After encouraging everybody to send us their creepiest backpacking stories, we gathered the best ones for all of you to enjoy. And vote, of course.
Vote Your Favorite
Creepy Backpacking Story
From unexplainable weird tracks in the snow to a creepy encounter with the beast of Dartmoor, check out these creepy backpacking stories and vote for your favorite.
The story that will have gathered the most votes on March 24th will be crowned winner and bring its storyteller a $400 Amazon gift card.
How to Vote
You can vote your favorite story using the poll featured at the end of the article. Remember that you can only vote once!
The One with
the Beast of Dartmoor
by Konnor Voice, UK
A work friend and I decided to go hiking and wild camping on Dartmoor, England for a weekend in the summer. After hiking for around 7 hours we where exhausted, and not on the trail we originally planned to be on, due to a navigation error. We decided we best pitch up now as it was getting dark rather than try and make our way back to our original route in the dark.
We found a flat area just down a bank next to a small stream and decided there was as good as any spot. We had separate tents, and I placed mine with the entrance facing the bank. Note that Dartmoor national park is full of sheep roaming free.
After pitching up and eating I went to relieve myself, so I walked away to be far from the river. On my way back I spotted a ram skull, not uncommon but I thought it was cool so decided to pick it up to bring it back. Only when I picked it up did I realize there was at least another 10 skulls scattered around, which made me feel like I came across a sheep graveyard.
I took the skull back to camp and placed it outside my tent. We got in our own tents and tried to get some sleep, I didn’t get much as I could hear the river running and the noise kept disturbing me.
I was lying awake when I heard a big splash in the river, like someone throwing a big stone, not like someone wading through or walking. I called out to my friend to find out if it was her, but I got no reply. I figured she was asleep so I decided to open my tent to check.
I unzipped the door and there, stood on top of the bank was a huge ram. It just stood there staring at me. I thought maybe I startled it, so it froze, but I didn’t hear it approach, and it couldn’t be what splashed as the river was behind my tent, and I’m sure I would have heard it clamber up the bank.
I got out to turn and check the river but there was nothing there, I flashed my torch over my friend’s tent, and it was undisturbed. All the time the ram just stood staring at me, it didn’t move or run when I got out my tent, they usually do if you approach, etc. I got back into my tent and left the door open a while, the ram still just stood there watching me.
I eventually closed up and tried to sleep, all the while trying to hear the ram move on. I didn’t sleep much, and as soon as the sun rose, I decided to get up and go relieve myself. I was shocked and felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when I saw the ram STILL standing there.
It was daylight, and it must have been stood for 6 hours, just staring at me. I had decided I’d had enough and climbed the bank to shoo it off. But instead of running it bluff charged me, which threw me off guard a bit. Adrenaline pumping and groggy from just getting up I shouted real serious like an angry dad “hey, get” and it froze. We had a staring contest for a good 30 seconds, but felt much longer, before I stamped forward and scared him off.
My friend came out of her tent and asked me what was going on. I explained everything, and she obviously thought I was joking or trying to scare her because she told me she didn’t get much sleep as she was text arguing with her boyfriend most of the night and didn’t hear anything. Didn’t hear the splash, me getting out my tent and shinning the light on her, or any sheep.
We packed up and headed down river towards the original trail we wanted to be on, where we found 2 dead sheep on the river bank. I didn’t exactly thoroughly investigate, but it was obvious they hadn’t been there long. We headed off and finished our trip with nothing else going on.
Maybe we stumbled across the beast of Dartmoor’s hunting grounds, and the ram tried to warn us, or maybe it was a demon ram come to seek revenge for removing the skull. Some weird stuff goes down on Dartmoor.
The One with
by Matt Wilson, US
How’s it going?
So, to get started I’ve been traveling on and off for the past 5 years bouncing all around the country. One trip I was going to travel from Sequoia National Monument all the way up to Oregon. From there, the road took me to Yellowstone for work.
Anyway, as soon as I hit Cali, I get dropped off the greyhound in Visalia. 4 days go by exploring and I get jumped by 2 homeless dudes.
I ended up with no phone, no wallet, so I try and regroup for a day thinking what I should do. Ended up hitchhiking to Las Vegas where I met a couple who won at a casino and paid for me to get home on a train. Can’t remember their name but I’m so grateful for them!!!
Peace Love and have a great day!
The One with
the Mountain Lion
by Doc, US
My name is Doc, and I have been backpacking for nineteen years now.
While my trips have never involved anything supernaturally creepy, I did have a scary real-world experience about twelve years ago.
My best buddy growing up and I fueled each others’ interest in backpacking, we grew into the hobby together and encouraged one another.
We were flint and steel; constantly honing one another’s abilities and interest, pushing each other to excel and succeed.
One evening, we planned a last-minute night backpacking trip on his family’s ranch on the Sonoma County Coast. We were arriving after work, well after the sun had set, and we were both eager to reach the bluffs overlooking the Pacific in time to settle in and blow off steam from a long work week.
We parked at a campsite on the lower end of the ranch and booked it up the old logging road up the hills. After a mile pounding ground, we crested the first major climb and then heard a rustling in some scrub brush to our left.
It was well after 2100 at this point, and we were in a hurry, but wary of anything that seemed out of the ordinary. We stopped to see what it was, but all we saw were some dark shrubs in the moonlight. Not wanting to convey to him that I was alarmed, I passed it off to my friend that it was most likely a deer that had been spooked by us. We pressed on, climbing up into a looming grove of Redwoods; the sound of movement in the brush persisted with us, pacing our progress.
Every few minutes, we’d stop and try and see what was clearly following us, but it always eluded our headlamps. Each stop was masked by some thin excuse by one or the other of us, desperately trying not to betray the fact that we were both alarmed.
Near the end of the initial climb, the trail turned south along the bluffs, and the nearly full moon shone brightly upon us. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement; a brief flurry that nearly eluded me but was seared into my mind as clear now as the night I’d seen it: the boxy and squat outline of a mountain lion.
It darted for cover as fast as I could imagine, but it had been there, right beside us, for several miles. I rallied my friend, and we hustled along past the trees into the open hillsides. As far as I could tell, our lion had left us at the tree line and let us continue our course. Shortly after that, we made it to our planned campsite and settled down for a nice meal and a night filled with the peaceful roar of the Pacific in early spring, and evening never once disturbed by our companion from earlier.
Years later, my buddy and I returned to the same ranch for a quiet car camping trip. After a filling meal and some nice brews, our conversation settled on that backpacking trip. Through the flickering glow of the fire, he looked at me, and said: “you know, that night we had actually been followed by a mountain lion.”
Hearing him say that felt as if a weight had been lifted from me, I told him, “I know! It followed us for a while! I didn’t want to scare you, so I tried to pass it off as a deer or some birds in the brush!”
He laughed, and replied “That’s funny because I didn’t want to scare you! I was really worried, but I felt that if we kept our cool, we could get through it!” We laughed and poured ourselves another round.
To this day, I still think about that night. All I can imagine is that the mountain lion just wasn’t that interested in us. That maybe we had entered its territory, and it simply wanted us gone and ensured this by escorting us away. We were fortunate that it had never followed us beyond the treeline and that it had kept to itself in the shadows. I shudder to think what the alternative would have been.
The One with
the Suspicious Paw Prints
by Joy Love, US
We were on an adventure as a trio of friends, but two of the friends had a romantic history. Which meant, that at some point during our road trip, I suddenly became a third wheel.
We all got along just fine still, mostly, well… they fought A LOT, but that’s a different story. Suddenly, with them coupling up again, often times at night they would want their privacy. This meant I would be left, quite alone, in my own little part of the wild.
We were backpacking near King’s Canyon in Sequoia National Park one night, and I just happened to have a whole freshly snow-covered ridge to myself for the night. Because, well… you know what some couples enjoy doing after they fight, right? Whatever they did, they were far enough away from me that night that I didn’t hear anything.
I was traveling light, so I had laid out my camping pad and crawled into my 0° degree mummy bag on top. I awoke with the dawn and poked my nose out into the frosty cold air. I sat up and looked around at the patches of snow next to my head… big fresh paw prints.
Hello, kitty… who thankfully didn’t wake me up after checking me out. I’ll never forget the way my imagination produced sudden adrenaline from just a simple trigger- mountain lion tracks in the snow. The tracks certainly weren’t there before I fell asleep.
All I can say is that big wild cat must have given me a good sniff and then walked away silently into the night. I felt blessed and grateful to be alive to tell the story.
The One with
I’ve had a lot of strange camping experiences! From ufos to moving stars, to shrieking animals surrounding us in the night!
The weirdest thing, by far, was arriving at our favorite campsite out of the bunch and finding it full of trash. This, in and of itself, isn’t very unusual. Locals like to party there on weekends, but usually in the bigger campsites.
Upon further inspection, as we started to clean up, we found cans with bullet holes in them and a ton of broken arrows all over the place. We also found some animal remains back by the creek, killed in such a strange way.
It looked as though someone had just cut a chunk out of the animal and left the rest. We found a cooler with some nearly rotten meat (presumably from the dead animal?) and also a broken gas stove. There was a soaking wet trash bag with clothes and a notebook inside.
It hadn’t rained there in a long while. The notebook is what was really bizarre. It told this tale of a fugitive on the run. His friend drove him to the prison to turn himself in, but he ran. He hid out in the mountains to try to wait it out, I suppose.
The journal was filled with stories of copperheads, bears, killing wild turkeys with arrows, and his starvation as well as mental health decline. He outlined how he managed to avoid getting caught and switching campsites halfway through when a ranger came to pick up trash.
He also made notes of everyone he interacted with, including some kids that couldn’t get their fire lit. He mentioned a secret abandoned hideaway somewhere nearby, called ‘the clubhouse’ and talking with locals to try and locate it.
Unfortunately, my partner and I were never able to find anything more about it. There was no indication of who he was, where he was from, or what he was wanted for. Nothing aside from saying he would spend the rest of his life in prison. The journal was dated daily and abruptly stopped only a week before we got there.
We wondered if he was still around and spent quite a bit of time exploring and looking for him. We found nothing. I still can’t fully wrap my brain around it, but we kept the journal. Maybe someday I will be able to have the fingerprints tested or something. Other than that, it is my life’s greatest mystery.
The Other One with
the Suspicious Paw Prints
by Adrian, Romania
My girlfriend and I were looking for something fun to do. We stumbled upon an online event, scheduled for next weekend; a hike through a forest that climbed into a mountain range. Naturally, we jumped for joy and plunged head first into this new adventure.
The day of departure came soon enough. We were ready, boots, sandwiches and all. First, we had to wait for our ride, two sandwiches worth of waiting until the car arrived. We got in and the car got going.
The weather was sunny, clear, almost warm. Then our luck started to waver, as time marched on, the weather started getting colder in spite of the shining sun. During the last stretches of actual road, the car had gone in and out of patches of dense fog.
To get to where we needed to go, the car then had to go off-road for the remainder of the ride. Right before it stopped, we passed through an area that lacked in grass or shrubbery of any kind and, as a consequence, all the autumn leaves that had fallen were free to blanket the ground completely.
Strangely, the trees that one would think responsible for the fallen leaves seemed to be missing none; and as such, offering a picture seen only in works of fantasy; golden leaves strewn across the ground but also filling the branches up above.
The car stopped. Destination reached. Ahead of us was the mountain. Its right side was bathed in sunlight, while its left was covered in shadow, and a dense fog was crawling towards it.
As mountains go, the Măcin Mountains are some of the shortest. We stepped out of the car, walked a little way along a dirt road until we reached the gate that marked both the starting and end point of the hiking trails.
The gate was locked shut with a thick chain and a rusted lock. Clearly, this gate has been closed for years. But, our guide told us not to worry because that wasn’t really the path that we were going to take. Our trail was next to the gate, where this booth and barrier were; these were also rusted and unkempt. We passed the barrier, some ducked while others had hopped the obstacle, and off we were. This was around noon.
It must’ve rained recently because the foliage was wet and the earth damp. This made hiking slightly more difficult, but the colors nature had gained made the effort worthwhile. All the colors were just so alive, so vibrant.
We followed the trail, accompanied by the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves. Later we were surprised by a loud woodpecker. The weather kept growing colder as the sun was making its way west. When the path became steep, we saw patches of snow where shadow endured throughout the day.
In spite of all the beauty that we had seen, we started feeling weary as we had been hiking for hours. But as we were about to suggest taking a break the guide intervened. He said that we had fallen behind schedule and that if we don’t cut our way over the mountain instead of following the trail around it we’d run the risk of being in the forest after sundown.
So climb we did as soon as we found an opening between the trees and jagged rocks. Further up we were using our hands to grab onto branches and jutted rocks so as not to fall off; when we reached a relatively level patch of ground, one of the hikers sounded distressed.
She shouted at the guide about whether there were wolves in the area. When he denied that there are any, she pointed to this big canine print next to her feet, and asked what could have left that if not a wolf? To which he replied that it’s just the print of a shepherd dog, then said that we should keep moving before anyone could ask what would a shepherd dog be doing all the way here?
We were climbing much faster now for some reason; 15 minutes later we were at the summit, walking through waist-high grass we saw the mountain range curve ahead while in the valley below we could see the car right next to the ancient oak where it had been left.
Then we saw this wave of fog rolling in. It enveloped the car. Worried that we might get lost if the fog reached us we started running downhill in the direction of the car. We were going too fast for how uneven the ground was, some fell, others tried to grab a tree on their way down.
In the end, dirty and bruised, we hopped in the car and tried to put this adventure behind us.
and the winner is…
Adrian Reveur, The Other One with the Suspicious Paw Prints
About the Author
"When I’m on a trail, it gets quiet, it gets peaceful, I feel like I can breathe again and enjoy nature’s untouched beauty."
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