Tales from the Trail: Haunted Hiking in the OC

The bloody past of Black Star Canyon makes it one of the most haunted places in Orange County.

Location: Black Star Canyon near Silverado, California

Trail: Black Star Canyon Trail in Cleveland National Forest

“Don’t hike alone there after dark.”

On top of tough hikes, rugged terrain, and scenic views, Orange County’s infamous Black Star Canyon boasts a storied, bloody past.

Known as Cañon de los Indios under Mexican rule, the canyon was named for the Native American Tongva-Gabrieliño tribe settled there.

Searching for horses presumed stolen, William Wolfskill (inventor of the Valencia Orange) led a group of fur trappers to Black Star Canyon in 1831. Finding the horses with the Tongva, the trappers massacred the Tongva in a “rifles versus bow-and-arrow” battle, according to a story recounted by early settler J.E. “Judge” Pleasants.

The ghosts of the Tongva are said to roam the canyon at night, seeking revenge.

“Whatever lurks in Black Star Canyon, it doesn’t wish you well.”

The Gold Rush Days in the canyon were equally bloody, the most infamous being the murder of James M. Gregg in 1899.

The Greggs and the Hungerfords were two horse ranching families in the area in the last 1800s. There was dispute between the families over how much was owed to the Hungerfords for pasturing Gregg’s stock.

The argument between Gregg and Hungerford brothers, Henry and Thomas, became heated… and ended in a fire fight.

When the air cleared, Gregg was on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds. Despite turning themselves into authorities, the Hungerford brothers were never charged.

Hikers say they’ve seen Gregg wandering the area, looking for his murderer.

“If you are currently living in Southern California DO NOT GO into Black Star Canyon.”

Renowned as one of the most psychically active areas in Southern California, countless ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, and fearless hikers have made the trek into the canyon after dark.

Unfortunately, those hoping to explore the trails for themselves on Halloween Ghost Tours this year or brave a spooky trail run will have to wait. As of September 2020, all trails in this area are closed due to wildfire.