California may be known as the sunshine state but there are many darker places in this state that often get overshadowed. With Halloween creeping up, what better time to explore some of these dark places by trekking along a haunted hiking trail? Wander into the depths of these canyons and mountains past the city limits and you’ll uncover abandoned mines, ruins, dense oak forests, unexplained geology, and more creepy haunts, if you dare. Do you have the guts to explore these ten haunted hiking trails?
1. Murphy Ranch, Pacific Palisades
Murphy Ranch has more scary stories surrounding it than most hikes in the Los Angeles area. This self-sufficient ranch hidden in the Santa Monica Mountains was built by Nazi sympathizers in the 1930s to serve as a hold out for fans of the Third Reich waiting for America to fall to the Nazis. Instead the ranch was closed by U.S. authorities in 1941 and left for ruins. The abandoned buildings have been transformed into a playground for graffiti artists who have taken over the nearby structures and have plastered the ruins with paint. Today the grounds of Murphy Ranch are uninhabited, covered in graffiti, and open to hikers.
2. Griffith Park, Los Angeles
A 150-year-old curse, werecreatures, a haunted picnic table, and the most famous suicide in Hollywood history all plague this popular hiking destination. The most well known legend that surround Griffith Park is the curse Dona Petronilla placed on the land in 1863. As CreepyLA describes it, “When her uncle, wealthy land baron Don Antonio Feliz, had not bequeathed the property to her, the seventeen-year-old ‘shouted out vexatiously that the cattle and fields would become diseased and die; and that no one will ever profit from this land.’ As for the land’s new owner, and the man who helped with the acquisition, Peronilla swore, ‘the one shall die in an untimely death and the other in blood and violence.’
Since her declaration, the land has ben plagued by disastrous wildfires, droughts, and other disasters. Aside from natural disasters, distraught actress Peg Entwistle lept to her death from the H in the Hollywood sign in 1932. Visitors of Griffith Park have also reported seeing the ghost of Dona Petronilla, dressed in white, sometimes riding a horse. The ghost of Griffith J. Griffith has also been spotted, also on horseback, checking on the upkeepof the land. If ghosts and curses don’t deter you, Griffith Park is the perfect place to get your thrills this Halloween.
3. Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite
Yosemite is filled with beautiful sights, and Chilnualna Falls is no different. What is different about this trail is the tragic history. This 8.4-mile hike will take you to Grouse Lake where you may hear the whimpering of a boy who drowned in the lake, according to Native American folklore. Legend is that those who heed his calls will also suffer the same fate. The Miwok tribe also believes Yosemite’s waterfalls are haunted by Po-ho-no, an evil wind that encourages hikers to their edges and pushes them to plunge to their deaths. Remember while you are hiking in Yosemite not to get too distracted by the waterfalls plunging below.
4. Gates of Hell, Antioch
Who knew one road in the middle of nowhere could house so much paranormal energy? Empire Mine Road in Antioch not only has one spooky hike, but a haunted slaughterhouse and a Gravity Hill. The hike on Empire Mine Road past the Gates of Hello is blocked with chains so you can’t drive, however you can traverse the hilly terrain: if you dare. This area was supposedly the site of Native American battles and other says there was an old insane asylum at the end of the road that has since been torn down. So much death and violence occurred at the asylum that it opened a portal into Hell. The pavement is front of the cement barriers that block vehicle entry to the Gates to Hell is charred – further cementing the creepy factor. While none of these incidences have been actually documented, On October 31, 2005, Contra Costa Times reporter Sara Krupp described an incident in 1995 where a 22-year-old man stumbled down Empire Mine Road just as the morning commute began. He was soaked in blood and dirt from an ambush planned by his angry ex-girlfriend. She had slit his throat, stabbed him in the back and broke his jaw. Empire Mine Road has since been closed to all vehicle traffic.
5. Ghost Mountain, Anza Borrego
Many places have the word ghost in them without being truly haunted. Ghost Mountain in Anza Borrego is a different story. Marshal South, a survivalist who built a cabin on top of this mountain in the San Diego desert lived her for awhile before the members left one by one, leaving South to survive alone in the harsh terrain. Remnants of his cabin still exist on top of the mountain which can be reached by a short but steep hike through exposed desert terrain.
Aside from Marshal South, this area is also said to be plagued by ancient Cahuilla ghosts.
Still not convinced Ghost Mountain is truly haunted? One man spent the night at Ghost Mountain and experienced a number of strange occurrences including seeing an Indian ghost apparition and hearing a toy drum. The problem: he was camping alone in the desert.
6. Elfin Forest, Escondido
Elfin Forest is a popular hiking trail in San Diego County. It is also the subject of countless ghost stories and is rumored to be one of the most haunted hiking trails in all of San Diego. The most popular story about Elfin Forest is about the white witch, who was originally a normal wife whose husband and son were murdered. Rumor has it she is still searching for her family, or possibly the person who killed them. People driving through along the dark, wooded road at night have reported seeing her floating in the woods. Other hikers have reported being touched on their shoulders.
Aside from the white witch, there are also stories of the Northern Diegueno Indians who hiked these grounds long ago. Their mortars, mutates, pictographs, and petroglyphs are evidence that they once resided in this land, however through word of mouth and countless stories, their ghosts still reside here.
Locals will also tell the tale of a set of stone circles planted in the forest that allow you to experience time lapses if you pass through them. Whether these stones really exist remains to be seen as no photographic evidence has been presented. Or you can venture to Elfin Forest yourself to see.
7. Goat Canyon Trestle, Ocotillo
The Goat Canyon Trestle is hidden in the Carrizo Gorge Wilderness in Anza Borrego and for good reason. Not only is it illegal to get to the Goat Canyon Trestle, it is also highly dangerous and abandoned. Yet this doesn’t stop avid adventurists from taking the 11-mile roundtrip hike to get the trestle – passing through multiple mines and along creaking trestles. At the time the Carrizo Gorge track was built it was called the “impossible railroad” due to the fact it required the construction of 17 tunnels and numerous trestles to negotiate the foreboding terrain. But nonetheless the tracks were completed in 1919. While Goat Canyon Trestle doesn’t have folklore surrounding it, from my own personal experience I can account for some strange/creepy incidences. There were several times I heard the sound of a train crossing the tracks and the loud sound of a train whistle in close proximity. However, trains no longer cross these tracks.
8. Thompson Creek Trail, Claremont
Thompson Creek Trail in Claremont is said to be highly haunted by multiple accounts even though it is nestled in a residential neighborhood. Visitors have seen shadowy figures following them and heard the crackling of branches, footsteps, and scratching noises. Others recount seeing the clouds above them form shapes of skulls. Some witnesses have seen bizarre visions that include levitating boulders, invisible walls that block the way and violent images. The crackling noises from the power lines overhead don’t help make this location any less creepy, adding a deeper eeriness to this location.
9. Brand Park, Glendale
At first glance, Brand Park and Library is nothing more than a gorgeous sight. Past the line of palms that leads from the archway past a large fountain now used as a giant planter for the library, this mini-palace of Indo-Saracenic Revival design has a much darker presence looming behind the house. Brand Park was once the Brand’s Family estate, complete with a mansion and family cemetery. Just as with most great horror movies, the cemetery holds the biggest spooks at Brand Park, which is accessible via a trail behind the house. Follow the trail to get to Mr. Brand’s large pyramid tomb where occult activity is said to be common. Dare to venture further up in the hills and you’ll find what looks to be a 3-foot tall stone watch tower.
Strange occurrences at the cemetery started back in 1953, where the dusty graveyard off the mountain path was stalked by grave robbers. The skull of William P. Thompson was stolen and his remained were scattered among the tall grass. Three years later, the Glendale director of Parks and Forestry found another grave had been desecrated.
Grave robbing aside there are long-standing reports of a ghost inside the Brand Library – Leslie Brand himself to be exact. Employees and visitors claim to see him walking up the stairs hearing a voice say “Joe,” or perhaps it is “Go.”
10. DeForest Nature Trail, Long Beach
DeForest Nature Trail has been the subject to a plethora of paranormal tales, from black figures floating, sounds of children laughing, cold spots, and screams heard in the distance. Others say they’ve heard rapid footsteps and spots where there are no sounds then a sudden whoosh of extremely cold air. Whispering of more than one voice late a night have also been reported. The strangest and coldest area reported is near the end of the trail where the brush gets thick.
According to The Shadow Lands it is not wise to stay on the nature trail once the sun sets. Aside from dark shadow figures, gangs are also said to convene here. Is this trail really haunted or are the sounds and sightings simply coming from one of the homeless encampments which occupy the river area? Only a trip to DeForest Nature Trail will tell, with plenty of people in your hiking party.