10 Haunted Camping Areas & Parks for a Scary Overnight AdventurePublished on 08/12/2023 · 9 min readTake your camping or hiking adventure to the next level by visiting these campsites and parks where you might just have a spooky encounter.
Photo by Dmitry Naumov
Do you like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories? Well, how about staying at campsites with actual ghosts? Believers and risk-takers—head to these campsites across America and wait to see some unusual, bizarre, and otherworldly experiences. It doesn't have to be Halloween for a spooky outdoor adventure!
1. Lake Morena, California
People have witnessed unexplained activity at the beautiful campsite close to the lake and the Pacific Crest Trail, not far from San Diego and the Mexican border. In 1893, The San Diego Union ran a story about people that heard heavy footsteps coming from the vast desert, saw eerie levitating bodies, and even a figure in a white dress on the shore of the lake. Others have seen an old man in the distant mountain landscape staring at them. In 1916, the Morena Reservoir flooded, and over 50 people lost their lives. An area filled with history and tragedy, it's certainly one to check out. Be sure to go the first weekend you can during a full moon for added spookiness. Well...I will not be staying there, but Lake Morena County Park is where you can camp nearby if you're so inclined.
2. Antietam Creek Campsite, Maryland
This campground is haunted for obvious reasons—it's near the site of the deadliest battle of the Civil War, with 23,000 casualties. Campers and historians have claimed to see ghost soldiers in Confederate uniforms, have heard gunfire, and have witnessed ghostly military activity like the shooting of cannons. I, for one, do not wish to relive the Civil War, so count me out of spending the night at this campground near the historic battlefield in MD. If you are a history buff, though, visit the Antietam National Cemetery, Burnside Bridge, and Bloody Lane—all locations that played an important part in the 150-year-old battle.
3. Freetown-Fall River State Forest, Massachusetts
Rumor has it that the Bridgewater Triangle, which includes this forest, acts as a mini Bermuda Triangle where all things paranormal take place—it feels like this came straight from a scary movie. Satanic cults, UFO sightings, demon dogs, Bigfoot, and glowing orbs are just a handful of things people have sworn they’ve seen. Although you can’t directly camp in the forest, the KOA Campground nearby is right on the border of the haunted triangle and makes for a memorable overnight camping experience.
4. Calico Ghost Town, California
Before it was abandoned, Calico was a popular and successful silver mining town in San Bernardino County. By 1907, the town was empty. The campground is in the old town graveyard. Yikes. Women who stay the night report feeling assaulted by an invisible being. Going to pass on this one, too…
5. Eden Park, Ohio
In the fall of 1927, a woman on her way to a divorce hearing was chased by her husband's car into Eden Park, where he then shot and killed her. Visitors now see her in a black dress, wandering the grounds, specifically the gazebo. This isn’t a campground, so don’t set up your tent—or maybe just don’t go at all. Maybe bring some old friends, quickly look around, and run away as fast as your legs will carry you.
About 4.5 hours northeast lies another spot filled with a spooky history—Beaver Creek Campground at the state park. Once part of a canal system from the early 1800s, this park is known for its beautiful hiking and camping and also for its haunted canal locks. Jake's lock and Gretchen's lock hold some pretty scary tales, like getting struck by lightning and ships lost at sea when a coffin from the lock was loaded onto it.
6. Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
While this is the most-visited state park in South Carolina, only the locals may know that the lighthouse is a thousand percent haunted. There are a few spirits who roam the structure. One is a lighthouse keeper who blames himself for the drowning of a child. Another is the daughter of a different keeper who committed suicide in the lighthouse. From the nearby campground, you can hear loud and inhuman moans, strange sounds, whispers, laughter, and singing. Easily one of the most haunted places to camp in the country; I will likely steer clear of it.
7. Bannack State Park, Montana
Originally a gold mining town, Bannack now houses two campsites. In 1864, Sheriff Henry Plummer was hanged after being accused of directing a murderous gang. He never got a fair trial, so the only way to be sure if he was guilty of this is to ask his ghost, which has been sighted wandering the town and campsites. Maybe not one of the best campgrounds to stay at if you are easily spooked, but head to the visitor center if you'd like more info on this historic site.
8. Cameron Park, Texas
This park is home to Jacob’s Ladder—a steep staircase where women have reported feeling hands pull their clothes. Yikes...already not feeling this. Not far away from the ladder is Lover’s Leap, where two lovers from opposing Native American tribes jumped to their deaths. The ghostly couple can now be seen walking through the river holding hands, like something straight out of old horror movies. There are also stories of witches in black and white dresses running throughout the park, and tourists have reported hearing high-pitch screams and smelling rotting flesh. While there may not be a real danger at this park, that smell alone would keep me from spending too much time here!
9. Holy Ghost Campground, New Mexico
I mean, the name gives it away. Since the late 17th century, a phantom Catholic priest has been seen roaming the Santa Fe National Forest campground. He is believed to have been killed on site in the 1700s. Since then, sightings, disappearances, and shadowy figures have haunted the campsite. Now I myself am not a paranormal investigator, but if you’re feeling gutsy, go ahead and check this place out.
10. Yosemite National Park, California
No! Not Yosemite, a favorite among America's national parks? Oh yes, it is haunted. One of the most beloved parks in the United States and, in my humble opinion, the world, Yosemite is known for its rock formations and is a mecca for cave explorers, rock climbers, and hikers. So what paranormal activity happens in the local area? Sections of the park are believed to be haunted by Native Americans who were killed there, and the Ahwahnee Hotel has seen its fair share of the unliving. Park ranger Galen Clark reported sounds like dogs wailing along the Grouse Lake trail but was later told it was the sounds of a young boy who drowned in the lake. One worker of the hotel is said to have seen the ghost of John F. Kennedy, who visited a year before his assassination. Guests, keep an eye out and visit the National Park Service for more information on these haunted rumors.
These are just a taste of the scary locations to visit or pitch a tent in the U.S., but there are oh-so-many more to check out! For example, there's Devil's Den in Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, where visitors have seen a headless horseman running through the boulder-strewn hill, and Lady of the Lake in Olympic National Park, where fisherman found an incredibly well-preserved body floating in the lake. It turned out to be Hallie Latham, who had been working at a nearby tavern and had a troubled relationship with her husband before disappearing.
You could also journey to the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, which has a plethora of rumored hauntings like a headless bride, jostled door handles, and strangers lurking around and peering through windows. The Grand Canyon National Park—full of apparitions—is the location of Crash Canyon, where two jets crashed into each other in the 1950s and now hosts creepy, mysterious lights. There are also sightings of a wailing woman in a white dress with blue flowers along the Transept Trail on stormy nights. She reportedly committed suicide in the Grand Canyon Lodge after a family tragedy in the canyon.
Still want more? Rocky Mountain National Park is home to the Stanley Hotel, certainly considered one of the scariest places in all of America. Norton Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains boasts plenty of scary stories, like the Cherokee legend of Spearfinger. This witch walked through local trails disguised as an elderly woman and used her stone finger to cut out and eat the livers of children who strayed from home. Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky was formerly a tuberculosis sanatorium, and Native Americans here are said to still roam the caves. Whew! Who knew America was so haunted?
Make Your Campsite More Spooky
Here are a few fun ideas on how to make your campsite a bit more spooky:
- Grab a headlamp and explore trails around your camp at night
- Download a ghost-hunting app and go on a ghost hunt
- Come up with a scavenger hunt with scary clues and prizes
- Set up a projector and watch scary movies
- Decorate the camp with spider webs and purple string lights or candles (remember to Leave No Trace and clean up after your trip!)
- Gather everyone in one tent and tell ghost stories
A Personal Ghost Story
Now, I would like to share a ghost story that my camp counselors told us every summer. I went to a summer camp in Malibu, California, for eight summers of my childhood. Every year on the first night, they would tell us the legend of the “Chapel Man hauntings.” Chapel Man ate children.
A little spooky for a summer campout, but that is what they told us. Our camp director told us he was the first person to see Chapel Man and heard the phantom man yell, “Bring me children!”
Chapel Man lived in an old part of the camp that you had to walk past to get to your cabin every night. And every night, you would see kids who believed the story run by as quickly as they could. I was a pretty logical, no-nonsense kind of kid, so I wasn’t a believer. In fact, I watched The Exorcist with my dad when I was eight years old. That being said, whenever someone asked me to get closer to where Chapel Man supposedly lived, I would make up an excuse and walk the other way, even taking the long way to the bathroom! Thankfully I never saw him, but it was part of the experience of childhood camping that I'll never forget.
Where is the most haunted campground you've ever visited? Do you have any other haunted camping or paranormal activity stories in the wild? Feel free to hit me up and let me know! Don’t forget to bring your Ghostbusters gear with you if you head to any of these campsites. If you're leaving the Ghostbusters gear at home but need to get suited up to hit the trail, reach out to a Camping & Hiking Expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations. And try to stay away from Chapel Man!