When camping in Northern California, getting scared out of your wits by haunted campgrounds is definitely not on the agenda for most people.
Camping is supposed to be a serene, peaceful affair.
Meet up with friends or family, or just go off alone, and enjoy nature.
The mountains are beautiful, and the weather is crisp and cool.
Updated 9/19/2019 – The truth is that haunted campgrounds are everywhere. Paranormal entities are often shy of people, and getting away from population centers is very attractive to many of them.
Some haunted campgrounds are harmlessly spooky. You might get a fright or see something that doesn’t sit quite right with you.
Other haunted campgrounds, though, are downright dangerous. People don’t always come back from camping trips. Sometimes people just disappear without a trace.
In Northern California, it’s been happening for over a century. Between the Gold Rush and the Missions, the region’s history has more than its share of violence.
California was the last frontier of the Wild West, and gunfights and murder are practically ghost magnets. And then there’s the whole matter of Indian burial grounds.
Here are the 10 most haunted campgrounds in Northern California.
Zip that tent up tight, and better pack an extra set of underwear.
10 Most Haunted Campgrounds in Northern California:
Table of Contents
- 1 #10 – Fernwood, Big Sur
- 2 #9 – Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Weott
- 3 #8 – Red, White and Blue Beach, Santa Cruz
- 4 #7 – Mount Madonna County Park, Watsonville
- 5 #6 – Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen
- 6 #5 – Camp Bothin, Fairfax
- 7 #4 – Black Diamond Regional Preserve, Antioch
- 8 #3 – MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg
- 9 #2 – Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Antioch
- 10 #1 – Trinity National Forest, Redding
- 11 Directions To The Haunted Campgrounds
#10 – Fernwood, Big Sur
Big Sur is one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in California, if not the country. Nobody knew that better than the Esselen Indian tribe.
To them, the region now occupied by the haunted campgrounds of Fernwood was sacred land. To one Esselen soul, it still is.
In the small hours of the morning, legend has it that a figure wearing an Esselen corn mask wanders the haunted campgrounds.
Many campers and staff have reported seeing the man. Most believe he is the spirit of an Esselen shaman, guarding the sacred land and hoping to drive off intruders.
He stalks from tent to tent, peering in at the inhabitants. If approached, he moves off.
If pursued, well, you don’t want to pursue him.
Catch him out in the woods, away from the safety of lights and friends, and he’ll stand his ground.
What happens next isn’t pretty.
If you should see the man in the corn mask, just stay put. Leave him alone.
And hope he does the same.
#9 – Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Weott
For the serious cryptid hunter, nothing beats the haunted campgrounds at Humboldt Redwoods.
Like many ancient forests in the region, Indian spirits are thought to wander amongst the ancient trees.
Paranormal entities are often drawn to their favorite places from life, and these woods were prime hunting ground for several tribes.
Although times have changed and the woods are now a State Park rather than a place to live, the ghosts of years past still linger on.
The real draw here, though, is the incredible number of Bigfoot sightings.
The big guy seems to really enjoy the quiet majesty of the towering timber. He’s spotted multiple times per year, while other campers complain of trampled food and belongings.
What is the relationship between the sasquatch and the American Indian ghosts? Unknown, but it seems likely that they’re aware of each other.
After all, what could be more natural than an eight-foot hairy ape beast stomping through the woods hiding from photographers?
#8 – Red, White and Blue Beach, Santa Cruz
This gorgeous beach is now off limits.
However, it was the scene of a gruesome murder some years ago.
Apparently, a couple walking along late at night got into an argument.
The subject of the fight is unknown, but it was bad enough to lead to blows.
Perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, the man killed his girlfriend. Leaving her body to be swept away by the waves, he ran off and was not seen again.
The ghost of the woman is said to still stalk the landscape, making her home in the nearby haunted campgrounds.
Many campers have reported seeing her in the distance while strolling on the beach.
She appears to be a normal woman, but dissipates into mist when approached.
Although some have chalked it up to an optical illusion, the story has been told enough times that it seems there is more to it.
Those who visited the beach late at night sometimes felt a cold chill on their back, as though she were touching them with her spectral fingers.
Empaths, and men in general, were particularly susceptible to the effect.
To this day, she’s sometimes seen further down the shore along other beaches that are still open to the public. It’s as though she is looking for the one who ended her life.
What will she do if she should find him?
Or if she merely thinks someone is him?
#7 – Mount Madonna County Park, Watsonville
The land now occupied by the State Park was once owned by Henry Miller.
Miller found enormous success as a food supplier during the Gold Rush, and was known as the Cattle King for his vast properties filled with cattle.
It’s a good life he built for himself and his daughter Sarah, but life has a way of taking away.
One day in 1879, eight-year-old Sarah was killed in a riding accident near Mount Madonna, right where the campgrounds currently sit.
She’s still there.
The ghost a child is a heartbreaking sight, and visitors to the haunted campground of Mount Madonna have been sadly shaking their heads for years.
Sarah isn’t dangerous, but she is very active and very powerful. She walks the campgrounds or rides her horse, wearing her favorite frilly white dress.
It seems she is more aware of her surroundings than most entities, and has been known to hitch rides from passing cars.
Sometimes she will hitchhike, but other times she simply appears in the backseat, an unwelcome passenger.
If you should see her, be kind. Sarah is unsettling, but means no harm.
#6 – Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen
In 1910, famous naturalist and author Jack London built Wolf House.
Intended to be a secluded home nestled in the woods he loved so much, the house burned to the ground just a few years later.
The ruins are still there to this day, and for whatever reason, they are downright infested with ghosts.
The haunted campgrounds nearby are a great place to experience the paranormal phenomena of Wolf House.
The sounds of footsteps and even visible apparitions are commonplace, and strangest of all, the ghosts seem to have no relation to the construction of the house.
It’s possible London just happened to pick a spot ripe with psychic energy that drew spirits in, or it’s possible that something about the nature of the ruins is appealing to denizens of the beyond.
Some even say that the ghosts are characters from London’s novels, wrenched into existence through his sheer force of will.
Regardless, it’s prime ghost hunting territory. Be careful exploring Wolf House, as the spirits seem to enjoy physically pushing and shoving visitors.
#5 – Camp Bothin, Fairfax
Today a rather ill-advised Girl Scout camp, Camp Bothin is one of California’s most haunted campgrounds.
The camp was built directly on top of sacred American Indian land. Before the Girl Scouts purchased it, it was home to a convalescent home, a hospital.
Hospitals and sacred sites, as we all know, are some of the most haunted spots in the world. Camp Bothin is both at once.
Visible apparitions of American Indians have been seen all over the property, wandering the grounds and scaring the children.
Disturbingly intermingled with the Indians are visions from the time of the hospital.
Nurses pushing carts full of medicine, as well as the screams and moans of ailing patients, have been seen and heard right next to hunters wearing feathers and skins.
For their part, the Girl Scouts take it in stride. The legendary haunting of Camp Bothin is a point of pride to many of the children.
The most haunted spot of all is Stone House, where the older children are housed. In times past, this was the nurse residence, and some of the Scouts report feelings of protection and benevolence.
It seems not all haunted campgrounds are full of evil.
#4 – Black Diamond Regional Preserve, Antioch
Located near the infamous Black Diamond Coal Mines, the haunted campgrounds at Black Diamond Regional Preserve are just as psychically active.
The ghost of Mary, executed for witchcraft in the 1800s after a plague swept the nearby town, is still there.
She’s not what you think, though.
Mary was the town’s teacher, caretaker of all the children.
Although Antioch is home to haunted campgrounds, not all ghosts seek to do us harm.
Her role in the afterlife is as a protector. She stands before the entrance to the Black Diamond Coal Mines as a warning.
“The mines are dangerous”, she seems to say. “Go away, keep out.”
Mary most often shows herself to children, but hikers and campers of all ages have spoken of the spectral guardian.
Although she does not harm visitors, she has been known to forcefully repel attempts to enter the mines.
Explorers have been physically shoved and pushed.
Entering the mines, the youngest member of a party may feel a pulling on their hair, as though Mary is frantically trying to keep them back.
#3 – MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg
The beautiful, coastal MacKerricher State Park is located scant minutes from Fort Bragg, which is very haunted indeed.
The State Park receives some of the ghostly overflow, and the haunted campgrounds are as renowned for their ghost sightings as for their views of the ocean.
Spirits from a number of bygone eras, including the Gold Rush and even Victorian times, wander the area.
Cold spots are everywhere, especially in the early hours of the morning.
Lesser spirits often manifest this way, if they lack the strength to visibly appear.
Walking through the haunted campgrounds, if you feel a sudden chill on the back of your neck, then you may have found one.
More accurately, it may have found you. Many people believe cold spots represent the physical touch of a ghost.
It can be difficult to discern if the weather is already on the colder side, but stay alert and you will find them.
You might be sorry you did.
#2 – Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Antioch
Antioch is home to more than one of the haunted campgrounds that litter California.
The Morgan Territory Road was built in the 1800s as part of the lumber industry.
Lumberjacks would use it to move logs from Santa Cruz to Eastern Contra Costa.
This was at the height of the Old West, and banditry and other crime was commonplace.
In particular, it is said that the ghost of Joaquin Murrieta, also known as El Dorado, buried a treasure someplace along the road.
To this day, campers in the area have reported seeing him wandering up and down.
It seems he’s forgotten under which tree he buried the gold!
The poor spirit won’t give up until he finds it, and he’s not likely to welcome any help.
Best to steer clear of him, in fact. If you see El Dorado on his dark business, leave him to it.
He was a murderer in life, and who knows what he’s capable of in death?
#1 – Trinity National Forest, Redding
This is one of many haunted campgrounds that only manifests on Halloween.
The shadow of a woman, appearing to be crying, can be seen walking along the river on All Hallow’s Eve each year.
Watch closely, and you might see her walk right over the water as though it were solid ground.
Although many people think she is an aspect of La Llorona, due to a fine white mist surrounding the shadow, the truth is much more sinister.
Local residents, kids mostly, who love to camp in the area traditionally dare one person to walk along the river beyond the bend.
Sometimes, just sometimes, the walker never comes back. They’re just gone.
It is thought that the ghost is a young woman who fell into the turbulent water many years ago.
Her death was unfair and she left a great deal of unfinished business, both of which are strong forces to create haunted campgrounds.
Desperate for company or simply seeking revenge on fate, she occasionally pushes and shoves people who get too close.
Watch your step.
Directions To The Haunted Campgrounds
Ready to try your luck visiting one, or more, of these haunted campgrounds?
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