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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

America's Scariest Trails: What are You Afraid of?

Haunted mountains? Vanished campers? Bloodthirsty creatures? An evil wind that lures hikers over a waterfall? We dare you to hike America's scariest trails.

by: Anthony Cerretani

Illustrations by Dushan Milic
Illustrations by Dushan Milic

Big Bend's Deadly Past

With more than 200 murders recorded here, it's no wonder the Chisos Mountains are named for ghosts.

Mt. Washington's Phantom Crowds

Never let your guard down on this deadly peak, where the weather–and spirits–are unpredictable.

Yosemite's Supernatural Wind

Go ahead and hike to this park's famous lakes and waterfalls. Just watch your step–and your back.

Tragedy in the Grand Canyon

When bodies can't be buried, do their spirits ever rest? Hike to the scene of this wreck and find out.

Supernatural Sights

Alpine views and starry skies are nice, but on these unsettling hikes you might see something really stunning.


Lost? Murdered? When the wilderness swallows people without a trace, who's to say what happened?

Bloodthirsty Creatures

Bigfoot? He's a softy compared to the other menacing monsters lurking in the woods near you.

Really, I Saw it Myself

True tales from BACKPACKER editors and readers

Scary Hikes and Trails: The Reading List

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star


May 10, 2013

Scariest? that would be the writing of disgraced ranger andrea lankford

Oct 26, 2012

Oct 26, 2012

Montana. 1959 earthquake, Madison Canyon,

AZ Hiker
Oct 25, 2012

And what if you did run? And what if you stumbled and fell or broke a bone and needed help? What if your phone fell and broke and you had to spend the night in that spooky place? Alone! Read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon) before you hit the trail! Learn what survival items to keep in your vehicle (you might make it that far!), the essential items to pack with you on the trail, how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass, and how to get rescued. Your adventure might be a spooky one but you will definitely be safer and more comfortable knowing what to do and having the essentials with you!

Oct 28, 2010

Sage Hills in Eastern Washington, a privately managed area with a lot of hikers on week-ends where the farthest trail goes no more than a few miles from civilization, is one scary place. Not all of it, but in its SE corner there is a spring hidden in bushes and some trees. The trail winds down along the sides of a canyon to the lowest point where the water is and climbs back on the other side of the next hill. The first time I walked along the trail by the spring it was high noon, the sun was shining, and it was hot. A cool breeze in that depression gently brushed off the back of my neck and I was having goose bumps all over. I knew I was being watched! I kept walking on the verge of starting to run but held it together. An few moments later, further along the trail away from that ravine, I started having the creeps again, I turned around and saw three beings walking behind me. Shadows, barely visible, but my emotional, and energetic reactions were telling me that they were real...

Erik P
Oct 28, 2010

I was hiking in a secluded canyon out in the Tonto national forest north of Phoenix Arizona with my dog one day. Unique place because it had the only stream for miles with beautiful Cottonwoods and Sycamores, but it was hard to get to and quite remote. After spending half the day hiking up to the beginning of the stream, as I approached the end of the canyon, my dog began acting strangely. I stopped there to rest and the whole time he was nervously pacing about the area. As I started my trip back down the canyon, I distinctly heard a voice to my right say, "See ya later boys". I turned in that direction only to see the steep wall of the canyon a few feet away. There was absolutely no way that voice came from another living person, cause I was the only person in the whole area.

Oct 28, 2010

About 15 yrs ago three of us were hiking the AT in NC. We had hiked up Flint Mtn and camped not far from the grave site of the 2 Civil War soldiers. Next morning we got up early and headed south in a heavy fog.We were in thick rhododendron
going across bear mtn.It was so quiet with the fog captureing all sound.And we hadn't seen anybody else for 3 days. Suddenly an old man was standing there covered with chains. I nearly wet myself. After a few awkward moments he asked us if we had seen his brother.We said no and he was gone just as quick as he showed up. Very wierd and unsettling moment

Oct 28, 2010

The Zaleski trail in Ohio passes near the famous Moonville Tunnel, which is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a train brakeman who was run over by a train, as well as several other people who were killed by trains there over the years. Plus, the trail itself follows old roads through long-gone towns. I don't believe in the supernatural, but it makes for great folklore.

Oct 30, 2009

Here in Northeast Georgia, there is Blood Mountain. Many speculations of murders in the levine but mostly car wrecks that have killed so so many people. A great place to investigate the dangers of this mountain

Jason Parr
Oct 30, 2009

A great scary trail in Colorado is MT. Sherman. Not only is it one of our great 14er hikes, the abandoned mines are said to be haunted with the ghosts of miners who lost their lives working here. There are many abandoned buildings that you may enter if you dare, though probably scarier is the condition of the buildings than running into a spirit.

Last summer I hiked this with some of my friends (both female). It was the middle of the week and we were the only three people on the trail. As we passed one of the buildings (near 13500 feet) We distinctly heard a man's voice and what seemed to be a moan. We all thought that it was each other and at close to the same time all responded "What did you say?". We continued our hike not really speaking of this.

Once we returned to the car we pulled out our book on Colorado Fourteeners and read the description. Scary part of what they had to say was that many people hear the voices of miners who lost their lives here.

I am not one to usually let noises get to me as I hike and backpack so much that unusual noises tend to go with the territory, and generally you can eventually figure it out. But this definitely opened my eyes to the possibility of the supernatural.

MT. Sherman is located in the Tenmile-Mosquito mountain range and the Summit elevation is 14,036 feet. Happy Hikin's!

Oct 29, 2009

Really, you guys are leaving out the scariest trail and region of all; the Catskill Mountains, home of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman.

The scariest trail in the US has to be the Devils Path, were a hiker can trek through Devils Kitchen or camp out at the Devils Tombstone Campground.

Happy Halloween, Happy Trails,
Mike Wilkie


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