three jack o lanterns on wooden bench

Celebrating Halloween in the Outdoors: Haunted Trails, Spooky Towns & More

Camping Hiking Travel
on
October 5, 2021

It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are changing; the crops are ready to harvest; and the pumpkins are ready to be transformed into jack-o-lanterns. It’s the spooky season! Halloween is a time to be creative and have fun, a time for trick or treaters to devour their well-deserved earnings, and a time for ghost stories around a comforting campfire. 

Halloween is also a great time for some unique outdoor adventures. With many cities around the country hosting Halloween-themed spaces like haunted mansions, creepy trails, eerie carriage rides, and much more, the opportunities are endless. Here are some hair-raising adventures to have this season for a spooky-good time!

Hike the Haunted Trails

A perfect way to get in the Halloween spirit is to hike a trail with a scary story or some creepy folklore attached to it. Many towns in the U.S. create haunted trails infested with creepy costumed monsters and demon-like characters ready to frighten you at night. So, grab your scary costume and join the spooky fun.

But the true haunting happens when you hike a trail and see something you can’t explain or hear something that sends chills up your spine. Here’s just a sampling of some of the Halloween-worthy hikes you might want to attempt if you dare!

Transept Trail, Arizona

One of the best-known haunted hikes, the 3-mile Transept Trail is in the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Often seen at night, the Wailing Woman is said to haunt the area with her awful moaning and flowing white gown. According to local lore, her husband and son died in a hiking accident.

white stones on the ground
Transept Ruin you’ll find along the Transept Trail, North Rim. Photo by Grand Canyon National Park.

Bloody Lane Trail, Maryland

The name alone is creepy, but this 1.5-mile Bloody Lane Trail in Antietam National Battlefield is the site of one of the deadliest Civil War battles. Ghostly soldiers have been seen, as well as drumming, gunfire, and battlefield songs have been heard.

Norton Creek Trail, North Carolina

Cherokee legend tells the story of a witch spirit named Spearfinger who lures children into the woods along the trail and eats their livers with her razor-like fingers. If that’s not bad enough, there are many cemeteries that dot the area along Norton Creek Trail.

Ghost House Trail, Tennessee

The 1.2-mile Ghost House Trail is home to the Hutchinson house where a child died of tuberculosis in the 1800s. Crying can be heard coming from the house and the child’s phantom dog has been reported running in the area.

grave with letters on an old cemetery
The grave of Maston Hutcheson (whose ghost roams the trail as well) at Norton Cemetery along the Ghost House Trail. Photo by Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Metacomet Trail, Connecticut

Part of the New England National Scenic Trail, the Metacomet Trail is part of the Hanging Hills in the Connecticut River Valley. The Black Dog of the Hanging Hills is the ghostly legend that haunts this area. See it once and it’s good luck, twice and it’s a warning, but three times and it’s certain death. Enjoy your hike!

Camp Near a Ghost Town

What better way to spend Halloween night than camping near an abandoned ghost town. This is a great opportunity to set up a cozy camping location where you can tell scary stories around the campfire while cooking a delicious pumpkin stew or other Halloween-themed meal. Here are some popular ghost towns to visit for a thrilling night or two:

St. Elmo, Colorado

St. Elmo was a bustling mining town in the heart of the Sawatch Range of Colorado. Once a town of over 2,000, it now has a population of just seven people. Many have claimed this to be an area with paranormal activity. If you’re looking for a spooky place to explore this Halloween, St. Elmo is the spot.

Calico, California

Calico was once a popular silver-mining town near the west coast of California. These days it’s now a tourist attraction where you’re able to take tours of the area’s former mines and even participate in a special ghost tour for those who are brave enough.

white building in the dessert
Former schoolhouse in Calico Ghost town. Photo by Ilse Orsel.

Terlingua, Texas

Many residents of Terlingua abandoned this Texas town once the market for mercury crashed. Surprisingly, this ghost-town still has an internationally-acclaimed restaurant where you can grab a drink and enjoy some Texas chili. You can also explore the ruins of the area and be transported back to the wild west.

Explore a Halloween Town

Just as Christmas is celebrated with over-the-top lights and decorations, Halloween is also a revered holiday in towns throughout the United States. An exhilarating way to experience all of the spooktacular fun is by visiting one of these towns and joining the celebration. Here are some well-known Halloween Towns:

St. Helens, Oregon

St. Helens is well-known for being part of the iconic Disney film Halloweentown, as many scenes were filmed there. You’ll find the annual giant pumpkin lighting and parades full of ghouls and witches, or you can attend many of the Spirit of Halloweentown festival events.

Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Croton-on-Hudson is home to the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, considered to be the biggest Halloween festival in the area. Take a spectacular walk through the rows of over 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins and bright lights.

yellow spider decors during nighttime
Field of Spider Jack O’lanterns at Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Photo by Alex Simpson.

Salem, Massachusetts

Salem is infamously known for the 1692 Salem witch trials. Because of this, the New England town draws in many visitors around Halloween. With tours, grand balls, and costume parades, Salem is the perfect location for anyone looking for a traditional Halloween experience.

Anoka, Minnesota

Known as the “Halloween Capital of the World,” Anoka, a town near Minneapolis, has been celebrating Halloween since the 1920s. Expect to find grand parades, parties, scavenger hunts, scarecrow contests, haunted hay-rides, and much more.

Observe Bats & Tarantulas

Bat Watching

If Halloween had a mascot, it just might be the bat. So, why not go in search of these creepy critters this time of year. Bats live almost everywhere in the world, enjoying dark close-quartered spaces. Some popular places you’ll find bats are under bridges, in cracks of buildings, in caves, in trees, and even inside attics. You’ll have to wait until the sun goes down to observe these creatures fly, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a whole colony flying together.

Check out some of the biggest bat colonies in the U.S.:

Bracken Cave, San Antonio, Texas

Bracken Cave houses more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats. When they leave the cave to fly around at night, it’s like being on the set of a horror movie.

mexican free tailed bats flying during nighttime
Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo by USFWS/Ann Froschauer.

Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin Texas

The Congress Avenue Bridge has one of the largest bat colonies in America. Over one and a half million bats congregate under the Congress, making it a spectacular (or should we say spooktacular) sight to behold when they all emerge at dusk.

Millie Mine Bat Cave, Iron Mountain, Michigan

This abandoned vertical iron mine is home to around 1 million bats. It’s one of the largest hibernating/breeding colonies in North America.

Tarantula Trekking

Another creepy, yet incredibly interesting, animal to observe during Halloween time is the tarantula. Tarantula-trekking is an interesting way to gain knowledge of these harmless eight-legged creatures. Most tarantulas are found in the southwest desert regions of the United States.

One popular site to view tarantulas in their natural habitat is along the north face of Mount Diablo in Clayton, California. Hike with an experienced naturalist and learn about these scary-looking but docile critters.

black tarantula during nighttime
Would you dare to photograph this tarantula on Mount Diablo? Photo by JOE BLOWE.

Decorate your RV & Go Trick-or-Treating

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you can’t decorate your home on wheels for Halloween. There are many ways you can creatively transform your RV for the season. String spooky lights and sticky fake cobwebs, place skeletons around your campfire, hang bats and ghosts or create a harvest scene with pumpkins and hay bales.

Don’t let all the decorating go to waste! Find a campground (like the one below) that celebrates Halloween and share in the fun.

three masked scary dummies in an rv
Scary Halloween decoration – the Undead camping in an RV in Tannehill State Park. Photo by Rob Briscoe.

Lake Rudolph Campground, Santa Claus, Indiana

Even though it’s dubbed America’s Christmas Hometown, there’s plenty of Halloween fun to be had at Lake Rudolph. For seven weekends, the campground is all about the season with campfire ghost stories, haunted hayrides, costume contests, and trick-or-treating.

Fort Boonesborough, Richmond, Kentucky

For 13 days in October, Fort Boonesborough lets campers enjoy nightly ghost walks, Halloween parades, hayrides, and more. The campground also hosts a Halloween Lights Drive Through with over 1.5 miles of Halloween decorations and lights for campers to view.

Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky

The Kentucky Horse Park hosts their annual Halloween Campout with trick-or-treating, a golf cart parade, live entertainment, and spooky decorations throughout the park. They also offer a haunted trail for nighttime haunting.

horse sculpture made of branches
A horse sculpture in Kentucky Horse Park. Photo by Navin75.

Midway Campground, Statesville North Carolina

For the month of October, Midway Campground hosts Wicked Woods, one of the spookiest haunted walks in the area. The woods are filled with a haunted graveyard, a spinning tunnel of terror, and a 3D clown room, as well as other terrifying sites. Get ready to be scared silly!

Hagerstown KOA, Williamsport, Maryland

For the entire month of October, campers at Hagerstown KOA can enjoy Halloween-themed crafts, games, and activities. There are also pumpkin carving contests and a trick-or-treat parade. The best part is the Creekside Manor Haunted House that serious Halloween enthusiasts won’t want to miss.

Visit a Haunted Manor

One classic way to get into the spirit of Halloween is by walking through a haunted house. Literally, a REAL haunted house. Or manor. Or hotel. Dwellings that have a rich history of paranormal activity or sordid past are even more intriguing this time of year.

Sure, you can get your fright on in a commercialized haunted house with masked and costumed creatures, but there’s something even more chilling about visiting somewhere truly haunted. Some creepy locations you should check out are:

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel, in Estes Park, Colorado and is most famously known as the hotel that inspired the movie “The Shining.” Stay a night or two at this historical, picturesque hotel and register for the Spirited Night Tour where you will learn about the 100-year-old hotel, its sordid past, and ghostly hauntings. They also put on a formal Halloween Ball each year.

big white building under blue sky
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park CO. Photo by John Manard.

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside estate is located in Tarrytown, New York. This was home to the famous author of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” During Halloween, storytellers bring you back in time with tales of the chilling encounter of the headless horseman.

The Lizzie Borden House

As the location of one of the most well-known unsolved murder mysteries in America, the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts is now a museum and inn. They offer ghost tours and ghost hunts to anyone wanting a hauntingly good time.

Graveyards, Corn Mazes & Zombie Walks

This time of year is perfect for outdoor activities. The air is crisp and cool, and the atmosphere is ripe with spooky things happening everywhere. There are many Halloween-themed outdoor activities you can participate in and outdoor places you can visit to get you into the spirit of the season. Here are a few to get you started:

Graveyards

For most people, graveyards are the definition of spooky. A graveyard is not only an eerie place to explore, but it can also be an interesting history lesson, especially if it is an older cemetery. In fact, some of the most interesting, and oddly stunning, graveyards are those with a long history. Many of these cemeteries offer guided tours.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana

As the oldest existing cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis No. 1 is packed with above-ground vaults and tombs that date back to 1789. You can only explore this cemetery by booking a guided tour, but it is worth every penny.

silver grave with letters on a white wall
The grave of a Revolutionary soldier at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo by mertxe iturrioz.

Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland, Oregon

The 19th-century tombstones in this beautifully forested cemetery can be viewed at any time, but during Halloween season you can take a guided historical or epitaph tour to learn more about the graveyard’s early beginnings.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Mount Auburn, founded in 1831, is the burial site of almost 100,000 souls, including many Civil War veterans. You can take a self-guided tour or book a group tour of this stunningly serene and park-like cemetery.

Corn Mazes 

Get lost in a safe and fun way by exploring a corn maze. Corn mazes are a classic family-fun adventure to celebrate the season. Many mazes now are multi-acre labyrinths carved through a cornfield, usually hiding a themed image (only visible from an aerial view). The intricate designs will get your blood pumping as you try to find and wind your way out.

a path between the corn plants
Corn maze in Erie, CO at Anderson Farms. Photo by Kari.

Some of the best corn mazes in the country are below:

Exploration Acres, Lafayette, Indiana

You will have not just one, but four, mazes to explore at Exploration Acres. They also offer hayrides, farm games, and a pumpkin patch to round out the fun.

Great Vermont Corn Maze, Danville, Vermont

Considered the largest maze in New England, the Great Vermont Corn Maze is a 24-acre, 40-minute scenic tour. For more adult Halloween fun, the Dead North Farmland of Terror is a not-for-the-faint-of-heart experience.

Cool Patch Pumpkins, Dixon, California

Pick out a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch and take the kids to the mini hay maze before exploring the wonders of the “World Record Corn Maze” at Cool Patch Pumpkins.

Happy Day Farm, Manalapan, New Jersey

Enjoy pumpkin bowling, tractor pulls, bee barn visits, and more at this family-friendly farm. But the must-visit attraction is their 10-acre Maize-O-Poly, a corn maze and game board combined to make one big adventure.

Zombie Walks

Nothing says Halloween like a group of zombies crawling and dragging their way down some city street in America! Grab your shabbiest clothes, put on your deadliest-looking make-up and grab an axe for some ghoulish fun. Many cities are offering organized zombie walks or crawls as part of their Halloween festivities.

group of people masked in zombies attack man in army uniform
Zombie Walk 2016 by GoToVan.

Check out what your town has to offer, or claw your way to one of the events below:

Louisville, Kentucky

The streets of downtown Louisville transform into a zombie zone of more than 35,000 corpses. The event offers a costume contest and a Halloween party after all zombies drag their bodies to their final destination.

Lansing, Michigan

It’s a ghoulish good time for the whole family at the downtown Lansing Zombie Walk. 

San Diego, California

The San Diego Zombie Crawl is considered one of the top 3 Halloween events in Southern California. The 3-day event is filled with costume parties, live music, and, of course, a creepy, crawly Zombie walk.

Get Out and Get Spooky

Whether you want to explore haunted trails and creepy ghost towns or you prefer the family-fun activities of RV trick-or-treating and corn mazes, this season offers so many things to do and discover. While the air cools down and the leaves turn color, get out and take advantage of the amazing amount of ghoulish fun and Halloween haunts to be had.

And don’t forget to grab some comfortable and warm outdoor apparel from our shop!

Featured Image – Jack-O-Lanterns at Claytor Lake State Park by Virginia State Parks.

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