Halloween is right around the corner, so we thought we’d put a twist on our regular hiking/outdoors newsletter and take a look at some of the spookiest places you can hike to. The buildings on this list were once bustling businesses, homes and military installations but over time fell into disrepair and have been slowly reclaimed by Mother Nature. And of course, many of them are also rumored to be haunted.
Cornish Estate Ruins
Located about 100 miles north of New York City, Hudson Highlands State Park is a sweeping 8,000-acre nature preserve of forested hills and mountains overlooking the Hudson River. The Cornish Trail, which begins in the small town of Cold Springs, is also part of the park. The trail showcases the seasonal foliage and untouched natural beauty that make the Hudson Valley area so popular for those looking to escape the city.
Hike about 1.8 miles into the forest on the Cornish Trail and you'll come across the ruins of the Cornish Estate. The mansion and grounds were built by the Cornish family, before being abandoned and destroyed in a fire. Today the ruins have been reclaimed by the forest. Those who visit the ruin often report the sounds of laughter and toasting glasses—perhaps the homeowners continuing their party on the other side?
Located on the northeastern shore of Staten Island, Fort Wadsworth looks out over New York Harbor. The fort is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, a series of bike paths, fields and parks on Staten Island. Fort Wadsworth was tasked with defending New York City and the coastline from the eighteenth century until the end of the twentieth, making it one of the oldest continuously manned military bases in the entire country.
Today, the 226-acre fort complex is maintained by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The park service has a visitor center and offers daily tours of the fort grounds. But be warned, many visitors claim to see the apparitions of soldiers still patrolling the fort’s battlements and courtyards.
Elkmont Historic District
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its sweeping vistas of the Appalachian wilderness and natural wonders. However, the park is also home to an abandoned resort community. Elkmont Historic District is located between Gatlinburg and Townsend, Tennessee. Back in its heyday circa 1910, it was a vacation community called the Appalachian Club, complete with cabins, facilities and a lodge.
Beginning in the 1920s the land surrounding the resort was purchased from logging companies and turned into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This left the small Elkmont community as a holdout of private homeowners within federal land. The government encouraged residents to sell or move out of the area, and eventually the park service was granted full ownership of the land in 1992.
However, by this time the cabins and Wonderland Hotel had been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the Elkmont cabins have been in limbo. Because they’re on the National Register, the park service is unable to demolish them. However, the park also doesn’t maintain most of the buildings or advertise them to Smoky Mountains tourists. Instead, the Elkmont District remain as a hidden reminder of rural life at the turn of the 20th century.
New Manchester Mill
Just west of Atlanta in Lithia Springs, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a tranquil escape near a scenic reservoir. It's also home to the ruins of the New Manchester Mill, a five-story factory built in 1849 and torched by advancing Union forces during the Civil War in 1864. The brick skeleton that remains is a haunting sight, even against the backdrop of Sweetwater Creek.
It's not difficult to reach but does require a bit of a hike on the Red Trail. The trail will give you great views of both the mill ruins and the fast-running Sweetwater Creek.