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The 5 Creepiest Hikes In The US

Words: Josh Rakic
Photo: Josh McNair/CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com

Historical battlefields, burial grounds and murder locations aside, here are five of the most eerie hikes in the US.

There’s hiking for fitness and then there’s destination hiking, an adventure that both serves the former’s purpose while becoming a lasting experience in itself. And few experiences linger longer in your bones than these hauntingly eerily hikes, reminders of bygone eras when illness, witchery and even Nazis occupied some of America’s greatest national parks. They’re much more fun than the average hike.

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Nazi Canyon, California
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© Flickr/Matthew Robinson

Los Angeles isn’t known for its sentimentality, making Murphy’s Ranch - deep inside the Santa Monica Mountains - one of the most shocking finds for any hiker. For a stone’s through from the mansions of Kobe Bryant and Oprah Winfrey exists one of the most unlikely haunting reminders of World War II in the country - a Nazi compound allegedly designed as the would-be base for Hitler once the Germans took the U.S. It’s all very Man in the High Castle. But sure enough, hidden in the canyon, exists a mass of dilapidated structures built and paid for by Nazi sympathizers and a supposed German spy - all of whom were arrested by the CIA in the 1940’s. The ranch includes stables, its own power station, hillside gardens, accommodation and more. 

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
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© Wikimedia

The world’s largest and most intricate cave system with a network of passageway combining to stretch some 450 miles, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky has a sordid history dating back hundreds of years. More recently, it was mined by slaves in the 1800’s for saltpeter before housing tuberculosis patients in 1842 - its vapors considered a cure at the time. It’s underground hospital and man-built stone huts still exist to this day, an eerie reminder of the past and the victims who died there. Man-made walkways and tunnels still spread throughout the cave, allowing guided tours.

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Norton Creek Trail, Tennessee

You’ll need a shot of Tennessee’s finest to calm the hairs on the back of your neck post this spooky hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There’s a bunch of pioneer ruins and cemeteries in the park, and most of them are along this very route on Lake Fontana that is said to be haunted by “Spearfinger”. The urban legend goes that an old witch stalks the area disguised as a grandmother and once lured wandering children away from their villages before killing them and eating their kidneys. Ghost stories aside, the ruins and surrounds make for an eery hike.

Goat Canyon Trail, California

In the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park behind San Diego and just 15 miles north of the Mexican border stands the one the world’s largest and last remaining wooden trestle bridges, a reminder of the “impossible railroad” completed in 1919 to connect Yuma and San Diego. Long since abandoned itself, the bridge, dozen tunnels and the trails to it are littered with old railroad equipment, machinery and train cars. It’s either a 6-mile round trip that requires a four-wheel-drive or a 12-mile-trip. Other than the overall eeriness of a bygone era, there have been a number of reports alleging paranormal activity at the sight like ghost trains and glowing orbs. The tracks remain privately owned and hiking there is technically illegal. You’ll also require a GPS to get there as it’s unmarked, and given there’s no shade on the route it’s highly advised not to go in the summer.

Black Diamond Mines, California

Abandoned mines are spooky in general, but Black Diamond gets extra marks on the creepy scale. In addition to the fog, mud, and the pioneer cemetery featuring some 250 headstones, there’s the 200-foot section of tunnel that’s BYO torch. Of course, it has it’s own urban legend,too, that of the “White Witch” who’s said to have been responsible for a number of deaths of miners’ children in the 1870’s. It’s about a mile hike from the Somerville trailhead to the well maintained cemetery, giving a view of the limited remains of the once thriving villages. More unmarked burial sites are still being found.

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