Scariest Hiking Trails In The U.S. That You Can Explore (If You Dare)
Let's face it: for a country with a fairly short history, America sure has a lot of haunted hiking trails. It turns out that the country's scariest hiking trails aren't the ones with the furthest drops or raging rivers to traverse, but the ones whose pasts can't seem to rest.
From sea to shining sea, haunted hikes abound, and the large, sprawled out country has just about every flavor of fear to offer. From wailing women to restless soldiers to indescribable creatures (looking at you, Jersey Devil), America can be a pretty freaky place to explore.
Here is a collection of some of the more spooky hiking trails in America, as determined by your votes.
The Spirits Of A Sanitarium Stalk Long Path, New YorkPhoto: Doug Kerr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
New York's Long Path Trail is a 358 mile-long trail that stretches from the 175th St Subway Station in New York City all the way to John Boyd Thacher State Park, near Albany, NY. It's a beautiful trail that connects a large number of New York's preserves, parks, and state forest.
However, with that much distance, you're bound to run into something spooky. That something for Long Path happens to be in Thiells, Rockland County. It's here that the trail passes the Letchworth Village Cemetery, an eerie, sprawling plot in which hundreds of T-shaped markers are scattered, bearing numbers instead of names.
These are graves from the nearby Letchworth Village, which was a mental institution built in 1911 for the "epileptic and feeble-minded." Letchworth housed mostly children, and was a doomed place from the start. Grossly underfunded, the institution quickly grew overpopulated with patients, until at one point it was reported that some 500 patients lived on cots in the hallways of the buildings.
Letchworth was also known for its gruesome practice of conducting scientific experiments and tests on the children housed there, such as the still-experimental polio vaccine they tested in 1950. The place was shut down in 1966, but the buildings have remained, slowly deteriorating.
Visitors report shadows, voices, and apparitions in the cemetery area. In the buildings themselves, there are certain rooms and wings where people claim to see cadavers tumbling down stairs, only to disappear, and multiple people have reported camera malfunctions in the area.
Civil War Ghosts Haunt Maryland's Bloody Lane TrailPhoto: Chris Light / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
It comes as no surprise that the site of the Civil War's bloodiest battle would become one of America's most haunted areas. Luckily, for ghost hunters, you can walk the exact sunken road on which it took place.
Antietam, just outside of Sharpsburg, MD, saw a stunning 23,100 men slain, wounded, or lost in action. For four long hours, the Union and Confederate soldiers fired at each other, until the sunken road (which is now the walking trail) was literally filled with cadavers piled on top of each other.
Today visitors can walk this stretch, which is fittingly known as Bloody Lane. Ghost stories abound, as one might expect given the area's gory past. Visitors on the path have noted the scents of gunpowder and smoke, even when nobody is around, as well as a near-constant eerie silence. There have been multiple reports of men in Confederate uniforms seen walking, apparitions so convincing that some witnesses assumed it was a re-enactment. With these come the sounds of phantom drums, blue lights moving about the fields, and apparent cries and yells from the Pry House and Piper House that stand on the battlefield.
In one event, schoolboys visiting the site reported that they heard singing in the fields, and that it sounded something like a Christmas carol, with a distinct, "fa la la." Reports from the time note that the Irish Brigade of the Union ran at the Confederacy with a Gaelic cry, which is said to sound remarkably similar to a Christmas tune.
A Trainload Of Passengers Perished On Iron Goat Trail, WashingtonPhoto: David Severance / US Federal Highway Administration / Public Domain
High in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, the Iron Goat Trail marks the site of one of the country's most disastrous railroad accidents. In 1910, two trains were waiting at the Wellington Depot, attempting to cross the Cascade Crest in a blizzard, and were knocked off the tracks by an enormous avalanche, killing nearly 100 people. Today, the railroad line they traveled along has been converted into a walking trail: that's right, the Iron Goat Trail.
Hikers can now walk this stretch, as well as through the tunnel (weather permitting), where the avalanche came roaring down. Visitors report hearing disembodied voices here, and strange cold spots that make the hair on their neck raise up. Others report unseen hands grabbing at them, or full-on apparitions crossing the tracks ahead of them on the trail. Iron Goat Trail is not for the faint of heart.
Ghost House Trail, Tennessee, Was The Site Of An Awful ActPhoto: Brian Stansberry / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
The Ghost House Trail outside of Knoxville, TN, has more than one restless spirit haunting its woods. Apparently, a family whose property edges the trail acquired a phantom dog once their daughter passed away from tuberculosis. Hikers report hearing a dog panting and running, but there is nothing to be seen. Allegedly, if you take a photo in their family graveyard (which is conveniently located by the trail as well), it is likely you will see shadowy or ghostly figures standing among the tombstones.
If this isn't creepy enough for you, the spot is also a memorial for a man named Peter Graves who was slain by local tribes. Visitors report seeing his mutilated apparition wandering the area.
Finally, making the spot a triple-threat in the world of the occult, the trail is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a "witch," who was hung nearby, and allegedly screams and haunts the trail.
A Young Boy Drowned Near The Chilnualna Falls Trail, CaliforniaPhoto: Bmdavll / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
If you're making your way to Grouse Lake on Chilnualna Falls Trail in Yosemite, keep your ears and eyes out for the various disgruntled spirits in the area. The tale stretches far back into history, with the first recorded account in 1857, from Galen Clark, one of the nation's first park rangers, and one of the founding forces behind Yosemite Park.
The story goes that as hikers pass Grouse Lake they hear puppy-like wailing. However, the local Native American tribes tell that this is no animal, but the spirit of a young boy who wandered off and drowned in the lake. Legend has it that he cries as he senses people nearing, only to grab their legs and pull them into the depths. Today, hikers still report hearing the ghostly wails as the trail nears the lake.
As if that weren't enough, local tribes also warn of the spirit named Po-ho-no, a malevolent force that haunts Yosemite Falls, luring hikers close to the edge of the massive waterfalls, and then pushing them to their doom. Needless to say, nobody should be wandering that close to the top of the falls in the first place.
A Father And Son Met Their End On The Transept Trail, ArizonaPhoto: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
Transept Trail is home to the Grand Canyon's very own wailing woman. Legend has it that years ago a man and his son were attempting to hike the Transept Trail when they were hit with bad weather, lost their footing, and fell to their deaths. The bereaved wife and mother of the pair was inconsolable, and reportedly spent hours scouring the area for the remains of her loved ones.
Unable to find them, she allegedly hung herself in a lodge nearby. Now, visitors to the park and on the trail have given countless reports of the glowing apparition of a wailing woman who stands atop the ridge, wearing a white dress and a wreath of blue flowers around her head.
The Transept Trail runs along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and other theories hold that the wailing woman could potentially be La Lorona, a Mexican-American legend of a young woman who drowned her children in a fit of rage upon discovering her husband's unfaithfulness. It is believed she took her own life in grief afterwards, and wanders the canyons wailing, looking for her children.