Going camping is a great experience, especially if you’ve never done it before. Escaping the stress of the modern world and enjoying the serenity of nature is something we could all use more of in our lives.

But, being alone in the woods can also, at times, be frightening. You’re in an unfamiliar environment, and sometimes help is miles away if something goes awry.

Here are 12 unsettling camping stories that might just make you second guess your next journey into the woods.

1. One hiker had an incredibly alarming experience after they came across a shelter in the middle of the woods. While they were eating dinner, they realized there was a strange person sitting in the corner of the shelter who had covered themselves from head to toe in fireplace soot so they were camouflaged, and silently watched every camper that passed by. Needless to say, the hiker didn’t stick around much longer.


2. One hiker was backpacking through Eastern Washington with some buddies when they came across a small cave. Inside the cave they found several photographs of different families and three bottles with notes in them. Two of the notes were illegible, but the third was a seemingly normal letter written to an unknown recipient. Weird…


3. This story is incredibly spooky. One hiker from Wyoming was hanging around a campfire with his friends one night, when suddenly his dog sat upright and started to growl, staring off into a field that was next to where he and his friends set up camp. The group then noticed several shadows across the way, speaking softly in a language none of them could make out. After about 10 minutes, both the shadows and voices dissipated into the night. None of them ever figured out what they were.


4. On the border of Montana and Idaho, one hiker was traveling through the woods with his uncle when he came across something odd. He found a gorgeous tent that was perfectly pitched but without any occupants. As he crept closer, the man noticed some items strewn about the ground, including empty shell casings from a revolver. He left the area immediately for fear of his own safety.


5. In Georgia, one 14-year-old hiker and his father had a terrifying experience with the unknown. While they were sleeping, they heard distinct human laughter coming from outside their tent. It lasted for several seconds and then drifted off into the night. The weirdest part was that no footsteps were heard and there were no other cars parked in the lot next to the campground.


6. One camper stumbled across a child-sized backpack and sleeping bag with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it that looked as though it had been there for months. Inside the sleeping bag were thousands of matches and a deed to a house in Washington state. But, the sleeping bag was found in Maryland…


7. One hiker found a very creepy box while she was geocaching, which is the process of locating something based on website coordinates. Inside were broken doll parts and a note with three words: “Look behind you.”


8. One camper had an incredibly disturbing experience, but she didn’t even realize it until her camera pictures were developed afterward. She was alone for the duration of her stay in the woods, but when she saw her pictures, she realized that someone had entered her tent every night while she was asleep and snapped a picture of her on her camera. That’s horrifying!


9. Nature is home to all sorts of animals, and when humans come face-to-face with some of them, it can be terrifying. One hiker recalled his daughter trying to walk up to a bear cub and give it a hug at Yellowstone National Park. The mother bear was just a few feet away, but luckily didn’t see the little girl’s daring attempt. After snatching up his daughter, he and his family took panicked shelter in their tent until the coast was clear.


10. One hiker and his buddy were exploring the Adirondack Mountains when they saw something that deeply bothered them both: one of them noticed his full name written in the snow on the side of the trail. Neither he nor his friend did it. When they finally got back to where they started, they saw that their names had been scratched out of the registry book completely, and no one else had signed in.


11. After graduating high school, one backpacker decided to explore the Pacific Crest Trail in California. Several days into the journey, they came upon an odd middle-aged couple wearing white disheveled clothing; they didn’t think much of it and kept on moving. Several days later, they noticed two people dressed in white following them. 


Clearly frightened, they found a remote location to set up camp and intended to leave early the next day. However, that evening they heard footsteps and whispers outside their tent, and a flashlight beam even illuminated their camping area. They ran out of the tent and hid under a tree stump hundreds of yards away until the next morning. They reported what happened to local police, but no strange couple dressed in white was ever found.

12. The woods are full of all sorts of predators lurking in the shadows. When one backpacker was on a four-day solo trek through the Shining Rock Wilderness in North Carolina, he had a scary encounter with some curious coyotes. As they were sleeping, several large coyotes began to furiously dig underneath the base of their tent! Just as they thought the animals were about to rip through the tent flaps, a dog started barking in the distance. 


The coyotes immediately took their attention off of the tent and ran in the direction of the dog’s bark. A few minutes later, the woods were silent. The next day, they saw a group of adults who were looking for a dog. The backpacker never got confirmation, but it could have very well been the dog that saved their life.

13. When one Florida resident was in seventh grade, she had quite an alarming experience in the woods. As she was riding her bike home from school, she saw a large figure dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit staring off into the distance. The hood of the outfit didn’t have any eye-holes, which made it all the more unsettling.


14. Okefenokee Swamp Park in Georgia is beautiful but, as one hiker and his friends discovered, also hazardous if you’re not careful. The hiker and his girlfriend woke up early one morning and decided to go for a scenic canoe trip around the swamp. As they were paddling around, they heard a bellow so loud it shook their boat. They turned around and were horrified to see as least 20 pairs of alligator eyes peering at them from just above the water’s surface!


More sets of eyes began popping up all around the canoe. They slowly paddled towards the shore, trying not to disturb any of the curious reptiles. Luckily, as they got closer to shore, the alligators slowly dipped back underwater until the swamp was still again. It’s probably safe to assume they opted out of the next boat excursion!

15. Sometimes it only takes a sound to send you into complete panic mode. Two hikers spent a few days in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington state, and heard something they’ll never forget. Late one night while they were drifting off to sleep, a howl echoed through their campsite so deafening it sent ripples down their spines. They suddenly heard loud footsteps sprinting past their tent, immediately followed by an eerie silence. 


For the remainder of the night, everything was quiet. The next morning, they found elk tracks and cougar tracks by a nearby lake. They assumed that a cougar was stalking an elk, and they startled the cougar mid-hunt. Whatever it was that happened, it’s something they both hope they never experience again.

Keep these stories in mind the next time you go camping. Not to terrify you, but to remind you that even in the heart of the wilderness, bizarre things can happen to us all.

Share these unsettling stories with your friends below!