcing Dr. Croghan to abandon the experiment. A few huts remain, along with the Corpse Rock, a stone slab where bodies were temporarily placed before being carried out of the caves. Guides and visitors have claimed to hear ghostly coughing in that section.

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