Get Your Spook On: Northern Utah's Most Haunted Places
Looking for a different kind of outside adventure? One seemingly outside the realms of possibility? If you’re open to the possibility of experiencing paranormal activity in Utah, here’s a look at places where you can get your spook on.
Ophir Ghost Town
Not all ghost towns are haunted. Many Western ghost towns are the result of mining communities that disappeared almost overnight when precious metals like gold and silver disappeared. (Read: Frisco: West Desert Ghost Town)
A good example is Ophir, a mining district that retained some of its old buildings and turned them into a historic site. Ophir, located about an hour southwest of Salt Lake City, is one of several ghost towns found in Utah’s West Desert. And nearby Tooele is a good base for further exploring the mining past of the Beehive state.
"Many Western ghost towns are the result of mining communities that disappeared almost overnight when precious metals like gold and silver disappeared."
Antelope Island State Park
Another case of abandoned property-turned-haunted are the buildings of Fielding Garr Ranch on the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island. The ranch, now part of Antelope Island State Park, was settled by rancher Fielding Garr and its oldest structure dates back to 1848. While the buildings have certainly provided a strong dose of the creepies, it is the woods between the ranch house and the lake that seem to provide more intense paranormal experiences. In 2021, a crew from local news outlet KSL documented some of the strange activity alongside a team from the Western Association for the Science of the Paranormal.
Antelope Island is connected to another unique “ghost” story. In 1862 Salt Lake City police arrested local grave digger Jean Baptiste for robbing clothing and jewelry from coffins. He had a tattoo placed on his forehead and was banished to Antelope Island. During a low water year, which would have allowed Baptiste to walk to the mainland, he was moved to the more remote Fremont Island. People later checking up on him found his wooden shelter dismantled and a slaughtered cow, but no sign of Baptiste. Some say he never made it off the island and he still haunts it. Others say he drowned trying to escape and haunts the waters of the Great Salt Lake.
In addition to trying to creep yourself out, there are plenty of other things to do during a visit to Antelope Island. Bring binoculars and a camera on your trip. Visitors will likely see bison, pronghorn, mule deer, shorebirds, waterfowl, coyotes and even have a chance to spot a porcupine, burrowing owl or a bighorn sheep. There are also several hiking, mountain biking and horseback options on the island.
Two important tips. If you take your children, make sure to bring a change of clothes for the ride home. There is no way to keep them from wading into the Great Salt Lake. Prepare to have salty sand in your car for months after the visit. In addition, keep your distance from all wildlife, particularly the bison. People who don’t give the huge beasts plenty of space have experienced close up encounters they would rather have avoided.
Utah Hotspots Showcased on "Ghost Adventures"
The Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park
Rumor has it that a young woman drowned at the historic Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park, but visitors experience a wide range of paranormal vibes as confirmed on an episode of Travel Channel's “Ghost Adventures." The mill has a storied past since it was built in the mid-1850s with ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was fully restored in the late 1980s and is a beautiful piece of architecture with an eerie energy.
While in this area, a stop along the shore of the Great Salt Lake is a must and Great Salt Lake State Park is only 12 miles away just off of Interstate 80. The park provides a campground, seasonal boat tours and a trailhead to Utah’s famous Black Rock. Beginning around 1850, Black Rock became a place where couples took all-day dates, and starting in 1893, some then headed to nearby Saltair resort (now a popular concert venue located just east of the state park) to dance the night away.
The Great Saltair
"Ghost Adventures" visited the Saltair in 2021 to film "The Great Saltair Curse." The show claims the building and land around the resort is plagued by "hostile paranormal energy," including the haunting presence of Saltair Sally.
If you like hiking with your haunting, you might consider the Deseret Peak hike. It is a steep 3,595-foot elevation climb from the trailhead to the 11,031-foot summit with a round trip of roughly 9 miles. Always remember to take plenty of water. Utah air is dry and hot, even in the high elevations. (See more Utah hiking tips)
St. Ann’s Retreat in Logan Canyon
Few would argue with those claiming Logan Canyon as one of the most colorful fall drives in Utah, if not all the West. Highway 89 from Logan east through the canyon leads to one of the most popular destinations in Utah — Bear Lake. Often referred to as the "Caribbean of the Rockies," the massive, natural lake leaves visitors breathless at the sight of its intensely blue water. The lake's marina facilities and beaches make it a prime spot for boating, fishing, sailing and water skiing. And of course, no visit is complete without a coveted raspberry milk shake, found at any of the mom-and-pop shops along the lake. The Bear Lake Valley climate imbues the raspberries with a unique sweetness not often found in other places.
But back in Logan Canyon, there is a place that may leave a much different taste in your mouth: St. Ann’s Retreat. While scary stories of a possible 1940s murder and a suicidal, pregnant nun draw people to the site, it is a terrifying incident from 1997 that's featured on an episode of “Ghost Adventures." As the story goes, a group of trespassing teenagers seeking out the spooky lore of the site were caught and terrorized by the property's security guards. Some say the evilness of the place caused the guards to act in such a brutal fashion.
When you're ready to shake-off the boogie monsters at St. Ann’s, just five minutes down the canyon is the Wind Caves Trail. This 4-mile round-trip trek features a unique cave/arch formation and about 1,100 feet in elevation gain. While the hike is particularly stunning in the fall, people hike it throughout the year. Just remember spikes or cleats in the winter to avoid icy falls.
There are several developed campgrounds that accept reservations in Logan Canyon. First-come, first-served camping and dispersed camping are also available in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. If you opt to stay outside of a developed campground, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles.
"Ghost Adventures visited the Saltair in 2021 to film "The Great Saltair Curse." The show claims the building and land around the resort is plagued by "hostile paranormal energy," including the haunting presence of Saltair Sally."
Skinwalker Ranch and Blind Frog Ranch
Niche media has long been reporting mysterious events at the Skinwalker and Blind Frog ranches in northeastern Utah — as documented on popular television shows like History’s "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch" and Discovery's "Mystery at Blind Frog Ranch." But even traditional local media have jumped on the spooky bandwagon. Interest has reached such a high level that visitors from more than 24 states attended the inaugural PhenomeCon event in Vernal in 2021. The paranormal conference is typically scheduled each year in early September. While Skinwalker Ranch remains private land and a visit is limited to posing for pictures near the ranch, visitors can book an interactive tour of the Blind Frog Ranch.
After you check out the ranches, explore the ancient mysteries in the Uinta Basin. This area is well-known across the world for its dinosaur fossil discoveries. Dinosaur National Monument is located 24 miles east of Vernal and its Quarry Exhibit Hall offers visitors a chance to see more than 1,500 fossils embedded in a cliff face.
"After you check out the ranches, explore the ancient mysteries in the Uinta Basin. This area is well-known across the world for its dinosaur fossil discoveries."
If you want to stay in town for your dinosaurs-meets-paranormal adventure, don’t miss the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum located on Main Street.
If you plan to stay overnight, there are plenty of hotel options in Vernal, and two nearby state parks — Steinaker and Red Fleet — offer camping and RV options as well as fishing and water recreation opportunities. Camping is also found in the nearby Ashley National Forest.