These five trails and sites offer stunning scenery, infamous history and are a great outdoorsy way to get into the Halloween spirit. Each one is rated on a scale from one to five pumpkins—one being safe for an infant, and five being so scary you’ll want to leave the kids at home.
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Rockefeller State Preserve, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.Spook Factor: 1 Pumpkin 1 of 6
Getting there: From New York City, take NY-9A/Saw Mill River Parkway to NY-117 South and follow the signs to the visitor's center.
Located just 30 miles outside of Manhattan near Sleepy Hollow, the Rockefeller State Preserve is far outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. This is an area steeped in colonial history; in fact, it was the town's deep history and quaint beauty that inspired Washington Irving to pen his famous short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which tells the tale of the infamous headless horseman.
There are plenty of Irving-themed Halloween adventures to visit in this town during October, but if you want a more rustic scare, simply head out for a dusk run or hike along the orange and red leaf strewn trails in this 1,200-acre preserve, which features the serene Swan Lake and Pocantico River, as well as a number of beautiful stone bridges.
Take the "Witch's Spring" trail out to "Spook Rock" for the ultimate Halloween experience. But don't worry, those horse hoofs you hear stamping off in the distance are probably just equestrians going out for a sunset ride—we think.
Skidoo Mine, Death Valley National Park, Calif.Spook Factor: 3 Pumpkins 2 of 6
Photo by Andrew Davidoff/Flickr
Getting there: Skidoo is located 17 miles southeast of Emigrant Campground, just off Wildrose Road and is accessible only by foot. Bring water and a map of the park.
Let's face it, everything in Death Valley has an element of eeriness to it, but this mining ghost town is toward the top of the list. Once a thriving mining town in the early 1900s, Skidoo is most famous for a murder that took place there in 1908 by one of the town drunks, Joe Simpson. As the rumor goes, Simpson stumbled into the Skidoo Trading Company Store and demanded money from the owner, Jim Arnold, a locally respected businessman. When Arnold refused, Simpson shot him dead and was subsequently lynched by a town mob. A hike out to the Skidoo ghost town is a challenging endeavor physically due to the topography of area climate, but save some energy for exploring the broken glass and rusty remnants of a town—and an era—long gone.
Norton Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C.Spook Factor: 3 Pumpkins 3 of 6
Photo by Andrew Hall/Flickr
Getting there: The trail starts on Lakeview Drive along the north shore of Lake Fontana.
There are more than 200 cemeteries in the GSMNP, but the two you pass on the Norton Creek Trail along the shores of Fontana Lake are undoubtedly some of the spookiest in the region.
During this six-mile long trail you'll pass a number of crumbly house ruins from pioneering days, which, along with the area's foggy evenings, only add to the scariness. This trail is rumored to be haunted by a number of ghosts, some of them friendly, like the man who is said to lead lost hikers to safety. Some of them less so, like the witch Spearfinger who according to Cherokee legend used to lure children away from their homes so she could slice them open and eat their livers.
River Legacy Park Trail, Arlington, TexasSpook Factor: 1 Pumpkin 4 of 6
Photo by Steven Martin/Flickr
Getting there: Take Highway I-30 to Collins Street and head north. The park's entrance is located on NE Green Oaks Boulevard.
An otherwise beautiful 2.5 stretch of dirt trail along the West Fork Trinity River, it's the dark history of this particular path that makes it a popular choice for ghost hunters. During the Civil War, many Union spies were forced to walk this particular trail on their way to be hung by Confederate soldiers. It is believed that one point of the hike (now aptly named Hell's Gate) is the last thing they saw before their demise, and many night hikers have sworn they can see and hear the ghosts of these soldiers restlessly walking along the trail for eternity.
Iron Goat Trail, Stevens Pass, Wash.Spook Factor: 2 Pumpkins 5 of 6
Photo Tony Kent/Flickr
Getting there: Take Highway 2 to Stevens Pass and turn left onto Old Cascade Highway. At the junction with FR6710, take a sharp left on FR 6710 and the trailhead will be about 1.5 miles up the road at the end of a small parking lot.
In the case of the Iron Goat Trail, something beautiful was born out of great devastation—in this case, one of the worst railroad disasters in U.S. history. This six-mile long journey up the cascades was once a railroad engineering marvel, with iron track-laden switchbacks that were laid down in 1893 in order to transport people up and over the Cascade Mountains. For years, things ran smoothly until one snowy day in 1910 when an avalanche sent an entire train tumbling off the tracks at the Wellington Depot and into the snowy banks of Tye Creek, killing more than 100 people. The railroad grade was abandoned and the remaining tunnels and path were crafted into the Iron Goat Trail.
This time of year, the chill in the air and the darkness of the forest add to the area's quiet beauty—and as you make the slow ascent you can't help but think of the poor souls who lost their lives up at the top looking at the very same view.