Despite their grandeur, did you know that national parks can be scary and dangerous places? From getting lost, encountering a grizzly bear, or finding something beyond belief, the great outdoors is full of terrors. As we’ll soon discover in these true national park stories, it doesn’t take much for disaster to strike while out on a hike and enjoying nature. Some people simply go in and never come out, while others hear strange noises or find weird objects. There’s no telling what will happen when you wander into the great wood. So, get your gear ready, here are 25 True Scary National Park Stories!
One Redditor explained that as a kid they would go day hiking with their family and dog at Algonquin Park in Ontario. While at a lookout, their dog ran at full speed off the cliff and landed ten feet down on a ledge. There was no way to climb down to get the dog, so they weren’t sure what to do. Out of the blue, a man comes out of the woods with full climbing gear on, repels down to get the dog, and then leaves without saying a word. They noted that Algonquin Park isn’t know for climbing.
A few archaeologists were doing work at a survey site in British Columbia when something bizarre happened. It was out in middle of nowhere, miles away from the nearest town, and they came to a place that felt off. Suddenly, while looking at a map, they heard a loud “womp” sound. They could feel the pressure in their ears and felt their chest squeeze. After it happened again, they took off, terrified of what it could be. Ten years later, they still get the chills thinking about it.
One park let kids from school in so they can look for animals in the forests and near the streams. One day a kid found a few molars, but their teacher said it was likely deer teeth. Two days later, park officials found a corpse with a skull with all the teeth missing.
When The Saints Come Marching In
A couple went on a road trip from British Columbia to San Diego, and while in California, camped out in a tepui, or rooftop tent with their dog. They fell asleep in their tent but eventually woke up to the sound of whistling at 1 AM. The tune was “when the saints come marching in.” The whistling continued for a while, freaking them out, until it turned into chanting “when you sleep here you disrespect me, and when you disrespect me you disrespect the US Marines!” Then the person started spelling out F.L.E.E. Eventually, they high-tailed it out of there and returned the next morning to pick up things they left.
One Redditor said when they were 18, they took a road trip with some friends down to the Apalachicola National Forest near Tallahassee, Florida. While walking around the camp, they found an old white guy living out of his van with his clothes strung up, big bags of trash, and a big golden retriever. They spoke with him for ten minutes and then went on their way. Two months later, they saw the same old guy on television. Turns out the guys was Gary Michael Hilton, a serial killer. He killed a girl at the same camp site not long after they had left. They called the police and were a huge part of the investigation, even flying down to testify in court.
One Redditor randomly stumbled on an old plane wreckage site. The plane had crashed into a cliff and no one came out to remove the wreckage. Knowing people had died there, finding the site really freaked them out.
A volunteer of trail maintenance at White Mountains of New Hampshire saw one truck parked in the parking lot before he and a friend went hiking on the trails. When they reached the top of a cliff, they found what they assumed was the owner of a truck in only his underwear, taking a nap on a pillow. He left when they approached.
One Redditor went on a road trip with a friend and hiked into a trail in Colorado to camp. They pitched a tent near a stream and he decided to sleep under the stars. Later, a woman pitched a tent near them. He fell asleep but was later woken up by a ranger asking, “Did you see the bear?” This immediately terrified him. He looked over at the woman’s tent, and it was shredded. Apparently, she had left her food in her tent and the bear attacked and she took off.
A 12-year-old went out hunting with their father in Jersey at 3 AM in the morning, putting up a temporary stand to sit on, waiting for deer to come out. While sitting there, the 12-year-old saw a human figure at the bottom, roughly two to three feet tall. It remained there the entire time until they came back down. They found out it was a lawn gnome miles into the deep woods.
In July 1985, a young man and his father went hiking near Sheridan, WY and came across a small cave that was once a campsite. They found tons of old and rusty items, a saddle, unopened cans of food, and most disturbing, a shirt with bloody holes in it. His father figured much of the stuff was at least 100 years old and whoever owned the shirt didn’t get too far in the wilderness. He thought it eerie finding an ancient crime scene of someone who likely died alone.
Missing in the Smoky Mountains
It was June 14th, 1969, and Dennis Smith, age 6, and three other boys decided to sneak up on the old folks while out in the Smoky Mountains National Park. The three boys went one direction and Dennis went another. Only minutes later, the three boys surprised the adults but Dennis was nowhere to be seen and was never seen again. He wasn’t the only one to go missing in that national park. Two others, Trenny Lynn Gibson and Thelma Pauline Melton, also vanished without a trace. In each case, massive searches came up with nothing and no explanation of what happened to them.
One Redditor and his friend went hiking the the Carolina mountains in the middle of winter, pitched a tent, and enjoyed the night sky. During this time, they got the sensation they weren’t alone and heard a noise in the darkness. Rather than cower by the campfire, they yelled as loudly as possible and charged forward, finding several eyes staring back at them. They felt foolish once they discovered they were yelling at mountain ponies.
One Redditor was camping down in the Florida Keys for the winter when they were abruptly invaded by tons of rats running up and down their tent. They had to go out and shake them off the tent. This happened three times before they decided to leave. Right after, they found out an 11 foot alligator had died only a few feet away from their camp site.
Cowden Family Massacre
After going hiking in the Siskiyou Mountains, the Cowden family went missing in 1974. Their campsite was found undisturbed as if they left suddenly, and police feared they’d been abducted. Seven months after their disappearance, their bodies were found 100 feet from the campsite. Richard Cowden was tied to a tree while his wife and two small children were found in a cave with rocks covering it. While serving two life sentences, rapist and murderer Dwain Lee Little confessed to it doing it while he was previously on parole, but no conviction was made.
One Redditor was camping with a bunch of people at Warwoman Dell. Fifteen of them slept in groups of three. One night while they were sleeping, they heard a faint rhythm in the distance. The drum beat drew louder and closer; the counselor told them to knock it off but when it kept happening, everyone got out of their tents and looked around. The creepy and eerie noise continued until daybreak, but no one knew where it was coming from. That morning, rather than stick around, they took off and ate breakfast on the trail.
Most expectations for camping don’t include UFO sightings; however, that’s exactly what happened to one family in Texas. While they were playing a game by the campfire, they saw a glowing orb fly over a nearby lake. They didn’t think much of it, but then about 16 more glowing lights passed through on the same path. When they got home and investigated, they discovered that in a nearby town people reported seeing the lights as well. No one has been able to explain what they were.
8-year-old Douglas Legg was vacationing with his parents in the Adirondacks in 1971. When his family went out on a hike, his uncle told him to go back to the house and put on some pants for the hike. He took the short walk back but didn’t return. The family went to great lengths to find him, including using a thermal scanner and enlisting the elite Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Unit. Sadly, he was never seen again.
Sometimes stories only need a few words in a single sentence to make them scary. In this case, one park ranger on Reddit claimed to find a human thumb nailed to a tree.
A park ranger at Yellowstone was in the Lamar valley when they came upon something very strange – a perfectly severed deer head in the middle of the trail. The ranger found no blood at the scene and the eyes, mouth, tongue, and all parks of the head were intact. They’d seen deer carcass after being mauled by a predator, but this didn’t match the description.
During a camping trip, a group of teens hadn’t returned, and a massive manhunt was underway to find them. Part of the search and rescue team was hiking 35 kilometers in the woods when they came upon a weird place. There were sticks carved like spears in the ground, carvings in trees, and a teddy bear hung from a noose on a tree. Later the next morning, after they found a ripped shirt, they thought they were close to the missing teens but got a call that the teens had been found 20 kilometers from them. They wasted no time hiking out of those woods.
The Skin Changer
While working for the national forest service, one firefighter was driving to a site and along the way, a bobcat appeared in the middle of the road, stared at him for about 10 seconds, screamed at him, and finally ran up a tree. It was odd behavior, but he kept driving. About a half mile down the road, he finds a well boarded up cabin. Since it was federal land, this structure shouldn’t have been there at all, so he decides to head back. On the way back he saw a Native American woman in tattered clothes right where the bobcat had been. When he asked if she needed help, she screamed at him the same scream as the bobcat and climbed unnaturally fast up the tree. Later, a local Native American man informed him that he had seen a warg, or skin changer.
A seasonal park ranger drove through the park to make sure everything was okay. Unfortunately, everything wasn’t when they found a man dead, hanging from a tree. The ranger called the police and coroner, but the ranger didn’t have a ladder tall enough to cut the man down. So, he had to stay there with the dead man for an hour until they showed up.
A field biologist in a remote park was working at a restoration site when she heard something and turned to see what it was. A shirtless man walked down the trail with a crowbar in his hand that he swung in circles. He yelled, “I GOT A CROWBAR! I GOT A CROWBAR!” The biologist replied, “Nice crowbar” and then got out of there as fast as possible.
Stranger at Night
A person working in the outdoor field led a group of 8 kids up into Mt. Sterling in North Carolina. That night, while everyone else was in their tents, they stayed in a hammock. Right before going to sleep, they saw something move in the woods. Moving up the mountain and stopping near their camp was the figure of a man. He stood and surveyed the camp without a headlight or anything and then sat by a tree. The man stayed until 3:30 AM before standing back up and leaving. The rest of the trip they were paranoid the man followed them the whole time.
Bessie and Glenn Hyde were honeymooning in the Grand Canyon, going down the Colorado river by scow in 1928. If they did it successfully, Bessie would be the first woman to do so and Glenn pushed her when she was reluctant. Months later, their boat was discovered undisturbed with supplies inside, but they were never seen again. Theories abound about what happened to them. Did they get into an argument that turned violent, go on a side hike, or were they abducted?