Hikers Reveal Their Most Terrifying Experiences In The Wild
Are you scared of hiking? Do you fret over what you might find (or what might find you) out in the wilderness? Do you worry about being far away from help? Well, you’re not the only one! In these stories, the people of the internet bring you the wild (and sometimes wacky) encounters of those intrepid explorers who venture into the backcountry to discover what really goes bump in the night.
Whether they’re running into lions or tigers or bears (oh my), some people have braved more than their fair share of terrors and spooks while out on a hike. Others have dealt with comically catastrophic situations, and they’ve passed these stories on for you to enjoy. Feel like heading into the woods now?
Sharing Someone Else’s Nightmare
One thing you never want is to be part of someone else’s bad dream. But, if you have a sleepwalking friend, you may not have much of a choice in that matter. I was camping with a couple buddies of mine once, and in the middle of the night, one starts frantically saying, “There’s someone else here!”
We freaked out and checked the entire site but found nobody. Turns out my friend had been sleepwalking and had dreamed up the intruder, then warned us all in real life! Reddit User: sardinewolfpanther
Frightening Bugs or Lightning Bugs
Once I went camping with a fellow from the west coast. Apparently they have a very different set of insect fauna than we do in the east, which created some confusion. My friend kept telling us that there was someone circling the camp and pointing his flashlight at us. We were terrified.
Turns out he was just seeing lightning bugs for the first time and assumed they were people with lights. Come on man, use some common sense! Reddit User: ferret_80
Someone Hates Dogs
I think I had a close call with a serial killer once, or at least someoe with those tendencies. I was turkey hunting with my dad in Shawnee National Forest once, and as we walked the trail, we saw some blood splatters. As trackers, we weren’t too weirded out. But what happened next was chilling.
We turned the corner and came upon three dogs, gutted and skinned, hanging from a tree. I don’t know who did it, but we just turned and fled as fast as we could. Freaky! Reddit User: bhcrom831
Face to Face With a Bear
I had just pitched my tent while camping alone once and was ready for bed after a long day of hiking. Right as I was about to close my eyes, I heard a rustling noise to my left. I turned over and saw a bear roughly 2 feet from my nose, rummaging through my backpack.
I had actually tied up my food like I was supposed to, but that didn’t matter; the bear had seen enough food-filled packs to check. I stayed quiet and motionless and eventually the bear left, but that was a close call! Reddit User: theshwedda
Once I had curled up in my sleeping bag ready for a good night’s rest when I got stepped on! I had decided not to use a tent that night, since the clouds were sparse and I wanted to sleep under the stars. Then, lo and behold, an elk just walks right over me. The hoof hit me on my side, so I was fine, but boy did it hurt.
When I shouted, the elk bolted, and we avoided a catastrophe. But I had a massive bruise the next day. Reddit User: theshwedda
A Clumsy Bear
I was on a cross country road trip and had stopped for gas and supplies in a small New England town. As I walked around a corner on my way to the general store, I saw a brown bear munching on some trash on the sidewalk in front of me. I let out a little shriek; the bear saw me and bolted away.
The funny thing was, as it was running, it tripped on a chink in the concrete and face planted on the pavement. It then got up, full of wounded pride, and looked at me like it was my fault before disappearing into the woods. The nerve. Reddit User: SeeBelowForDetails
We’re Being Watched
I went camping with a friend once, and when we woke up after our first night, we had a rude surprise. It was still dark outside, but off in the distance, between the trees, we could see these two little white dots. They were glowing like a pair of eyes, and it was supremely freaky.
We didn’t wait for the sun to come up to try to figure out what it was. We just packed as fast as we could and bolted away from there. Reddit User: Ronald_Raygun_
Get to the High Ground
When I was about 13, my parents took me on a hiking trip to Yellowstone National Park. There are a lot of bison in Yellowstone. One day, we were on a trail when we heard someone shout “watch out” from in front of us. Seconds later, an entire herd of bison came crashing through the forest towards us.
My dad, thinking quickly, told us to follow him up a small hill, and the herd went directly by us. Apparently bison flock (if that’s the right word) downhill. Who knew? Reddit User: OnePastFun
When the Sign Is Scarier
Everyone who hikes in the American West knows that there are things that want to eat you. One example is a mountain lion, and there are signs warning the naive about them everywhere. One particularly freaky one I saw just said, “Mountain lions are common here, but don’t worry, you won’t see them.”
I spent the entire rest of that trip worrying that I was being spied on by some exceptionally discreet mountain lions. And the sign was right; we did not see a single one. Reddit User: Jux_
When You’re the Scary One
I live in a rural area and sometimes go for nighttime walks in the woods. One evening, I heard some teenage hikers behind me discussing how they wanted to sneak up on me and scare me. I decided to become the one that lurks and hid behind a tree until they were a few feet away.
Their screams when I popped out were priceless and so rewarding. Don’t mess with me, kids! Reddit User: [redacted]
What’s in a Bark
People always say that animals are particularly astute and have an extra sense of danger. I’m not sure I believe them, and I think a lot of the anecdotes are post-hoc justification. That being said, it’s always super freaky when my dog gets up in the middle of the night and starts barking or howling for no (apparent) reason.
This happened to me once while I was traveling and staying in a pretty remote cabin by a lake. I swear I didn’t go back to sleep the entire night. Reddit User: iBleedorange
The More Sinister Pets
I am a cat person, not a dog person. And although my cats still wake me up in the middle of the night from time to time, I do not labor under the illusion that they mean anything good by it. They’re just messing with me, and I’m sure of it. They’re not spotting ghosts or anything.
My cat will sometimes shriek in fear and stare at (what seems to be) nothing on the ceiling or out the window for hours at a time. I know she’s just trying to scare me, and it’s so annoying! Reddit User: anthym29
Evolutionarily Rooted Fear
Some of our fears are rational, some are instinctual, and some are both. One of the most deeply engrained of the fears that are both is the human fear of snakes; it makes total sense, and it’s deep in our psyches. I once stumbled on a coiled-up rattlesnake while hiking in New Mexico and boy was that terrifying.
I had nightmares about the encounter for almost a week, and now I find it difficult to put it out of mind when I’m hiking anywhere that poisonous snakes are known to reside. Reddit User: ajd341
Deliverance in Real Life
Once I took my wife and kid fishing in the woods near my house (there’s a lake that empties into a series of small rivers in the area). As the kid was splashing in the water and my wife was reading a magazine, I spotted a group of four dirty-looking fellows sitting in a boat nearby. One of them had a camera and was clearly snapping pictures of us.
When I made eye contact with him, they all looked at me and grinned large, toothless, filthy smiles. It was quite sinister. Without explanation, I packed up our stuff and ushered my family back to our car. Reddit User: reasonnotfaith
Afraid of the Dark
Honestly this makes me feel a bit embarrassed, but it doesn’t actually take a particularly scary event or person to freak me out in the woods. When I’m camping, especially if the moon is just a sliver or it’s cloudy and we lack natural light, the darkness itself is just terrifying.
Lying in my tent, knowing that I’m totally alone and helpless out there; that itself is enough to get my heart pumping. Every sound seems like something coming to kill me! Reddit User: Daver2442
The Stench of Death and Misery
I was camping with some friends in the Smoky Mountains when we had a close encounter of the olfactory kind. We had smelled skunks in the area during the day but didn’t think much of it, and then a skunk walked right into our camp while we were making smores. Everyone froze, not knowing what to do.
Eventually the skunk meandered on out of our campsite, and a few minutes later, we heard a scream of disgust from the campers next to us. Apparently one of them had gotten sprayed, poor fellow. Reddit User: Halomom
What an Eerie Silence
Turns out that weird noises are not the only thing that’s scary when you’re alone in the woods. Silence can be just as bad. I was hiking alone once on the Appalachian Trail when I woke up in the middle of the night. What I heard around me was absolutely nothing…no toads, crickets, owls, or any of the other critters I was used to.
I didn’t hesitate even though it was 2am. I packed up and moved on, just resolving to be tired the next day. It was just too weird to stay. Reddit User: veetack
Beware the “Stick Indians”
Once I went hiking in the Cascades of Oregon with a friend who knows the woods very well. One night, I heard what sounded like a party outside our campsite. Then, the party died down and what sounded like a little kid just started wailing. I wanted to go check if everything was all right, but my friend grabbed my arm and told me to stay. The next morning he told me, without explanation, that I had heard some “stick Indians.”
I got home and Googled it, and apparently they’re malevolent forest spirits that lure hikers out of their camps with fake commotion and then…do something to them (still unclear if they eat the hikers or something else, but it sounds awful). Reddit User: BrooklynOatmealCooky
When I was in middle school, my parents took me camping in Maine, and we rented a remote cabin for part of the time. I guess we hadn’t locked the door, because we all woke up in the middle of the night to a medium-sized black bear rummaging through our kitchen right in front of us.
My dad cursed loudly, the bear grunted, and then it just ambled out as if nothing was wrong. I think we got pretty lucky! Reddit User: mrspeacockwasaman
Hunter or Hunted
I was out hunting white-tailed deer once (something I’m quite proficient in), and I had a large buck directly in my sights. Then, out of nowhere, I heard a howl. The deer heard it too and bolted. I was cursing my luck (dang coyotes!) when I heard another howl and stopped. As I listened, I realized it wasn’t any animal I knew, coyote, dog, or wolf.
As I started backtracking towards my truck, the howls kept coming with increasing frequency and kept getting louder. Then I heard a rustling in the grass near me and started running. Ultimately nothing attacked me, but I know if I hadn’t bolted I wouldn’t be here telling this story. Reddit User: dignified_fish
Herbivores Can Be Dangerous Too
After all the bear stories people often have, I figured we need a moose story as well. Word of wisdom: never get between a mama moose and her babies. You will die, probably. Unfortunately, I was hiking once, and I came out of the woods into a clearing directly between a huge female moose and some moose infants.
Thinking quickly, I immediately sat down on my hands and bowed my head, trying to show that I was submissive and not a threat. Somehow it worked and I survived, but I definitely owe my life to the grace of that mama moose. Reddit User: aybaran
Stop Staring at Me, Dude
As I was on my way back from an unsuccessful day of deer hunting once, I heard a weird noise just as I finished loading my gear into my truck. I went to investigate; it was coming from the brush on the side of the clearing where I had parked. I was thinking it might be a wounded animal. It was actually a man just standing still and swaying from side to side.
I asked if he was ok and got no answer, just a creepy stare and smile. I backed away, unnerved, and kept my eyes on the man until I was driving away and he was in my rear view mirror. Reddit User: btotherad
A Crappy Situation
This one is probably more mortifying than scary, but it sticks with me nonetheless. I was backpacking for the first time, and I had a bit of an emergency on the trail. I took the toilet paper and shovel off to relieve myself, and right as I was starting to go, a troupe of roughly 200 Girl Scouts came through the brush right in front of me.
I’ll never forget their screams and howls of disgust, or the way their troupe leader shouted to “get away from the creepy man.” I never went backpacking again unless there were copious toilet stations along the trail. Reddit User: [redacted]
Big animals aren’t the only scary ones. I was hiking on a poorly cleared trail once and stepped out from behind some shrubbery to find myself face to face (or, rather, ankle to face) with a porcupine and a few opossums. The opossums started howling, and the porcupine turned around to bum rush me.
I turned and ran. The last thing I wanted was a bunch of stab wounds and to need a rabies shot. I consider myself very lucky! Reddit User: EntitledPidgeon
An Eye for an Eye
I did a course on outdoor survival training with a friend of mine, and on the last day, when we were supposed to be alone without instructors, he somehow impaled his eye on a stick. To this day he won’t tell me how; I think he’s too embarrassed (though he didn’t end up losing the eye, luckily).
I had to carry him almost a mile to our main campsite with him screaming and bawling the entire way. I’m now pretty sure I can survive anything. Reddit User: Andrwjo
Beware the Cold
I was hiking alone once during the winter and decided to push the limits of daylight a little too far. By the time it got dark, I still had roughly a mile to go to get back to my car, and it was all through heavily variegated, snowy terrain. I reached into my pack for my headlamp and realized that it had fallen out.
Since it was too cold to do anything but press on, I had to move in essentially pitch blackness, foot by painstaking foot, until I finally reached the car. I’m lucky to be alive! Reddit User: _YEAH_
Surviving a Landslide
I was camping in Colorado once and pitched my tent at the base of a medium-sized hill, thinking nothing of it. It rained a bit that night, but my tent is weatherproof, so I didn’t notice. What woke me was the “clock” “clock” sound of large rocks tumbling down the hill; it was a full-blown landslide.
It all happened too fast for me to try to escape; there was nowhere to go anyway. I just curled up and hoped the rocks would miss me. It was the most terrifying 45 seconds of my life. Reddit User: Mausel_Pausel
I went hiking with the family in Costa Rica once when we got “triangulated” by a pack of howler monkeys. According to our guide (he told us after the fact and just laughed hysterically at our fear in the moment), the monkeys shriek at each other from all sides in order to communicate info about where someone or something is.
It was a cacophony, and we had no idea what it was. Imagine some strange beasts screaming at you in the middle of the woods. It was so freaky! Reddit User: [redacted]
I went camping with my Boy Scout troupe once when I was a kid. It was a rainy weekend, and we had been warned of flash flooding, but nothing bad had happened the first few days. That night, I put my sleeping bag down on a bed of moss because I was tired of sleeping on the hard ground, and when I woke up, I was totally alone.
Apparently there had been rain upstream, and the banks of the river had expanded slightly that night. The moss I was sleeping on was just gently carried away! Reddit User: Grape_Scotch
Let Me Stay
Honestly, a lot of bad things have happened to me while roughing it in the backcountry. I’ve fallen badly while canyoneering, I’ve nearly broken my ankle on a solo backpacking trip, and I’ve met all sorts of dangerous fauna. But by far the scariest part of any trip is the last few days when I know the trip is going to end.
I’m being serious; I never want to return to my bland, boring, desk job-focused life in the “front country.” No matter the danger, I’d stay in the backcountry forever! Reddit User: [redacted]
Bigfoot’s Been Here
My friend and I were doing a tour of famous Americana, and one of our stops included an 8-mile one-way hike in the Marble Mountains to visit President Hoover’s hunting cabin. When we got there, the entire interior was trashed. I’ve seen the damage a bear does, and this was different; cabinets were opened and things were thrown all around, but very little was broken.
I’m convinced that something else had been inside. Maybe it was a man, but part of me likes to think we crossed paths with Bigfoot. Who knows! Reddit User: Macks_Favorite
I was hiking in a swamp in southeast Texas as part of a bird hunting expedition when I unwittingly stepped right on the back of a large alligator. It wasn’t any caiman; this was must have been 10 feet long. I’m so lucky it decided to take off rather than latching its jaws onto me.
I was also lucky that my pants were already wet. I immediately peed myself when I realized what had happened. Reddit User: paulwhite959
What a Cute…Wolf
While hiking with my mom in the Catskill Mountains, I had a particularly close encounter with a wolf. Luckily, it wasn’t a pack, it was just solo. We just froze, knowing that if we advanced or ran, the wolf was likely to turn aggressive. Instead, it placidly approached us. Then, it actually walked up to my mom and licked her hand.
She was paralyzed with fear. The wolf moved on, and we continued hiking. What an experience! Reddit User: PacSan300
Humans Are the Scariest Animal
I’ve been hiking in the woods before and have come across groups of hunters, and I swear there’s nothing scarier. Sure, there are plenty of people who are responsible with their rifles, but then there are also the idiots who go around drunk firing off shots like they’re fireworks.
I don’t want to end up as collateral damage, thank you very much. Whenever I hear something that sounds like a drunk hunting party, I head in the other direction as fast as I can. Reddit User: [redacted]
Run for Your Life
I was playing cards with my boyfriend in our tent while camping once, and we heard some snorts coming from outside. Already dreading what we knew we’d see, we peered out and saw a group of wild boars foraging around our extinguished campfire. Those things can be seriously dangerous.
We just stayed extra quiet until they went away, but that could’ve turned out much worse. We’re lucky they didn’t notice us (or at least weren’t scared by us). Reddit User: 47sams
Only Creepy in Hindsight
Back when I was a kid, my friends and I used to go camping down by a river close to our town. It wasn’t an official campground with patrols, just something we had found. There was an old abandoned school bus down there with a guy living in it. He used to come out to our tents and tell us stories about “lizard people.”
As an adult, I realize this was terrifying and could’ve ended up terribly (though in the end, he was just a nice, albeit somewhat odd, man). Ah the innocence of childhood. Reddit User: qorsana
Dodge a Rock
I was hiking with a friend once on a pretty secluded trail when he shouted in pain from behind me. Apparently a rock had come hurling onto the trail and hit him in the arm. As he was telling me what happened, another rock came and hit me on the shoulder.
We just turned and ran as fast as we could. It was probably just some annoying kids, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Reddit User: [redacted]
I was hiking once on a deserted trail in Cambodia (close to Siem Reap) and saw something metallic looking by the side of the trail. I went over to investigate, and when I was about a foot away, I realized that it was an unexploded landmine. Thanking the heavens for my luck, I backed away, noted the area on my phone GPS, and traced my steps back.
I reported the mine to some government hotline, but I don’t know if it was ever removed. I sure hope so! Reddit User: [redacted]