Hiking is one of those innocent pastimes you can enjoy on your own, with friends and your S/O, or the whole family. And it lends itself to wonderful wildlife photography. However, it can also plunge you into the heart of darkness if you’re so inclined. Explore certain areas at certain times and you may come face to face with things straight out of your nightmares.
San Diego County is home to hiking trails filled with tormented spirits, terrifying ghosts, and sinister demons. Not to mention the cryptids lurking in the shadows.
While some of these entities enjoy simply scaring hikers, there are those which wander the trails in search of blood.
Stay away unless you plan on becoming their prey.
10 Hikes in San Diego County Filled With Paranormal Activity
Table of Contents
- 1 10) Corte Madera Mountain, Cleveland National Forest
- 2 9) Pyles Peak, San Diego
- 3 8) Ghost Mountain, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
- 4 7) Elfin Forest, Escondido
- 5 6) Torrey Pines Trails, San Diego
- 6 5) Thunder Spring and Chimney Flats, Palomar Mountain
- 7 4) Volcan Mountain, Julian
- 8 3) Sloan Canyon Trail, El Cajon
- 9 2) Sweetwater River Loop, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
- 10 1) San Elijo Lagoon, Encinitas
- 11 Directions to the Haunted Hiking Trails
- 12 Your Next Step
10) Corte Madera Mountain, Cleveland National Forest
One of the quietest hiking trails in San Diego County, Corte Madera Mountain is a peaceful trail that’s filled with dense oaks and littered with boulders.
Though it promises a lot of solitude as you explore its rugged dirt road, you won’t be able to overcome the feeling of something watching you.
Visitors to the area sometimes report creatures with human-like eyes staring at them from the brush.
In the fall of 2009, a hiker is said to have lost her way near sunset.
Resting for a moment she heard chattering in the bushes and was suddenly surrounded by “a dozen or so juvenile males, who appeared to be human but had whiskers covering their face and had large black eyes”.
They began biting at the back of her shoulders and arms as she ran screaming, fortunately making it to safety.
There are other stories of tents being bombarded by small rocks in the middle of the night.
Curiously, come morning, small headless stick figures are sometimes found outside tent openings.
9) Pyles Peak, San Diego
Pyles Peak is the second highest interconnecting trail at Mission Trails Regional Park and probably the least visited despite being close to the popular Cowles Mountain.
As much as you’ll enjoy the serenity of this spot, there’ll be times when it can be downright suffocating. Literally.
Some hikers who visit the trails alone have reported feeling a pair of hands grab their throats and squeeze.
Other have reported feeling hands grab at their bags.
Perhaps most frightening are the human bite marks that may suddenly appear on your inner thighs.
As one of the hiking trails that allow leashed dogs, there have been many unexplained instances where the dogs start tugging on their leashes, trying to force their owners back.
Some claim that their dogs become uncharacteristically anxious around Pyles Peak. Stating that they yelp uncontrollably and attempt to flee the area, as if being attacked.
A local psychic reader who visited the area believes there to be a residual haunting due to traumatic events in the past.
8) Ghost Mountain, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Ghost Mountain earned its name due to the “thin, ghostly trails” that led to the obscure ridge where author Marshal South and his family lived for 17 years between 1930 and 1947.
While the sight of the crumbling ruins of South’s old home will make your heart beat faster, you’re bound to experience a chill as the ghosts of ancient Cahuilla legends brush by.
A man who stayed near the house on Ghost Mountain one night wrote about hearing a wooden door close (and there wasn’t one close by) before different voices started casually communicating in a weird language near his tent.
He supposedly heard “three or four high-pitched staccato thumps that sounded as if they had been made by a toy drum then something that sounded like a woman wailing and hissing.”
Bring some earplugs if you visit – and maybe some holy water.
7) Elfin Forest, Escondido
Elfin Forest is one of the most haunted hiking trails in San Diego County.
Spread across 700 acres, it’s the home of the White Witch. During her life, her husband and son were murdered in the forest.
To avenge them, she met with strange individuals from the local Indian tribes and studied forbidden texts and dark arts.
The White Witch still floats in the woods seeking her family or the person who killed them and she’s been known to grip visitors at the base of their skull, sometimes drawing blood.
Ghosts aside, Elfin Forest is home to paranormal entities, including a 10-foot-tall white owl that flies between midnight and 2am hunting people.
There are also stories of human sacrifices, ‘protected’ Indian burial grounds, and gypsy curses surrounding the forest.
6) Torrey Pines Trails, San Diego
If you want a scenic hiking trail that overlooks the ocean, Torrey Pines in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve may be the right choice for you.
If you want to encounter the terrifying Chu’mana and run for your life in fear, then Torrey Pines is definitely the right choice for you.
Chu’mana (which roughly translates to “Snake Maiden” in Hopi) is the ghost of an eyeless, fork-tongued, Native American girl said to wander the trails on nights with a quarter moon.
Some believe she wanders the trails in order to the steal the eyes of those she encounters.
She is most often seen at the top of Broken Hill just as the sun begins to set.
5) Thunder Spring and Chimney Flats, Palomar Mountain
Thunder Spring and Chimney Flats in Palomar Mountain State Park is an attractive and scenic four-mile hike.
In addition to being risky thanks to tons of poison oak, it’s quite macabre and haunted.
One point you’re bound to cross is the ruins of Scott’s Cabin, which was built by the homesteader who settled in the area.
“Big Willy” Pearson, a resident of the area back in the late 1800s, stumbled on a mansion there after being injured while hunting in the snow. He later told people that he heard loud, unearthly sounds throughout the night.
That’s why he left the place the next morning and moved away from the trail. When he ventured back to the area many decades later, he was crushed under a bow of a black oak and died.
Today, some hikers claim to hear whispers while walking there. While some think it’s the wind, others have clearly heard their names whispered in their ears.
Rumors say the most vulnerable, such as the the very young and the elderly, are prone to horrific visions of decaying, crushed, bodies filling their mind immediately after hearing their name called.
4) Volcan Mountain, Julian
Volcan Mountain is home to numerous hiking trails, many of which you can explore with a guide.
There are wild animals hiding there as well as a variety of flora that’ll captivate even the biggest city slickers.
The trails are exciting and friendly for the most part…however…
On the 3rd week of every month, the paranormal entities there are said to gain power and reveal themselves.
Several hikers report witnessing the ghost of a large black stallion, with its intestines dangling from its gutted belly, run by them.
The ghastly-looking horse is followed by a group of specters silently screaming, as if they’re in agony but can’t be heard.
3) Sloan Canyon Trail, El Cajon
A four-mile hike that’s great during fair and cold weather, the Sloan Canyon Trail offers you the chance to explore the wonderful sights and sounds of Mother Nature.
However, as you pass through the metal gate preceding the dirt road, you’re bound to experience a chill like many hikers before you or even feel the hair on your arms or back rise.
About 1/4 of the way up the trail, locals have reported disturbing sounds of crying infants and loud grunts, but no discernable source can be found.
These sounds are most often heard in the early morning hours.
Another place to be cautious at, is the exposed granite surrounded by green chaparral.
Though beautiful, hikers have experienced cold spots there. Local paranormal investigators feel it may be an energy vortex.
Some feel it’s a nomadic vortex, manifesting along different areas of the trail at different times of the day.
Which may explain why the grunts and crying children are heard at such odd hours.
2) Sweetwater River Loop, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
The Sweetwater River Loop at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Descanso is one of the moderate hiking trails you can explore between October and June. It’s also one of the most scary hiking trails in San Diego county, promising hikers a heart-pumping experience.
Most of the park’s literature emphasizes on the need to avoid encounters with mountain lions, but many hikers believe that there’s a cryptid there that attacks those who try exploring the area after sunset.
Specific details of the cryptid are hard to come by, as hikers are often too terrified to remember much. They’re usually busy screaming and running for their life.
However, from what we’ve heard the cryptid is humanoid in shape but sometimes walks on all fours. Initial thoughts were that it might be a lost bear but that idea was thrown out when some stated the creature is covered in scales, not fur.
If you happen to come across unusually large amounts of shedded skin and fresh bone piles, you may be near its den.
One hiker reported hearing the creature speak in a strange dialect to an unknown entity with almond shaped eyes. However, this has not been confirmed and seems a bit far-fetched.
1) San Elijo Lagoon, Encinitas
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a reserve and popular hiking ground in San Diego County. Located between Solana Beach and Encinitas, it offers numerous trails where you can enjoy views of the water.
However, make sure that Maria doesn’t catch your gaze.
It’s said that in life, Maria was a young, deeply religious and well-mannered girl.
On a rather mundane day, she disappeared on her way to school. Rumors say her body was found mutilated near the lagoon and some believed she was murdered by a local homeless man.
Now, in death, Maria is a deformed apparition missing an eye and her chin blends into her neck in a swollen mass of flesh. She is sometimes spotted by the water. She may plead for help but do not approach her.
It’s believed those that attempt to give her aid will soon find themselves drowned beneath the depths of the San Elijo lagoon.
Just spotting her can be your undoing.
Some report that after seeing Maria, a close relative or friend soon gets very ill and dies an agonizing death.
Directions to the Haunted Hiking Trails
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These trails might be too much for you to explore alone.