America’s National Parks have always been home to wildlife species, plants, water bodies, and natural wonders of many kinds. But these are not the only inhabitants of countless outdoor spaces across the country. For years, both hikers and park rangers have reported and witnessed spooky encounters with spirits, unexplained events, mysterious sounds and sightings, and more chilling stories from trails in parks. There are even some natural spaces that look like they were made for Halloween! We’ve shared some of our eeriest findings below…read on if you dare! 

1. Kennecott Copper Mines

Buildings of a town surrounded by partially snowcapped mountains
NPS Photo/Neal Herbert

Park: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Location: Kennecott Mill Town
Ghost: Phantom Tombstones/Headless Miner

On the ghost hunt? The Kennecott Historic District of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska is a rather ghoulish option. Hikers approaching the abandoned mining town via McCarthy Road have reported seeing tombstones appear and then vanish in the fields surrounding the path. Even scarier, when state-sponsored construction crews tried to redevelop the area in the 90’s, they were so frequently terrified by phantom visions and the disembodied wails of long lost miners that they eventually had to abandon the project.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with visitor services, preservation work and education & outreach.

2. Skull Rock

Rock that looks like a skull in desert
National Park Service/Robb Hannawacker

Park: Joshua Tree National Park
Location: East-West Park Road
Structure: Rock Formation

You are sure to have a skele-ton of fun when visiting this sinister spot in California! Thanks to a lot of erosion, this unique rock formation at Joshua Tree National Park is the bone-chilling resemblance to a human skull. If you are looking for a haunted hike, definitely “head” in this direction.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting in natural resources management, recreation and trail maintenance.

3. Slaughter Canyon Cave

Dark cave
National Park Service/Dan Pawlak

Park: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Location: Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail
Structure: Dark Caves

Don’t be afraid of the dark at this park! Although there’s nothing that screams Halloween more than a dimly lit cave with thousands of bats hanging about, a guided tour with headlamps and flashlights inside Slaughter Canyon Cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico seems like a thrilling way to get into the spirit. While this particular trail is closed indefinitely, other available cave tours are sure to provide some scares.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting in structural fire protection, bat monitoring and serving as park guides.

4. Goblins Gate

Blue water forming a stream in between two large rocks
Wikimedia Commons

Park: Olympic National Park
Trail: Elwha River Trail
Structure: Gorge

Goblins Gate can be quite the spooky sight. Situated within Olympic National Park in Washington, this narrow gorge along the Elwha River is known for its rocks that conjure up some eerie looks. Explorer Charles A. Barnes named it after he noticed some mysterious and distressing face-like appearances within the gorge. That combined with forceful currents along the stream make it an unforgettable haunt.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with trail restoration efforts, forest inventory and geographic information systems mapping.

5. Norton Creek Trail

Fall foliage and mountains covered in foggy haze

Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Trail: Norton Creek Trail
Ghost: Spearfinger

The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina are the perfect dwelling for many spooky beings. According to Cherokee legend, an evil witch known as Spearfinger preys on innocent hikers by disguising herself as a kind, old woman in need of assistance. She tends to roam along the North shore of Lake Fontana on the Norton Creek Trail, ready to deceive her unsuspecting victims and eat their livers!

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with public safety & outreach, information technology and archaeological research.

6. The Chisos Mountains

Rocks with fall foliage in front

Park: Big Bend National Park
Trail: Chisos Mountain Trails
Ghost: Multiple Ghosts and UFOs

This Texas national park is rich in history and a place where you can uncover fossils, other treasures, and you guessed it – ghosts! The Chisos Mountains have been the site of several brutal deaths, making it the ideal residence for ghouls with unfinished business. Visitors have reported hearing horrifying, unidentifiable sounds that have haunted them ever since. The mountain range’s name can be attributed to all the spooky activity as Chisos translates from Native American to mean ghost or spirit.

But that’s not all. In addition to paranormal activity, this spot is also one of the top sites for UFO activity in the country. Many visitors have witnessed objects falling from the sky and unexplained electrical failures with cars, planes, and radios when passing through. Is something else out there?

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with invasive plant species removal, cultural resources and museum conservation.

7. Mammoth Cave

Illuminated cave
National Park Service/Ashley Decker

Park: Mammoth Cave National Park
Trail: All of Mammoth Cave
Ghost: Stephen Bishop

A popular hangout for bats and covered in stalagmites, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky boasts a resident ghost named Stephen Bishop. A former slave and explorer, this adventurous spirit provided tours through the dark caves for visitors starting in the late 1830s until his death. Rumor has it that he still can be seen roaming about, especially during the lantern-guided tours!

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with botany data management, seasonal monitoring and backcountry trails monitoring.

8. Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Trail

Bridge outside in forest

Park: Prince William Forest Park
Trail: Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Trail
Ghost: The Headless Miner

The dangers of mining should be scary enough, right? Now throw a headless ghost into the mix, and you’ve got one frightful situation. The Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Trail in Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park is said to house the spirit of a miner who was decapitated during an elevator mishap.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with historic preservation, herpetology and environmental education.

9. Devil’s Den

Rocks and monuments with some greenery

Park: Gettysburg National Military Park
Trail: Battlefield Trails
Ghost: Helpful Hippy

As the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the Civil War, it’s no surprise that Gettysburg National Military Park’s Devil’s Den in Pennsylvania is home to the supernatural. Both the Union and the Confederacy experienced many casualties as a result of the battle here. However, there have been reports that some of the ghouls are more on the friendly side! A soldier spirit called the “Helpful Hippy” is known to support travelers in finding their way around.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with historical education, exotic plant management and stream assessment.

10. Gulf Coast Trails

Alligator surfacing above the water.

Park: Everglades National Park
Trail: Gulf Coast Trails
Ghost: Phantom Pirates

Argh! When traveling through the swampy trails of the Everglades in Florida, Alligators aren’t the only thing you have to be on the lookout for. A phantom pirate ship, even feared by the wildlife, is said to glow on the horizon during a full moon. According to the tale, this cruel group of 19th-century pirates made a merchant ship’s crew mercilessly walk the plank. The captain’s wife witnessed the atrocity and placed a curse on the pirates to be doomed to roam the waters for all eternity. The group eventually died from starvation, unable to escape.

SCA crew members have worked at this site assisting with fisheries management, wildlife monitoring and marine biology.

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