It’s that time of year, when the beautiful golden and ruby leaves have dropped from the tree branches and the pretty little snowflakes have begun to fall and hiking trails can seem … a little creepy?
There is something about the bare tree branches, the crunchy leaves and crisp air that make one’s imagination wander to things that go bump in the woods.
RELATED: 7 ghost towns to visit in Colorado ahead of Halloween
If you like a little fright on your hike, consider these locales for an October or November outing.
Gold Camp tunnels
While tales of horrific deaths in the Gold Camp tunnels outside of Colorado Springs may be exaggerated (read: fabricated?), that doesn’t make them any less creepy to visit. There’s just something about the different, slightly cooler air that escapes the tunnels to send a prickle of fear through a hiker.
Originally there were nine tunnels but disuse and time took their toll, causing some of the tunnels to collapse and a change in their use and accessibility. The dirt road between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek is also your hiking trail, but you don’t have to hike 14-plus miles to get to the tunnels. It’s more like 4 miles, depending on which tunnels you explore. Go to the Cheyenne Cañon parking area near the Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center. You’ll find tunnels No. 1 and No. 2 by going to the right on the road/trail, and tunnel No. 3 (which is collapsed and barricaded) to the left. It’s tunnel No. 3 that has the most allure, with a grisly story of a trapped school bus (no news reports of such an incident can be found, however) and tales of hikers having bizarre experiences in the vicinity.
Greenland Open Space
At first, Greenland Open Space south of Denver seems like the last place to get spooked with its wide-open, gently rolling hills and few trees. A little more than halfway through an 8-mile loop, however, you might get a shiver down your spine when you come to a lonely tombstone. I had known the tombstone was there, but when I hiked there on a sunny winter day and saw very few fellow hikers once I left the trailhead, it gave me chills, and I didn’t want to stick around. The tombstone is for Edward Kipps, who was only 28 when he died of tuberculosis in 1889. One of the trails here is named Kipps Trail. I didn’t stay to explore further, but through later research discovered that there is more of a historic cemetery nearby, hidden in the scrub oak.
B-17 bomber crash site
In 1943, a U.S. Army training flight crashed in the mountains west of Fort Collins, killing all eight people on board. Just thinking about the dark and stormy night the plane flew in to practice such flight conditions can make someone want to hide under the covers. The 6-mile hike to the remaining wreckage of rusted-out plane parts starts at the Stormy Peaks trailhead and around 3 miles in, past the Twin Lakes Reservoir, you will see some of the wreckage. The fact that the trail is mostly shaded adds to the creepiness factor even before sun sets. Note: Be respectful of the lives lost there, and don’t take any plane wreck souvenirs home with you. Just leave everything in place for the next hikers to experience.
Central City Cemetery
Day or night, make the drive to the Central City Cemetery less than one hour from Denver, for a little spooky excursion. This is actually several cemeteries with little clusters of organizations and families, to hike around and explore between the headstones and aspen trees. Each of these cemeteries is in a state of neglect. There are legends of hauntings here, such as a beautiful woman in a black satin dress who appears at the grave of John Edward Cameron in the Central City Masonic Cemetery. At the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, it appears that there might be various modern-day ceremonies at these tombstones with evidence of Wiccan practices. The Freemason section of the cemetery has been called one of the most haunted places in Colorado. You might also discover the abandoned mining operations on the edge of the cemetery.
Old Glendale Stagecoach Station
Just the remote location makes the remnants of the Old Glendale Stagecoach Station near Penrose a little bit creepy. Not much is left of the stone two-story building from the 1860s, but the story goes that the ghost of Kathleen Cooper haunts this place where her fiancée, Julian LaSalle, never arrived after being robbed and killed on his way home. Head south past Colorado Springs on Interstate 25, and you will find Penrose along Highway 50 between Pueblo and Cañon City. Head to 4th Street and start your hike after it becomes a dirt road just past the intersection with O Street.
When hiking in cemeteries, always be respectful of tombstones, sculptures and gardens and do not remove any objects from the site. Obey all warning signs and barriers when hiking around former mining sites.
For a simple scare, grab a friend and go on pretty much any hike in the dark (after you pack a flashlight and tell someone reliable where you will be and when you expect to return), and find out just how eerie a little trail in the deep, dark woods can be.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Adventurist, to get outdoors news sent straight to your inbox.