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Griffith Park|©Eric Chan/Flickr
Griffith Park|©Eric Chan/Flickr

Southern California's Haunted Hiking Trails

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 16 April 2017

Remote areas sometimes have a tendency to be creepy. They’re often desolate, and nature prevails. The crackling of twigs can lead imaginative hikers to wonder whether they’re really all alone out there, or if there is, perhaps, someone or something else. Even for those who don’t believe in the supernatural, Southern California‘s lore and legend can be chilling. Here are six hikes for those who like a good fright.

Black Star Canyon

Black Star Canyon in Silverado is something of a local legend. It was the site of a bloody battle in 1831 between a group of Native Americans and a group of fur trappers, in which several Native Americans were killed. (This battle, however, according to some investigations, may be just legend.) Other lore paints the Canyon as the site of Satanic rituals in the 1980s, and where a man named James Gregg was fatally shot by a man over a financial dispute in 1899. Those who seek out the Canyon find themselves surrounded by beautiful wilderness, marred by an overturned school bus that, for some reason, rests on its side on the ground.

Black Star Canyon, Silverado, CA USA


Skidoo is a ghost town in Death Valley National Park. It boomed in the early 1900s after gold was found in the area, but, like many similar towns, was soon abandoned. A barkeep named Hootch Simpson was hanged after he murdered a shopkeeper during a robbery attempt. Local lore states that a doctor took Simpson’s head to study it, and that now Simpson The Headless Ghost haunts the area.

Skidoo, CA USA

Skidoo|©Andrew Davidoff/Flickr

Skidoo | ©Andrew Davidoff/Flickr

Griffith Park

Griffith Park, Los Angeles’s sprawling, 4,310-acre public park, has more than a few legends that entice ghost hunters. Some say the ghost of Peg Entwistle, an aspiring actress who leapt to her death from the Hollywood sign in 1932, still haunts the park. Another persistent tale revolves around a supposedly haunted picnic table, on which two young lovers were crushed when a mighty tree interrupted their indiscretions. Another legend states that Griffith Park was hexed by Dona Petranilla, the niece of Don Antonio Feliz, who believed that Feliz’s friend had tricked Feliz into leaving the land to him rather than to her as Feliz lay on his deathbed. The picnic table legend has no evidence to support that any of it is true, while Dona Petranilla’s curse is believed by some to be the creation of an imaginative journalist. Then, of course, there’s the Old Zoo, abandoned in 1966 in favor of the new zoo, just two miles away. Some claim the ruins are haunted by ghostly animals and mysterious beasts.

Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA USA

The Old Zoo|©Omar Bárcena/Flickr

The Old Zoo | ©Omar Bárcena/Flickr

Spahn Ranch

Once a popular filming location, Spahn Ranch is now more infamous as being the home of Charles Manson and his followers during his family’s murder spree. In addition to the seven people killed on August 8 and 9, 1969, by the Manson family, they also murdered Spahn Ranch employee and stuntman Donald Shea. The area is now part of the Santa Susana Historic State Park, and hikers can still find the cave where the Manson family once posed for photos.

Spahn Ranch, 22601 Santa Susana Pass Road, Chatsworth, CA USA

The Manson Family at Spahn Ranch, 1969|Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

The Manson Family at Spahn Ranch, 1969 | Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Murphy Ranch

In the Santa Monica Mountains rest the ruins of a remote compound where a group of as many as 30 to 40 Nazi sympathizers once may have lived. Although not all the original structures remain, those that have been left behind are covered in graffiti. Hikers can complete a relatively easy hike of less than four miles to the ranch and back.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Sullivan Fire Road, Pacific Palisades, CA USA

Murphy Ranch|©mcflygoes88mph/Flickr

Murphy Ranch |© mcflygoes88mph/Flickr

The Haunted Forest

The Cobb Estate was built in 1918 by Charles Cobb, who made his fortune in lumber. The estate was later purchased by the Marx Brothers in the 1950s, who eventually demolished it. The land is now known as the “haunted forest,” although it’s not clear who (or what?) haunts it. Still, rumors of eerie noises and sights persist, and thrillseekers seem to enjoy exploring the area by night. The gates to the estate remain, which horror fans may recognize from the 1979 film Phantasm. Hike the haunted forest via the Sam Merrill Trail, and watch out for The Tall Man!

Cobb Estate, Altadena, CA USA