Southern California has more than its fair share of historic hiking destinations, but visiting places where the lines between the past and the present are blurred comes with its risks.
That is, you have to be willing to encounter some spirits. And some of those spirits may be restless.
Now, you can dismiss a lot of these “haunted” hiking trails as a bunch of malarkey – and that may be true. Stories about bloody brides and white witches and cars full of cheerleaders tend to be concocted anywhere there’s a forest or cemetery or fog-filled, spooky outdoor site, anywhere in the country.
But some of these legends aren’t pure Hollywood fabrications. And the only way to debunk them is to get on the trail and explore for yourself.
So here are the five best haunted hikes in Southern California – for ghost hunters and skeptics alike. Take only photos, and leave only footprints, so the spirits stay wherever they may dwell.
1. The Haunted Forest, Altadena
You’ve got to walk through something nicknamed “The Haunted Forest” to reach the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain in Altadena – but you probably know it better by its more historical name, The Cobb Estate. Designated, as its sign says, as “A quiet refuge for people and wild life forever,” that may have extended into the afterlife, given the stories of spectral sightings and weird noises at the vacant estate in the mid-1950s. Prior to that, it had been occupied by lumber magnate Charles Cobb who built it in 1918, then the Pasadena Masons, and then some Catholic nuns. The house itself was torn down and the supposedly haunted forest became public land, now owned by the U.S. Forest Service, in 1971. As you walk through, you can still see some building foundations on your left – but if you hear or see anything weird, even in the middle of the night, it might just be teenagers or night hikers taking a break. Then again, it could be one of the Marx Brothers, who owned the property and razed the estate in 1959.