Hiking Horror Stories: 11 Terrifying, Real-Life Encounters From the Appalachian Trail That Will Keep You up at Night

Nestled in the eastern United States, the Appalachian Trail is a 2,200-mile hiking trail that traverses through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. While it’s an incredibly popular destination for outdoor adventurers and nature lovers alike, it’s also home to some pretty eerie and downright scary stories. Here are 11 of the scariest encounters from the Appalachian Trail that will have you looking over your shoulder on your next hike.

1. Coven Calling

woman witch in a black cloak looks into the woods from a mountain covered with grass
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In the ’80s, an excited hiker set out to complete the trail and ran into a gaggle of hooded figures donning black capes. The group knelt near the creek and continued their ceremony, creeping out the onlooker.

2. Friends With the Pack

Coyote pack (Canis latrans) standing in a grassy green field in the golden light of autumn in Canada
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One explorer recalls the incident where a pack of eight coyotes took a liking to him and followed him for a few miles. He noticed the reflection of the wild dogs in headgear. He attempted to scare the pack, but they disregarded his attempts and followed closely behind.

3. Half a Doe

Baby dear
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A commenter reports that her husband found something unsettling on the trail a few years back. During the solo excursion, he came across a baby dear perfectly split in half. The doe appeared to be divided by a laser, as no proof of incision remained on the body, and no tracks led up to the carcass.

4. Machete Mason

Young Man shocked and scared
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Isn’t it terrifying when another hiker saunters past you with a bloodied machete? That’s precisely what happened to this respondent. He filled his water jug at a creek when the injured man crossed his path. The man insisted he fought a bear but didn’t ask for help.

5. Helicopter Hunt

Helicopter flying above forest
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During a journey from the north side of the trail to the south, a few helicopters encircled a hiker man, convinced he was the criminal they were searching for. On another trek, the hiker was making his way onto a trail when stopped by police. The cops showed him a picture of the man they were looking for but didn’t explain what the suspect had done.

6. Abandoned Knapsack

Backpacks and abandoned house camping outdoor Travel Lifestyle hiking equipment forest nature on background
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Planted in the middle of the trail, friends noticed an abandoned backpack with a sleeping bag, passport, and snacks inside. Someone appeared to have rifled through the bag before this discovery. No one knows what became of the person or why the pack was abandoned.

7. Hitchhiking Horror

Young smiling woman in glasses and with backpack hitch hiking on an asphalt road
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If you’ve seen The Twilight Zone episode, “The Hitchhiker,” you know never to get in a stranger’s car in the wilderness. This duo learned that lesson while hitching a ride toward a trail. The driver kept informing the pair he didn’t have bad intentions and that they needed to make a pit stop at his house for his wallet, even though he mentioned they were on their way to a store. They convinced the driver to keep going and made it safely to their destination, but they were uneasy the entire time.

8. Bear Breath

Bear in forest
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“Nothing good happens after 2 AM,” Mothica sings in their song entitled the same. For this hiker, that sentiment rings true. While sleeping in her tent, she awoke to heavy breathing on the outer portion of the fabric. Scared to make any sudden movements, the camper lay still and waited for the animal to dash away. Thankfully, the bear stayed in that spot for only fifteen seconds before moving on.

9. Rude Rubbernecker

Simple bedroom in hotel room
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After the weather soured and hiking conditions plummeted, a wanderer booked a motel room for one night. When he woke up, he witnessed a stranger sticking their head through the window that had been closed when they checked in.

10. Bigfoot

Person in Bigfoot costume taking a walk in the snow.
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“I’m a solo female hiker, and I encountered poachers as I camped near the trail. It appeared that they might have been on illicit substances. They told me not to go to the other side of the ridge because that’s where Bigfoot was.” The hiker was shown pictures of footprints the poachers had taken as evidence. After seeing the images, the hiker left.

11. Knife Guy

Man camping in nature, unpacking and packing small tent outdoors, recreation and hobbies.
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After a few hours of walking, a hiker decided to take a snack break and went to the nearest shelter out of town. “There was a guy there who seemed to be cleaning out/up the shelter. I asked him a few questions and he didn’t really answer any of them and seemed kind of weird.”

The hiker moved on from it and stayed in another shelter for a few days. While packing up the tent, the hiker noticed an odd movement in the woods. “I look up and about 50 yards out is the weird guy from yesterday’s snack break hiding behind a tree with a freaking knife in his hands. He never chased me or anything but that creeped me out!” 

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