Modesto, CA

Would you hike along the terrifying (and possibly haunted) Dry Creek Running Trail in Modesto, CA?

Evie M.
NOT the Dry Creek Running Trail in Modesto, CA. I couldn't find a photo to Simon Berger on

I've been writing a lot about my home state of California lately. As an adult I've been reminiscing about all the different incredible stories I missed as I blissfully went through life thinking the little town of Atwater was the most boring place in all of California, not realizing how far from the truth I actually was. Everyone in the Central Valley has heard of Modesto. Only an hour away from my hometown and the biggest city nearby (even if a lot of people complain about it), any time I heard the name "Modesto" I got pumped because I knew we were going to the mall or something fun. But I had no idea how many haunted spots are sprinkled through this seemingly "lame" town. Namely, The Dry Creek Running Trail.

I'll admit, even after twenty-four years spent living in California and countless trips to Modesto, I never knew The Dry Creek Running Trail even existed, or the lovesick ghost allegedly haunting it.

Why is The Dry Creek Running Trail considered to be so haunted?

Though my family and I never went to the trail, it is a popular destination for vacationers and locals alike. Many people use the Trail to go for walks, runs, biking excursions, you name it as the trail winds along various parks through Modesto. For the children, about halfway along the trail, there's East La Loma park, which offers a jungle gym, restrooms, and tennis courts. There is also an impressive Frisbee golf course that is free to play on, but it's BYOF (Bring Your Own Frisbee).

Visitors to the Dry Creek Trail can park their vehicles at Moose and East La Loma Park before heading off on their adventure. The hike is about 8.6 miles and said to be "an easy route". Make sure to set about three hours aside to complete the trail (it's said to be about 2 hours and 44 minutes). If you bring your doggo, make sure they're on a leash.

Sounds like a fun, family-friendly day out for all. But these aren't the details about the park that interest me. Oh, no. It's the story about the ghost of a young, lovesick boy that got me to sit up and pay attention. The legend is so popular that many locals refuse to visit the trail out of fear of it being haunted.

Legend says the trail, mainly around the Claus Road bridge, is haunted by the ghost of a teenage boy who fell in love with the local banker's daughter after only one look. He was a poor farmhand and she a banker's daughter. But the young girl, after spending time with the boy, fell in love, too, and they started to meet in secret until one day someone ratted them out. A local busybody spotted them kissing behind a store. Though the young boy thought he could earn her father's blessing, the banker was not happy, and the banker forced his daughter to tell the boy she couldn't see him anymore before marrying her off to a businessman a few months after.

Story says the girl eventually would get over the young man, but he'd never let her go. Ridden with grief, the boy threw himself off of the Claus Road bridge, and many say his spirit still lingers, looking for his lost love.

There have been reports of ghost sightings, including an account from a local hiker that thought he spotted a "shadow man". While hiking, the witness turned a bend and noticed a "shadow man" who "didn't move a finger" as he got closer. He noticed he was also wearing "warm clothing" which he found odd in the middle of a brutal California June. When he drew nearer, the figure vanished, leaving him stumped.

Could it have been a trick of the light or an actual apparition? Many believe it is the latter, and I'm a little convinced myself. But the only way to now is to head out to the trail ourselves. I know where I'm going the moment I visit home. My only question is: Who's coming with me?

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"Reader beware, you're in for a scare!--R.L. Stine"

Orlando, FL

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