With its varied terrain ranging from rugged mountains to peaceful prairie, Utah is ideal for camping. People have thought so for hundreds of years, and the state has been a haven for naturalists and those who enjoy the great outdoors. Something about the power of all those wide open spaces seems to attract more than just your run-of-the-mill camper, though.
For whatever reason, Utah has a higher proportion of psychic phenomena and haunted campgrounds than just about any state in the Union. Yes, that’s right. Haunted campgrounds.
Utah's Haunted Campgrounds
Ghosts and spirits love to get away from it all just as much as anyone living.
Any paranormal enthusiast will find much to love in Utah, as long as they’re prepared to get their hands dirty.
And their minds blown.
Utah is home to a lot of history from different eras of the United States. The Church of Latter Day Saints make their home there, yes, but the Beehive State was also crucial to the Transcontinental Telegraph, the Black Hawk War, and the Bear River Massacre.
That’s just in United States history, and discounts the thousands of years the area was home to multiple tribes of American Indians.
Table of Contents
10) Cottonwood Canyon, Midvale
The haunted campgrounds at Cottonwood Canyon are home to a deadly body of water.
The river here has claimed the lives of numerous people, especially after rainstorms and floods.
Folks mostly steer clear of the area these days, and not just because of the danger of drowning.
It is said that the spirits of those the river has taken still inhabit the area.
Early May is when they are closest to our world. Walking alongside the river, you may hear their screams.
The biggest trick, though, is how you can get their attention.
In early May, they’re strong enough to be aware of you. They can interact with you.
You can look at them. They can look at you.
Stand close to the water’s edge, but not too close.
Close your eyes and slowly count to three.
Open them, and look around.
You’ll see the dead in the trees.
Watching you. Waiting for you.
Hoping you’ll join them.
Step into the river.
9) Haunted Campgrounds of the Great Salt Lake
It’s impossible to talk about haunted campgrounds in Utah without including the legend of John Baptiste.
John, the story goes, was a gravedigger in the late 1800s. He was in fact one of the very first gravediggers in Salt Lake City. He was insane.
The troubles began when a visitor to the city died and was buried. The man’s brother came after a time, wishing to reclaim the body to take it home.
Digging up the grave, the townspeople found the visitor’s corpse stripped naked and dumped unceremoniously into the grave.
Baptiste, it seemed, had been keeping the possessions of his “clients”.
A search of his home revealed clothes from more than 350 bodies.
The gravedigger was branded a grave robber, and marooned on a small island in the Great Salt Lake.
Returning to check on him a few weeks later, the sheriff could find no sign of the man. He was never seen again. At least not in his living form.
Today, the ghost of John Baptiste wanders the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
He moves amongst the haunted campgrounds of the area, holding a satchel of clothes, rotting and dripping wet.
8) Moon Lake, Duchesne County
This placid body of water is home to haunted campgrounds as well as a mysterious cryptid.
Campers hoping to enjoy a few days away from the hustle and bustle of city life find themselves accosted by the ghost of a young girl.
Some say she is merely dripping wet, others insist she is clearly drowned with the bloated flesh and blue skin that entails.
Regardless of her appearance, it’s clear that she is a ghost in distress. She approaches campers who are separated from their groups, begs them for help, and then suddenly vanishes.
Most agree that she is the ghost of a girl who drowned in the haunted campgrounds years ago.
She may not understand that she has perished, and hopes to be reunited with her own family
Moon Lake is also the stalking ground of an enormous waterborne cryptid.
A giant serpent, similar to Nessie or “Tessie” of Lake Tahoe, has been spotted by many researchers in the field.
7) American Fork Canyon
This canyon in the Wasatch Mountains is home to some beautiful caves and a terrifying creature from beyond.
The ghost is somewhat unusual in that it comes when called.
It tends to let people alone until they are ready to leave the campgrounds.
It’s a bit of a traffic cop. Do three circles or donuts in the parking lot, and you’ll get it going.
The terror starts with the faint sound of an engine. You might think someone is pulling up behind you, but that’s just not the case.
Hang around for another few seconds, and an enormous Hearse, in the style of the 1940s, will come roaring up.
There’s no driver to be seen. The car itself is the paranormal creature.
Beaming an eerie red light from its headlights, the vehicle will attempt to run you off the road.
Try to get away, but remember you did this yourself.
If you should bring down this entity’s ire, you might just deserve what you get.
6) Hobbs Hollow, Layton
Behind a quiet suburban neighborhood in Layton is one of the most haunted campgrounds in Utah.
The defining feature of the area is the Hollow itself, with a peaceful body of water and a cute wooded area ready to explore.
Well, the water used to be peaceful, anyway. Something changed back in the 70s.
On the darkest nights of the year, when there are no clouds or moon or stars, the water changes.
It becomes violent, thrashing and splashing as though something is down there raging at all the world.
It creates an unbelievably strong undertow. Objects tossed into the water disappear without so much as a splash.
Swimmers in the lake in such nights are sometimes pulled under, never to be seen again.
Never to be seen, but they are heard.
Visiting the haunted campgrounds during the day, if you’re very quiet, you can hear their screams and cries for help.
Nobody knows what lives down there, but it’s angry. It hates us. And it’s dangerous.
5) Bottle Hollow Reservoir
Located in ancient Ute Indian territory, this beautiful reservoir lake is great for fishing, hiking, and getting your pants scared off.
A hunting party of Ute Indians frequent the haunted campgrounds.
One is a bit older than the other three, and they’re unremarkable other than their strange choice of dress.
When seen, the group is invariably wearing the furs and feathers of a bygone time. They sit around a fire, motionless and silent.
They’re also quite dead.
One group of campers tell of their encounter with the hunting party. The campers walked right up to the Ute and tried repeatedly to engage them in conversation.
No response. Even trying a few words in their own language, the campers felt like they were simply being ignored.
It wasn’t until a few minutes later when the Indians faded out of view right before their eyes that the campers realized the truth.
The fire crackled for a few more seconds, then disappeared as well.
There was no sign of any burned tinder, or any other evidence that the Ute had been there at all.
4) Mount Timpanogos
Mount Timpanogos is the setting for an old Indian legend. Those events of a bygone era are probably the reason for the haunted campgrounds here.
Timpanogos, the story goes, was a beautiful Indian girl who fell in love with a warrior from a neighboring tribe.
The two peoples did not get along, were often enemies, and her father would have none of it.
The lovers would meet under the mountain, though of course in those days it was not called Mount Timpanogos.
When her father found out, he was furious. He informed the chief of their tribe, and the two men led a raiding party.
They killed the great love of Timpanogos’ life, and she knew she could not go on.
Racing to the top of the mountain that would bear her name, she planned to leap from the summit to her death.
The spirits there took pity on her, and instead put her into a deep sleep.
She would awake when her father allows her to marry the warrior.
Of course, that will never happen. They’re long dead. This was a thousand years ago or more.
She’s stuck, wandering the haunted campgrounds.
Explorers in the caves under the mountain can still hear her cries, they say. Her dreams, perhaps.
Or her anger.
3) Zion National Park, Cedar City
Zion National Park just might be the most haunted area in Utah.
Haunted campgrounds, ghost cowboys, ghost Indians, spectral beasts, it’s all here.
The stunning vistas and stark terrain must be as compelling to the denizens of the beyond as they are to us.
Walking the mountains and plains, alone or with friends, you’ll likely feel the cold touch of a spirit more than once.
Twitching shadows and flickering lights where none should be are common sights as you wander the park.
And in the southern reaches is the ghost town of Grafton.
The original Indian inhabitants of the area have their own set of legends about Zion.
The rock structures North Guardian Angel and The Watchman are said to be especially magical.
They serve as beacons to the dead, bringing their spirits back to our world.
What the spirits do here is up to them. One can only hope they are benevolent.
2) Rock Canyon, Provo
This popular climbing spot is for expert climbers only.
Over the years, it’s been the site of several deaths as people lost their hold on the steep rock face and plummeted to the canyon floor.
In recent years, it seems a critical mass has been achieved of spiritual energy and psychic pain.
The region has gained a reputation for its haunted campgrounds, with visible apparitions being the most common type of haunting.
Campers and hikers in the area have more and more often reported seeing a man standing on the high ledges above.
He stares down at living visitors, sometimes gives a whoop and a holler, and then runs right at them.
Speeding straight down the sheer rock wall at an impossible angle, he comes faster and faster, a sick grin on his face.
Just before impact, he vanishes into thin air.
This type of highly dramatic manifestation is very unusual. Paranormal sightings are usually subtler.
Enough people have reported seeing the man, though, that it’s difficult to discount it entirely.
It speaks to the power of this area that the ghost is able to appear in this way, or perhaps the entity’s own strength.
1) Canyonlands National Park, Moab
Moab is rich in history, filled with haunted campgrounds and sacred sites from days of old.
With names like The Goddess and The Valley of the Goblins, Moab is something out of a fairytale.
The 30,000 square mile national park is heaven for those who adore natural wonder.
Wind your way through the naturally occurring sandstone maze at Chesler Park, and it is said you will achieve a higher state of consciousness.
Such places also attract spirits, of course. And not all spirits are human.
At Dead Horse Point, deep in the park, is the site where a group of cattle rustlers abandoned their loot.
They were unable to get away from their pursuers, and did not want to leave any evidence behind.
So they got rid of it.
In other words, they fenced in hundreds of cattle and left them to die.
Today, specters of wild mustang stampede through the canyons.
Sometimes heard, sometimes seen, they are a testament to the brutality of the era.