STAYING THE NIGHT? Utah's Haunted Campgrounds

Anyone who has ever spent time camping has felt it. That feeling that something isn’t quite right. The thoughts go racing through your head. What was that sound? Is there something outside my tent? Did I just see that? For most of us, at least speaking from my own experience, it’s usually a raccoon that has absconded with a loaf of bread from your poorly secured camp bin. Sometimes though, when you slowly unzip that tent fly, there is nothing out there, you’re alone.

In the spirit of Halloween, here is a short list of 5 campgrounds in Utah where you might have a brush with the veil, or at least totally creep yourself out. Staying the night? Enjoy!

Photo credit: Kyle Simple

Photo credit: Kyle Simple

  1. Cottonwood Canyons

    As the snow melts, the canyons creeks flood with swift water and debris making them incredibly treacherous. Over the years several people have drowned in the icy waters of Big and Little Cottonwood creek. People have seen a young woman, dripping, standing along the side of Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd, but when they stop to assist her, she disappears. As you hunker in for the evening at Spruces Campground, listen close to see if you can hear the voices of people coming from the creek, or just put in your earplugs as soon as you can.

  2. The Great Salt Lake

    You can’t talk about Utah ghosts without mentioning John Baptiste. It’s always been hard to make a living on the frontier, and living in the late 1800’s was no different. Grave robbing was a common practice in some areas, with the growing field of medicine, came a high demand for corpses. In addition, people were often buried with valuables which would be of little use to them in the afterlife. John Baptiste was of the first of his kind in Utah, a professional grave robber. When his grim pastime was finally uncovered, his house was full of the possessions of people passed, as well as 350 corpses! As punishment he was marooned on an island out in the Great Salt Lake where he disappeared ands never seen (alive) again. Of course visitors and campers around the Great Salt Lake was reported seeing a ghastly, wet man lurking around the campgrounds.

  3. Bottle Hollow Reservoir

    A lot of Utah was once Ute territory, and Bottle Hollow Reservoir is located in the heart of this ancient boundary. Campers near the reservoir are often visited by a group of Ute men wearing traditional clothing a past time. Adorned with leather and furs this small hunting party will sometimes join campfires. They are silent only watching the flames flicker, until they eventually disappear.

  4. Zion National Park

    From deserted ghost towns nearby to the afterlife lighthouse of The Watchman, Zion is full of history and ghost stories. Hikers often report seeing lights flickering in the distance where no one could possibly be (or maybe they don’t know how crazy rock climbers are), and there seems to be a distinct chill in the air some nights. Whether the ghosts of the abandoned mining town of Grafton are parading around the park looking to strike it rich of not in the afterlife, Zion is always worth a visit. Not a bad place to hang around if you’re a ghostie stuck on earth.

  5. Dead Horse Point State Park

    The wild west was a time of cattle rustling, bandits, and the heavy hand of the law. Getting caught with stolen loot was punishable by death, so the cattle rustlers did what they could to not get caught. However, the law was on their tales, and rather than get caught with the cattle, they stranded the animals in a canyon, hightailed it out of there, and left the animals to die. A sad story that shows the ruthless nature of the desert and the time period. While camping in the park, listen close at night to hear the neighing of horses and keep an eye out for the ghostly specters of the mustangs left behind, forever roaming the prairie.

Photo credit: Bill Radcliffe

Photo credit: Bill Radcliffe

The Project - Landon Schoenmann

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Step out of the car and close the door behind. Chalk, shoes, pads, tape, coffee. Good to go. Walk down the trail on your way to a constellation of boulders strewn across the ponderosa hillside. Most boulder problems come and go from our lives in a short lived fashion. A day long friendship. Instant success. Immediate disappointment. Fiery one night stands. Eternal enemies. Unforgettable. Apathy. 

Squished somewhere in between all the possibilities is a spider web called “the project”. Sometimes softened under terms like passion, inspiration, or psych, stumbling across it is a slip into a wormhole of ultra motivation and watered down madness. It happens when you come down the trail, brush back the pine bows taunting your face, and spot a granite unicorn. The way it looks, the stunning surroundings, the grade, how you imagine yourself pulling the mantle and popping champagne on the top. Most importantly though, it's how you are unable to do the first move to even pull your butt off the dirt. That's the hook. Drive nursed to life not by our current human capabilities but by a vision of that future metamorphosed super being. Peak climbing is attractive and addicting purely on the basis that it cuts straight to the bone of our potential. Plenty of other athletic pursuits require strength. And indeed, many of us are tested daily in our ability to problem solve. Take maximum physical ability and the utmost cerebral awareness and twist them together. Then, with the right climbing shoes coupled with perfect humidity, eleven moves from ground to mantle doesn't seem so far after all. Bouldering at your max is both physically savage and mentally taxing. Twenty-three seconds of the most difficult thing you've ever done. 

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What's beautiful about it, aside from incredible Instagram photos and boring those who will listen with tales of your heroism, is that much “try hard” acts as an incredible life filter. After all, what could be more difficult than the most difficult thing you've ever attempted? Each session on “the proj” becomes a meditation session and a chance to listen to your own personal self dialogue in a situation where the deck is stacked against success. Less about conquering the stone and more about learning it's subtleties. A dimple in the granite over here for the right middle finger. Rotate your left foot counter-clockwise a few degrees and that thin seem catches your heel rubber. All of the sudden your butt is off the dirt on you're on your way!....ten more moves left to decipher. Little to no effort is required to keep the fire burning. You'll arrive at the base of it many mornings with confidence and optimism only to leave with shredded skin and a slightly better understanding. You'll waive the white flag and crack a beer in surrender as the sun sets in February, and again in June. The drive will outlast three pairs of shoes, multiple angular pulley strains, echoing f-bombs, and torn collateral ligaments. It will see you through all four seasons. And all of the sudden, one day, in an explosion of nothing particularly spectacular or different than the previous two hundred and nineteen attempts, you just walk up and send it.

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Walking back to the car you can't help but feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and a soul warming vibe for having pulled it off. While simultaneously, “whats next” begins to creep into the brain. That experience and ability to measure progress in such detail is undoubtedly addicting. Luckily, energy doesn't vanish, it just transfers. It's only a matter of time before you come down the trail, swipe the branches to the side, and spot that next unicorn. 


February - October 2017

Landon is a UW-O Kinesiology grad, Wisco native in Utah, a Climber ,and husband to an endlessly sweet yet subtly fierce farmers daughter.

Gifts that Give Back


The Holidays.  A time for good food, good cheer, and of course, good gifts.  Every year around this time I find myself struggling with the consumerism associated with the holidays.  I, myself, love giving gifts, and I like getting them, but at times it feels overwhelming and a bit wasteful.  

So to counter those feelings, I curated a small alternative gift guide for you to check out.  All these companies either donate portions of their sales to non-profits, support environmental awareness through art and education, or are simply non-profits!  

Please consider doing your research this holiday season and support progressive companies and local businesses in your community.  It feels good to give a gift, especially when that gift gives back.


Dear Summit

"I am a maker of leather journals and sketchbooks, a dabbler in painting and design, and a lover of roaming in wild places. I've always been a maker and tinkerer, but it wasn't until I started making hand bound leather journals that I found my passion for creating adventure gear. Now I love to make journals and other durable goods fit for adventures big and small, near and far." - Deanna, founder

Dear Summit donates a portion of sales to the National Parks Foundation.  Check out her shop here: SHOP and her instagram @dearsummit


Unforgotten Wild

Johnna is a self-taught silversmith that loves all things outdoors in the wild. While she loves silversmithing as a hobby, her life passion remains with wildlife conservation. She is a seasonal wildlife technician, with a Bachelor degree in Conservation Biology, and aiming to soon get a Masters Degree in the same field. 

Johnna Elise strives to have her jewelry pieces focused around wildlife education and conservation awareness.  Check out her shop here: SHOP and on instagram @unforgottenwild


Good and Well Supply Co.

"Our small batch soy candles are made from 100% renewable soy wax, clean burning, USA-grown balsa wood wicks, and pure essential oils + perfume grade absolute oil blends. All of our products are 100% vegan. 100% eco-friendly. 100% recyclable. Ethically sourced + produced. Never tested on animals. Petroleum free. GMO free. Lead free. Phthalate free. Made in Seattle, WA."

Founded by Megan McLaughlin, Good and Well donates 5% of their proceeds to the National Parks Foundation.  Check out her shop here: SHOP and on instagram @goodandwellsupplyco


Sarah Virginia Uhl Art

Sarah is dedicated to making art that plays a role in the protection of public lands, clean water and climate issues.  She helps brands and organizations amplify their messaging through art, visual storytelling and Live Art performances at festivals and events.

"I love mountains and feel most alive when I'm in them.  I've found a way to weave outdoor adventure into my work as an artist and an activist and intend to keep discovering continued opportunities to blend all three."

Check out her original paintings, prints, and calendars here:  SHOP and on IG @sarahvirginiauhl



"Fillaree was founded in the beginning of 2014 with a mission to provide consumers an opportunity to significantly reduce their household plastic waste through refill.  We are a zero waste company (90% diversion of landfill waste) who create and hand make the purest, refillable, liquid soaps & cleaners."

Alyssa is on a mission to bring her vision to life. Check out her shop here:  SHOP and her iG @fillaree


Little Canyon Outfitters

At Little Canyon Outfitters we have a commitment to sustainability.  Whether it is sourcing environmentally conscious shirts to print on, using only water based screen printing inks, shipping using only recycled mailers and labels, or donating to environmental education campaigns and organizations, we try to create a business with a smaller ecological footprint to keep the earth in mind.  Since a love of adventure is at the core of Little Canyon we believe it is important to do the most we can for the planet.  

As of October 1st, 2017, we will be donating 1% of all sales to Save Our Canyons, a non profit located in Salt Lake City.  We are happy to contribute to organizations that help keep Utah, beautiful, wild, and free. 


The gift that keeps giving - non profits

There is no better gift to give this holiday season, than a donation to one of the hard working non-profits here  in your local community.  Make a donation in someone's name, volunteer your time, or buy some of their branded products.  Supporting non-profits in your community is a great way to give back, and is truly in the spirit of the season.

Here is a short list of non-profits that help keep utah wild.  They range from land acquisition and policy reform to environmental education and stewardship.  So take a look at each and consider making a donation, however small, this holiday.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Save Our Canyons

Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve

Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

Protect Our Winters

Friends of Great Salt Lake

Summit Land Conservancy

Tree Utah

Got your goat - Courtney Leigh Johnson


After binge listening to Horror podcasts and The Dirtbag Diaries, Tales of Terror episodes all day, I decided to share a creepy story of my own.


Some of you may know, this summer we took a mountain biking trip up to Oregon, Hood River specifically.  It had been a long time since I visited the Hood, and was excited to have a change from the scorching heat of the Salt Lake summer.  Exhausted from a long drive, we pulled into town and were greeted by a cool breeze, delicious pizza, and even more delicious beer, the makings of a great beginning to any biking trip.

We hung out in town for awhile, and even ran into a few friends of mine from Asheville, but as the sun started to set we knew it was time to find camp.  There is surprisingly little dispersed camping in the area, or at least our forest service maps and internet searching didn't come up with much.  Believe me, we looked.  I like to think we are pretty good dirtbag campers.  Jeff lived out of his truck for three years, hopping from dispersed site to dispersed site (gotta love those public lands).  That first night, we found a random place on a forest service road and settled in for a restful night sleep.

Usually, I don't sleep that well the first night of any camping trip.  I'm sure you can relate, the tossing, turning, waking up to every noise.  Was that a bear?!?  Nope, just Jeff farting in his sleep. Shit, coyotes?!?  Nope, just your sleeping bag rustling because you can't stay still.  Like I said, usually this is the case, but I slept soundly that night.  We woke up in what looked to be a logged field full of bees and headed to town for coffee.


Good coffee, good breakfast, and great biking.  Hood River was giving us high fives and showing us a good time.  The day went by riding berms, driving through orchards, and looking at Mt. Hood.  Then it was time to find camp, again.  We decided to try a different spot, since logged forests were not really the views we were looking for, so we headed towards the giant volcano that loomed over town.

Our spirits were high.  As we drove up the winding road towards our possible camping options we ogled the towering evergreens, ferns, and overall beautiful scenery.  We were on our way to finding the perfect campsite, and the perfect (free) campsite is always down a dirt road.  

We passed a dirt road and then another.  Jeff turned the truck around and back to the first we went.  It wasn't long before the road narrowed and came to what looked like an old party site with garbage and clothes strewn about.  A little weird, but we decided to continue.  The road narrowed more and terminated at a small, mostly clean campsite complete with a beautiful view overlooking a little gorge.


Done.  Yeah, the mess at the beginning was a little weird, but this is a great campsite.  We parked, unloaded a few things, including the dog, and took in the view.  Then, we decided to go check out the party site we had just passed.   Lots of garbage, not uncommon when you are in the land of free camping, but as we got closer, we noticed it wasn't just garbage.

Tossed a few feet into the woods was an entire bag of clothes, all kinds of clothes.  Not just the random dirty pair of tighty whiteys you occasionally find, or the lone sock left behind.  This was a lot of clothes, including little girls clothes.  I was weirded out, now.  We keep walking, more plastic garbage bags full of nothing.  Our neighbor camp was a little creepy.  We walked back to our safe oasis.

I took another look at the view, and felt a little better.  Jeff decided we should walk through our camp to see if the road connected, and if there were any other sites a little further away from the mess we just saw.  You know it was Friday night, we didn't want to get woken up by partiers, that's all.

Jeff walked ahead, away from me, and that's when I stumbled on it.  

Not twenty feet from the established fire ring, the skin, and legs, of what appeared to be a slaughtered sheep, or goat?  Something with white fur and hooves, and judging from the smell, freshly slaughtered.  Someone had brought a live hooved mammal way the fuck up in the mountains to this random campsite and slaughtered it.  There sure as hell weren't any sheep living in this area, and it wasn't a mountain goat.  WHAT....THE....FUCK.  I've seen enough horror movies to know how this one ends.  I'm out.


Jeff came over and looked at the remains.  We didn't really discuss it much, we packed up and left.   

We drove for about forty minutes, passing several dirt roads with possible campsites, campsites we decided were just too close to the weird demonic worship site.  We finally found a place close to an established campground and far enough away from whatever that was we stumbled upon.  

We cooked dinner, took a walk, and talked about how fucked up that just was.  We knew we were in for a pretty rough night's sleep.  It didn't help that someone decided to start chopping wood (?) at 10:30 at night.  Loud, hacking chops echoing through the night.  Ugh.   It wasn't until that chopping stopped and the owls stopped calling, that we finally fell asleep, hoping for a better, less creepy tomorrow.