Haunted Hikes : Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks

Haunted Hikes : Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America's National Parks
Andrea Lankford
April 2006

Ghosts! Curses! Hoaxes! Unsolved mysteries! Paranormal events! Take a walk on the creepy side of North America's National Parks! Andrea Lankford, a 12-year veteran ranger with the National Park Service, has written a thoroughly investigated yet often tongue-in-cheek guidebook that takes the reader to the scariest, most mysterious places inside North America's National Parks.

Lankford shares such eerie tales as John Brown's haunting of Harper's Ferry, the disembodied legs that have been seen running around inside the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center, and the "wailing woman" who roams the trail behind the Grand Canyon Lodge. Lankford also uncovers paranormal activities park visitors have experienced, such as the chupacabra that roams the swamps inside Big Thicket National Preserve and the teenage bigfoot who rolled a park service campground with toilet paper.

She also reports on long-forgotten unsolved murders, such as the savage stabbing of a young woman on Yosemite's trail to Mirror Lake, and the execution style shooting of two General Motors executives at Crater Lake. The witnesses to the supernatural occurrences are highly credible people-rangers, park historians, river guides, and the like-and each tale has factual relevance to the cultural or natural history of the park.

Haunted Hikes provides readers with all the information they need: for each hike: a "fright factor rating" is listed along with trailhead access information, detailed trail maps, and hike difficulty levels. Most of the haunted sites included in the book can be reached by the average hiker, some are wheelchair accessible, and others are for intrepid backpackers willing to make multi-day treks into wilderness areas. Intriguing photographs of many sites are included.

Haunted Hikes is sure to satisfy readers looking for those spine-tingling moments when you begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we are not alone.

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About This Guide

California and Hawaii
Yosemite California
Death Valley California
Joshua Tree California
Channel Islands California
Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii
Haleakala Hawaii
Desert Southwest
Lake Mead Nevada
Mesa Verde Colorado
Canyonlands Utah
Glen Canyon Utah/Arizona
Grand Canyon Arizona
Petrified Forest Arizona
Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
Big Bend Texas
Deep South
Natchez Trace Tennessee/Mississippi
Jean Lafitte/Chalmette Louisiana
Big Thicket Texas
Everglades Florida
Biscayne Florida
Big Cypress Florida
Virgin Islands St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Eastern Mountains
Big South Fork Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains Tennessee/North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina/Virginia
Shenandoah Virginia
New River Gorge West Virginia
Harper’s Ferry West Virginia/Maryland
Appalachian Trail Vermont
Mammoth Cave Kentucky
Northeast and Mid Atlantic
Cape Hatteras/Fort Raleigh North Carolina
New Jersey Pinelands New Jersey
Indiana Dunes Indiana
Effigy Mounds Iowa
C & O Canal Maryland
Pictured Rocks Michigan
Isle Royale Michigan
Rocky Mountains
Wind Cave South Dakota
Great Sand Dunes Colorado
Rocky Mountain Colorado
Yellowstone Wyoming
Glacier Montana
Canada and Alaska
Waterton British Columbia
Banff British Columbia
Nahanni Northwest Territories
Klondike/Chilkoot Trail Alaska/Yukon
Pukaskwa Ontario
Pacific Northwest
Redwoods California
Oregon Caves Oregon
Mount Rainier Washington
Olympic Washington
Crater Lake Oregon

Selected Bibliography and Sources



About the Author

If you’ve been to many national parks, you’ve probably noticed a few things. For one, each park has its own personality. Some are show-offs-their waterfalls, snowy peaks, and wild flowers displayed with a vain arrogance. Some are subtle-their unique charms hidden from the philistines. And some carry themselves with a courtly manner-their sublime majesty self-evident. Nearly all parks have a spiritual side. They are temples of trees and cathedrals of stone, and they redeem our distracted souls before we return to our frazzled, complicated world of interstates, office cubicles, and shopping malls.
Yet, when a predatory shadow follows a fast-moving cloud, when those strange noises begin just as night beats down the day, or when the noon sun allows no escape from its hot and piercing glare, even the most benign and enchanting landscape can turn on you. What was gorgeous and welcoming just a moment before suddenly seems vaguely disturbing, even menacing.
Park rangers are down-to-earth, practical people. Two thousand of them are law enforcement officers. Many have degrees in the biological sciences. As a rule, they aren’t prone to superstition. I believe I am no exception. For 12 years, I worked as a law enforcement/search-and-rescue ranger in some of the world’s busiest and most beautiful national parks. I have a science degree in Forestry. A fan of logic and critical thinking, I prefer cold, hard facts over warm, fuzzy sentimentalities.
But I have seen and heard things that have unsettled me. People I respect who claim to have seen a ghost. Natural phenomena that, although scientists have studied them for decades, remain unexplained. Savage murders that remain unsolved. Bizarre incidents so odd you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And, most frightening to me, I know of places that seem to hold grudges-alluring, hypnotic landscapes that appear to be seeking retribution for trespasses made against them.
If a sudden and tragic death can leave its mark on a place, then national parks have earned the right to be haunted. Every year, people die inside national parks. Very few of these people are fortunate enough to go in their sleep. With the help of park rangers, historians, and local residents, I have tracked down the most intriguing paranormal and mysterious events that have transpired in North America’s national parks and compiled them into one book. There is no other hiking guide like it.
Whether you read this in your tent by the light of a headlamp or while curled up in a chair in a dark corner of the hotel lobby, Haunted Hikes has a trip to match your fitness level. A good number of trails are wheelchair accessible while a few require technical rock climbing skills and equipment. There are trails that can be traveled by bicycle, snowshoes, skis, four-wheel-drive, and by kayak. Some are even popular with kids. And, you’ll find plenty of multi-day treks for intrepid backpackers eager to spend a lonely night on a haunted trail. But when the sky goes black and the coyotes begin to howl, don’t say I didn’t warn you. There are things that go bump in the park.

-Andrea Lankford

Tenaya’s Spirit Stirred by Government Bureaucracy
In Yosemite Valley, there is a replica of a Miwok village where park visitors can learn more about the culture of the descendants of Chief Tenaya’s people. Today, there is only one living member of the Miwok tribe who was born in Yosemite Valley. His name is Jay Johnson. A former park service maintenance employee, Johnson lived and worked his entire life in Yosemite until he retired at the close of 1996. Park service regulations require employees to move out of their government homes once they quit or retire. Johnson warned park managers that when the last Yosemite-born Indian left the park, according to Ahwahneechee legends, disaster would follow.
Of course, the bureaucrats blew him off.
During the early morning hours of January 1, 1997, within days of Johnson’s December retirement and move to outside the park, a freakishly warm storm dumped inches of rain on the snow pack at the high elevations. The resulting snow melt created a massive flood that sent a deluge of water, rocks, and uprooted trees down the Merced River. The swollen river escaped its banks and all three roads leading out of the valley were blocked by downed trees, washed out roadways, and high water. Two thousand employees and park visitors were trapped for days. Sewer lines were destroyed. Electrical service had to be shut down. Nine road bridges suffered major damage. No one was killed, but 350 motel and cabin units, 450 campsites, and 200 employee quarters were flooded and had to be removed. It was the most damaging flood in Yosemite’s history. The cost of repair came to $178 million.
Ten months after the flood, the National Park Service entered an agreement with the American Indian Council allowing for the development of a traditional Indian Village in Yosemite Valley. After many frustrating years fighting a government bureaucracy for rights to conduct their tribal ceremonies inside the park, the Miwok joined park officials in celebrating the agreement. Tribal elder Jay Johnson was there for the ceremony.

Author Information

Andrea Lankford

a former National Park Service ranger, has performed firefighting, law enforcement, and life-saving wilderness medicine in Cape Hatteras, Zion, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. As a ranger, she won several awards for her work as a criminal investigator, and she implemented the “Heat Kills. Hike Smart” public education program that generated media attention and is credited with preventing heat-related deaths at the Grand Canyon-a program that continues to save lives today. Her masochistic adventures include thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, kayaking from Miami to Key West, cycling from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean, and being the first to mountain bike the 800-mile Arizona Trail. Haunted Hikes is her third book. Andrea currently lives in Southern California with her skeptic husband, a Special Agent for the United States Secret Service.


“Any guidebook can give you trail miles and directions, but only Haunted Hikes captures all the strange doings in your favorite back country places with tales that will have you sleeping (if you can sleep at all) with one eye open. Long-lost hermits, ghostly apparitions, a voice half-heard . . . and you thought you were alone in that lonely canyon or on top of that wind-swept mountaintop. Andrea Lankford raises the hair on your neck in this book of spooky spots and ghostly grottoes.”
—Jeff Rennicke, contributing editor, National Geographic Traveler

“Have you ever gone to a National Park and wondered if there was more than a bear waiting behind that tree up ahead on the trail? Or if there was something else up in the sky besides that gorgeous sunset? With Haunted Hikes, Andrea Lankford has put together a rich collection of stories, lore, hikes, and more that will add a whole new dimension to your next National Park visit. This book is the perfect spooky companion to your next campfire!”
—Chris Mengel, National Park Ranger

“After working as a Park Ranger for the last 17 years, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the history, folk lore, and paranormal tales of our National Parks. But Andrea Lankford has really opened up my eyes! I will never look at the Grand Canyon the same way again. And from now on, I’m sleeping with the lights on!”
—Chuck Sypher, Grand Canyon Park Ranger

Haunted Hikes is the X-Files meets National Geographic. It’s the ideal book for anyone who believes that ‘the truth is out there.’ Enjoy Haunted Hikes whenever you venture into the great outdoors . . . just make sure you fill your canteen with holy water.”
—Tom DeSanto, producer/writer, X-Men

“In this lively and enchanting guide, Andrea Lankford lifts up Smokey the Bear’s hat and introduces us to the bats in his belfry, along with the ghosts, ghouls, zombies, fugitives, and lost souls who make national parks their home. But Haunted Hikes is more than a compendium of freaks-it’s a deft and deeply researched trip through American history, by way of a half-dead Fred Harvey, Native American curses that even rangers are scared of, and JFK’s mysterious, eternally rocking, rocking chair, among other steppingstones. Happy trails!”
—Deanne Stillman, author of Twentynine Palms

Haunted Hikes takes those who like their ghosts inhabiting the scenic out-of-doors beyond the creaky attics of the usual hauntings. Lankford, a former park ranger, offers more than 50 hikes of varying difficulty set in national parks. Each entry contains an eerie story, a map of the hiking route, advice on the difficulty of the hike, its “fright factor,” and other useful information. While most of the hauntings are of the missing/murdered persons kind, there are plenty of others to lend variety. Strange natural phenomena, including a burping lake, trees that bleed, and brain-eating amoebas, vie with Bigfoot for their own featured hikes in this guide for the morbidly curious.”
Library Journal

“Are you sure you were alone in that lonely canyon or secluded mountaintop last time you went hiking? Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks, by Andrea Lankford chronicles the hermits, fugitives and other lost souls whose stories echo throughout America’s national parks. Lankford has collected both the lore and the practical information you’ll need to visit some of these spooky sites. Stories include the arrest of the notorious murderer Charles Manson in California’s Death Valley; the legend of the Jersey Devil, a flying creature said to haunt the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve; and the ghosts of the Grand Canyon, from victims from a 1956 midair collision of two commercial jets, to the mournful wail of a weeping spirit — La Llorona — seen along the canyon’s Transept Trail. Or is that noise nothing more than the wind?”
Associated Press

“A surprisingly well-written guide to the ghosts, unsolved mysteries and paranormal events said to have occurred in America’s National Parks.”
Seattle Times

“This is a fun compilation of spooky legends and eyewitness accounts of spectral tomfoolery along the trails of our national park system. In other words, some good, old-fashioned ghost stories along with long-standing legends. But it’s more than just that: It’s also — and mostly — a practical guide to hiking those same “haunted” areas, with straightforward maps, directions to trailheads, descriptions of terrain and useful tips. . . . This is a book that serves a dual purpose: It will get you on the trail and then serve as a source of hair-raising campfire stories far into the night.”
Sacramentio Bee

“For campers who love a good ghost story, here’s a new book that should be stowed in the backpack. “Haunted Hikes” is a field guide to supposed supernatural doings in many of America’s best-known natural areas. Even the most skeptical will find much of interest here because author Andrea Lankford, a former National Park Service Ranger, has uncovered as much fascinating history as she has mapped alleged paranormal activities.”
Louisville Courier-Journal

“Most campers enjoy a good ghost story, especially late at night around a roaring fire. This book about ghosts, curses, hoaxes, unsolved mysteries and paranormal events in North America’s national parks not only can generate some good campfire talk but also directs hikers to the places where these events supposedly took place.”
Salt Lake City Tribune

“Andrea Lankford’s Haunted Hikes does for the natural world what Creepy Crawls does for the man-made, only it’s a lot scarier. Lankford is a veteran park ranger, and just as the reader is lulled into a false sense of security by her familiar don’t-feed-the-animals voice, she drops to a hushed whisper and starts talking about zombies in Yosemite. There are apparently a million ways to die on American parkland, and if the rockslides don’t get you, then the sasquatch will. Lankford’s book has a strange split personality, switching from cheerful outdoorsy advice about safety and preparedness, park fees, and camping permits to tales of curses, ghosts, homicides, and disasters. Trail maps are carefully drawn with a key that indicates mileage and level of difficulty. There’s also a spooky rating system that uses heads to indicate the “fright factor,” from one (“Makes a seven-year-old giggle”) to four (“Gave me nightmares, and I’d rather not discuss them”). Suddenly there’s a new reason to dread those family camping trips. “
Boston Phoenix