SoCal's Most Haunted Hiking and Camping Spots

Since Juniper is a HUGE Halloween fan, we decided to put together our list of paranormal hot spots in the great outdoors. From lost souls, to grizzly murders, to mysteriously abandoned towns - there is something for everyone this spooky season... 

Anza Borrego Desert | Borrego Springs, CA

We've talked a lot about how much we love this State Park before, but we just recently discovered some of its haunted past (right in time for Halloween). We always link this desert to alien activity since the thin atmosphere and clear skies make it is easy to spot a potential UFO, but thanks to the activity of death, robberies, and duels of the Gold Rush days, this desert has plenty of other paranormal activity.

One particular sighting is that of the Ghost Lights over Oriflamme Mountain and the Borrego Valley. Since 1892 there have been reports of fireball like objects that rise into the air and then explode like a firework or sometimes fly in an arch formation. Could it be spirits signaling buried treasure? Or as science might suggest, static electricity created from wind blown sand against quartz outcroppings? Either way, it is worth it to check out the desert for yourself and scope out spirits, phantom fireballs, or just some Bighorn Sheep.

Book a spot Tamarisk Grove Campground, and hike over to the haunted trail at Yaqui Well where legend has it skeletons dance together in a frenzied gold celebration under the full moon on hot summer nights. 

Vallecito Stage Station County Park | Julian, CA

In the days of the Gold Rush settlers traveled through the desert in search of the luring gold of the West Coast via stage coaches, and this was the only wagon route available in to Southern California. Obviously the harsh climate did not make for an easy trip and many died along the way. One particular haunting in this area is that of a girl who died on her journey in the 1850s by the name of Eileen O'Conner. She was on her way to Sacramento to meet her fiancé who just struck gold, before she fell ill. She was buried in her white wedding dress near that station, and is still seen at night restlessly wandering the area. 

Another infamous sighting is that of the phantom stagecoach in the Carrizo Wash as it hesitates past the old station and then disappears, supposedly leaving wagon trails and hoof prints behind. There is also the galloping white horse that rushes by at midnight, linked to a story of an armed robbery in Gold Rush days that spooked a horse's spirit into a looping purgatory in the desert. 

So snag a primitive camp site and settle in for an eventful evening before hitting the trails. Make sure to celebrate with a slice of the famous pie in the quaint town of Julian before you leave!   

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve | San Diego, CA

With 11 miles of hiking, and tons of Urban Legends, Elfin Forest is undoubtedly a haunted hike you don't want to miss! The Spiritualist community of Harmony Grove is located nearby and there are rumors of rituals, seances, and the occult being practiced on the lands. There is also archeological evidence that Northern Diegueno Indians once occupied the area believing it to have beneficial vibrations and used it is a peace meeting ground. The area is also thought to have an ancient Native burial land, and much of the spiritual activity has been tied to these unrest spirits. The most common sighting reported is that of the Lady in White (it's always a lady in white). She supposedly floats about the forest, and many reported car crashes site her presence in the road as their reason for their crash.

So check out the mysterious forest for yourself. Even if you don't see the lady in white, you are sure to see plenty of wildlife and natural beauty. Trail head begins at Escondido Creek and popular hikes include the steep Way Up Trail or the Elfin Forest Olivenhain Reserve Loop Trail. All trails here.

Lake Morena Campground | Campo, CA

A woman in white (of course) lingers around campsites (especially those of men) at this peaceful campground along the lake in the wooded Laguna Mountains. She is said to pace as if waiting for something, and campers hear loud footsteps outside of their tent that just disappear instead of fading away. There are also reports of a woman singing, laughing and dancing around 3am. After your spooky night, hike the challenging Morena Butte Trail within the park.

Buena Vista Lagoon | Carlsbad, CA

This 223-acre wetland is an Ecological Reserve and makes for a beautiful hiking area. But what most people don't know is that Oceanside's Buena Vista Cemetery once existed on the North East end of the lagoon from 1885-1906. Unfortunately by the 60s and 70s the bodies were rezoned, though many were left behind and commercial property and apartments have now been built on top of the old burial grounds, leaving disturbed spirits to wander. Residents report sightings along the lagoon, voices around their apartments, and haunted hotspots at the local businesses included Hunter's Steakhouse. Read more about the burial grounds here

In the meantime, the trail head begins at the Buena Vista Audoban Society. See the trail map here and have a spook-tacular time exploring the marine life and occasional apparition. 

Crystal Lake Campground | Azusa, CA 

Nestled in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles lies the ghost story of the Majors family who were attacked and killed by a Grizzly Bear in 1934 and continue to supposedly haunt Crystal Lake. The family was working in the area and Grizzlies were thought to have been long since extinct. Their bodies were found shredded, dismembered, and disemboweled after the attack. To this day there are still reports of seeing 2 adults and 2 children lingering around the campground around September 19th every year. 

Side note: The story of Friday the 13th's Jason also occurs at the fictitious Camp Crystal Lake - coincidence? Probably. Enjoy these hikes while you're there!

Calico Ghost Town & Campground | Yermo, CA

Calico is an old West mining town 2 hours Northeast of LA that has been around since 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. When silver lost its value, Calico lost its population as everyone just packed up and moved on, leaving the town completely abandoned.

One of the most haunted locations in California, shadow people, orbs, full-bodied apparitions, and ghost lights have all been spotted here. Although this town now serves as an amusement attraction, there is still plenty of hiking trails nearby in San Bernadino County. So snag a spot at the campground (which is conveniently located next to the town cemetery), get cozy, and brace yourself for a creepy evening!

Happy Halloween, Wild Ones! 

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We are a pair of kindred spirits wandering the wild outdoors and hoping to inspire you to go out on your next adventure - whether it's camping, hiking, or a weekend trip to a National Park. We know the best trails, which gear to use, and how to embrace the simple life nature has to offer.