Every day, travelers across the globe seek out the adventure waiting for them in the United States National Parks. More than just adventure though, these parks are pathways to natural beauty. A place where anyone can go and unplug from their daily lives, even if only for a short time. Amongst the 84 million acres that make up the U.S. National Park System, you’ll find wilderness, desert, and mountains.
But enter these parks wisely. Just because they are heavily visited does not always mean they’re safe. Mysteries abound within their borders. People disappear in these parks every year, and strange creatures are seen roaming the woods. Be careful, or you might become the next great mystery of the national parks.
Here is our list of the Top 7 Unexplained Mysteries of the U.S. National Parks.
1. Grand Canyon National Park is perhaps the most recognized park in the world. Located in Arizona, it encompasses nearly 2,000 square miles and holds some of the deepest and oldest mysteries known to mankind. Strange lights and sounds are often seen and heard while walking the land, especially if you’re in the old Hopi territory where they believed the God Maasaw liked to roam.
Apparently, Maasaw doesn’t like strangers coming onto his property. Legend has it that if you trespass on his land, he’ll throw rocks at you and cast sickness spells to drive you back. Sounds like a tall tale; the thing is many people who tread too close have reported feeling nauseous and hearing sounds of falling rocks. Coincidence or Massaw?
2. Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico is another land that likes to hold secrets. Bizarre wooden structures are found all throughout this forest. They don’t seem to have a pattern as to their locations, they simply appear. They also range in size and shape, but they do have a few things in common.
They resemble teepees, though no one can actually live inside them and no Native American ever built a structure like this before. And they’re made up of thousands of pieces of wood, with no clear reason behind their use. Forest rangers will find anyone they catch making them, as they pose a fire risk, but they’ve never actually caught anyone. Who makes them and why a mystery remains to this day.
3. Devil’s Den is a state park situated in Arkansas, but it's part of the larger Ozark National Park that surrounds it. Unexplained disappearances have been happening here for years. In the 1940s, an 8-year-old girl named Katherine Van Alst went missing while camping at the park with her family. She was barefoot and wearing only her swimsuit when she disappeared.
Searches were conducted high and low for the missing girl, but it wasn’t until 6 days later that she was found. The catch? She was still barefoot, still in her swimsuit, and totally unharmed. She’d traveled over 30 miles and climbed 600 feet without getting a scratch on her. She wasn’t even scared. No one, including her, has ever been able to explain it.
4. Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania is one of the bloodiest and most haunted battlegrounds of the Civil War. It’s not really surprising that people would report seeing ghosts on land where over 50, 000 men lost their lives. Sometimes, you don’t just see them, you actually cross the bridge between life and death and speak to them.
One Civil War reenactor swears he saw a man dressed in Civil War attire looking bloody and tired, who was not part of the show. This man handed the actor a box of cartridges and then disappeared. It sounds almost too hard to believe, except the actor has proof of his encounter. When the ghost vanished, the bullets remained. Guess what? They were genuine Civil War cartridges.
5. Yosemite National Park in California has been the site of UFO reports for years. Visitors see strange lights and disk-shaped orbs hovering in the sky. Usually, they disappear just as fast as they arrive, but people have managed to capture photos and videos to back up their claims.
In 2002, several people in different sections of the park saw a lighted disk fly across the sky. It disappeared within minutes, only to be followed by Air Force jets who circled the area a while then left. As far as anyone knows, nothing was found. But the pictures and videos remain proof it was there, whatever it might be.
6. Mount Shasta is one of those places whose beauty you have to see to believe. It’s located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California, and its mysteries date back thousands of years. Local tribes believe the land carries strange energy which makes the impossible possible. There are many visitors and scientists who would not disagree with them.
Strange lights linked to UFOs are reported frequently, as are sightings of the legendary “Big People,” a superhuman race said to exist only on Mount Shasta. In the 1930s, a forest fire of gigantic proportions overtook the mountain, intent on destroying it. Instead, a strange fog rose up and put the fire out. Scientists are still at a loss to explain it.
7. Olympic National Park in Washington has its fair share of mystery, most of it relating to strange sounds people claim to hear. People describe it as a deep rumbling noise as if the Earth itself were opening up. The sounds happen for no particular reason that scientists have been able to figure out, though that has not stopped people from speculating. Aliens and Bigfoot are both popular theories.
In 2018, the rumbling was heard again. Only this time rangers found something they hadn’t before. Over 100 trees had been knocked over, ripped right out of their roots. No Earthquakes or other weather phenomenon was reported that day, and no one has been able to explain just what happened to those trees, or why.
So what do you think? Are these mysteries enough to scare you away, or have they made the adventurer in you that much hungrier for exploration? Remember, across the United States, you have 84 million acres of parks to discover. What secrets will you find on your next journey?
Make sure to keep track of the U.S. National Parks that you go through so you’ll never forget your journey and the mysteries you encountered along the way. Our National Parks Scratch-Off Poster is a great way to mark your travels and keep your memories going strong for years to come. Just scratch off the national parks you’ve visited, and plan the places you want to go next. Have fun and happy trekking!