Spine-Tingling Nights In National Parks

Rocío LowerNPF Blog
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The cracking sound of a twig just behind you underfoot. The ominous hoot of a lone owl in the pitch-black night. The inexplicable creak of a floorboard in an empty building. It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to be spooked by the sometimes-eerie nature of our national parks. 

In October, head to sites across the country and embrace the autumnal festival of Halloween – some even welcome visitors for special ghoulish events! 

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Pennsylvania

Stone Staple Bend Tunnel at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Staple Bend Tunnel, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

WikiMedia / Coasterlove1994

Uncover some of the darker stories of traveling and working on the Allegheny Portage Railroad in a Staple Bend Tunnel Ghost Tour, an annual favorite at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Walk along the early 19th century tunnel by lantern light in this family-friendly tour. 

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Arizona

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelley National Monument

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Young visitors are invited to participate in an annual Halloween costume contest at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the orange tinge of the canyon walls makes the perfect backdrop to any Halloween photo-op.

Gateway National Recreation Area

New Jersey

Tree branches reaching into an orange sky at Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway National Recreation Area

iStock / Julio Macias

Take a moonlit walk around Fort Hancock at Gateway National Recreation Area, a fortification that has protected the New York harbor since the War of 1812. Sip on cider and nibble on fall snacks while you listen to spooky tales. You may just spot a ghost from the fort’s centuries of occupants and visitors.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Massachusetts

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site decorated for Halloween

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

NPS Photo

The childhood home of the 35th president, nestled in picturesque Brookline, Massachusetts, is decorated annually for Halloween festivities. Make John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site a stop on your trick-or-treat route for a special surprise.

Minute Man National Historical Park

Massachusetts

Minute Man National Historical Park

Minute Man National Historical Park

NPS / Victoria Stauffenberg

Living history experts from the Guild of Historic Interpreters provide Halloween experiences for all ages at Minute Man National Historical Park — from family-friendly lantern walks on the park grounds to hair-raising ghost story sessions in the barn. One famous occupant of the Wayside Home of Authors, Nathaniel Hawthrone, was even related to a member of the Salem witch trials.

Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon

Warm lights glow in the dark Ghost Room in Oregon Caves National Monument

Ghost Room in Oregon Caves National Monument

NPS Photo

Oregon Caves National Monument offers year-round candlelight cave tours, perfect for an atmospheric amble around Halloween. Hour-long tours are limited in size, so make your reservation in advance!

Yosemite National Park

California

Yosemite National Park Cemetery

Cemetery at Yosemite National Park

iStock / achy1962

In addition to the many guided tours offered year-round, Yosemite’s special Halloween tours of Yosemite Valley are available each October. Visitors can explore Yosemite National Park's cemetery and learn the eerie stories of Yosemite stewards like Florence Hutchings, Galen Clark, and more.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

New Mexico

Bats flying out of the Carlsbad Cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Bat Flight at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

NPS Photo

Every year, from late May through October, Carlsbad Caverns National Park hosts Bat Flight Programs where visitors can see thousands of bats emerge from Carlsbad Caverns as darkness falls across the land. These bats head out of the cave in search of food (not blood) in huge masses, making for a dramatic and spine-tingling display nightly.

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Pennsylvania

Raven statue outside of Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

iStock / Camrocker

When it comes to Edgar Allan Poe, it doesn’t have to be a midnight dreary to send a shiver down your spine. Poe’s Philadelphia home hosts dramatic readings of his macabre work year-round, but in October, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site offers special events to celebrate his iconic spellbinding stories. 

Alcatraz Island - Golden Gate National Recreation Area

California

Corridor in Alcatraz at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Alcatraz, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

iStock / Alexander Kosov

Once a maximum-security federal penitentiary, Alcatraz Island is infamous for its lawless prisoners and treacherous escapes. A year-round favorite for mystery fans, Alcatraz around Halloween is particularly creepy, especially with legends of ghosts and spirits that abound. 

There are many ways for you to enjoy the peculiar, thrilling, and strange history of our national parks during October. Be sure to check your local national park’s calendar of events for more chilling ideas if you dare!


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