10 Places to Hike or Camp with Local Legends or Folklore
Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. shares her ten favorite hikes and campsites steeped in local folklore.
Camping and hiking are already amazing activities. From fresh air to starry nights, you don’t really need anything more. But to add some spice to these magical experiences, head to these locations that are steeped in local legends and folklore. Some are scary and some are nice, but all will give some extra magic to your time outside. Just remember to be respectful of the culture and folklore that is believed to cover these beautiful grounds!
Now, these hikes and campsites can push you even further out of your comfort zone. So for some tips and tricks to staying as comfy as possible, check out this helpful list.
Oz Farm, California
This campground was once owned by a local legend of the area who went by the nickname “Redwood,” but it changed ownership in 2015. Still, this space is so special that it has its very own comic book—created by “Redwood”! “Redwood” initially bought the land in the 1960s and it looked like some sort of commune (read: cult). There isn’t much information on who “Redwood” really is, but I suppose that adds to the mystery! Composed of rustic campsites, cabins, and geodomes, you can choose to dirtbag it or glamp it up. The farm is composed of 230 acres of beautiful meadows and wildflowers and a river that heads straight to the Pacific Ocean. Located 130 miles north of San Francisco in a private area of Mendocino County, the owners pride themselves in their off-the-grid sustainable lifestyle. They use solar panels and wind turbines for energy and grow the majority of their own organic food. Next to the redwoods and the Pacific, this campsite is great for a city escape.
Book a spot and learn more here.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Hike down into Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave system—the longest known cave system in the world. It also happens to be one of the most haunted trails in the US. In fact, more than 150 paranormal activity experiences have been reported. Many have reported ghostly coughing, and because of this, rangers suspect that these caves were used as a tuberculosis “house” for those sick in the 19th century. Floyd Collins, a man who died after being trapped in the cave in the early 1900s, is believed to still be there, screaming for his friend Johnnie, who was the last man Collins spoke to.
Learn more here.
Spider Rock Campground, Arizona
Located in Arizona on the Navajo Nation Reservation, this campground is right next to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Navajo people lived near this canyon for over 5,000 years, but today it is a popular hiking ground and a tourist destination. People often head out on the guided Jeep tours offered. If you aren’t feeling the tent, then you can rent out a hogan, a traditional Navajo house. Each house was built with traditional materials. Owned by a Navajo family, you will experience more culture here than any other campsite. This land is now cared for by Howard Smith, a Navajo born of the Todachine’ clan and is of the Tsegi area of Canyon de Chelly. He was raised in the area and grew up herding sheep. His willingness to share his culture is proudly brought into his guided tours.
Please be aware that the Navajo Nation will not allow alcohol, fireworks, or firearms on the site.
Book a campsite and learn more here.
Haunted Picnic Table, California
Head to Griffith Park in Los Angeles to see where two locals died at Picnic Table 29. In 1976, two lovebirds were getting frisky when a tree branch fell and killed them. After the funerals, their families scattered their ashes around the picnic table. In the years that followed, a tree trimmer mysteriously died next to the table while trying to remove the branch that fell. Hikers have noticed they feel a slight chill when walking past, and some even report hearing the moans of the lovers. Ghost hunters head on over—but don’t forget to bring a gift with you (just to play it safe). In fact, Griffith Park is known for being one of the most haunted locations in Los Angeles.
Here are directions, if you’re feeling gutsy.
Starvation State Park, Utah
Not sure about anyone else but as soon as I read the word "starvation," I got a little bit hungry… Locals of the area are constantly fighting over how this state park got its name, but there are two popular options that are both pretty creepy. One group of locals say that fur trappers got trapped in the park by horrendous winter weather and stole food from the local Native Americans, who then starved to death. The other group says the exact opposite—that the Native Americans stole the fur trapper's resources. The debate might get a little sticky, so I’ll let you decide what you believe on your own. Another plausible answer is that the land itself is unforgiving with dramatic weather changes and harsh conditions to live in.
Learn more here.
Hell’s Gate Bridge, Alabama
People strongly recommend not walking here—I get that. In the 1950s, a younger couple drove off the bridge and drowned. Now two legends exist: one claims that if you drive your car onto the bridge and turn off your lights, the couple will appear in your car and leave water on the seat. Another rumor claims that if you drive over the bridge and look back you will see a portal to hell covered in fire. I’m going to pass on this one, but anyone who feels like trying it let me know what happens (if you can). This is a popular area for paranormal enthusiasts and bored teenagers alike.
Here are the coordinates.
Grunch Road Monster, Louisiana
This trail is a paved road that turns into a dirt road and heads into the woods. It used to be a favorite hangout spot for teens until the monster was first seen. Some say it looks half human and half monster, while others have sworn that it looks like a chupacabra. New Orleans locals have named it The Grunch. The monster is purported to have glowing eyes, bat wings, a tail, and long black fur. Some say it howls, whereas others say it screams more like a banshee. It is also rumored that it will drain its prey’s blood and occasionally organs through only one bite. Most people get to the road by accident. Completely overgrown and covered in sand near Hayne Boulevard, most people turn back before they realize where they are.
Pittsfield State Forest, Massachusetts
Head to the Hancock Shaker Village to check out the historical village that once was a vibrant community. Surrounding the village is 11,000 acres of beautiful hiking grounds in the Pittsfield State Forest of Massachusetts. The Shaker Trail specifically has a variety of options for beginner to advanced hikers. For those who don’t know, the Shakers were a religious group that strongly believed heaven on Earth was possible. They lived by strict rules such as racial and gender equality and communal living—which hardcore clashed with the mainstream culture of the 1800s. Twice a year, the Shakers would hike a mountain (Mount Sinai) to the “feast ground” for a spiritual ritual.
Head on over here for a loop hike to see some historical landmarks.
Vergas Trail, Minnesota
A small town of just 300 people, Vergas is home to an urban legend known as the Hair Man. The rumors started in the 1960s when people claim to have seen an eight-foot-tall man with long hair who was eating animals. While some locals of the area ignored the legend, many believe the Hair Man was an individual living in the woods who wasn’t too happy about kids wandering the area. One man claimed to have been driving through the area when the Hair Man jumped on his car and dented the hood. Another individual is said to have found an old cabin where she saw a “bigfoot” like creature with broad shoulders run towards them with large tree branches. Some have even seen human skulls on the trail.
Get directions here, although maybe just don’t go.
Haynesville Woods, Maine
Just to start out how bizarre this one is, keep in mind that there is an actual song written about the road called “Tombstone Every Mile.” Listen to it here; it has a fun tune, but listen to the lyrics closely. This road is dangerous in the winter and creepy year-round. Dick Curless’ most famous lyric notes that “if they buried all the truckers lost in the woods, there’d be a tombstone every mile.” To make it worse, there have been numerous reports of a screaming woman on the side of the road and an unrelated little ghost girl. Local legends say a man saw a figure without a face and when his daughter asked to leave their home in the woods, the father refused. The faceless woman would scratch the little girl’s window and say she was going to steal her face. Yikes. Not long later, the little girl went missing and her body was found months later with her face scratched and torn to shreds.
Here are directions to the main road, although I probably wouldn’t hike it….or drive it.
So grab your tent, your water bottle, and your peanut butter, and head on out. These beautiful places are calling for you (figuratively and in some cases literally). Remember to respect the land, the culture, and the people who live there and the rules in place. Some of these trails and state parks have deep culture that will teach you a lot about American history. Local legends and folklore often come with lessons we pass down through the generations, while some are truly scary and creepy! Check out this article if you want to stay at some more truly haunted campsites. And if there are any other local legend/folklore campsites or hikes you want to share let me know! Hit me up and we can chat about all things camping related.