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Halloween Haunted Trails

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
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A thrilling outdoor adventure awaits
October means it's time for the Scare Trails at the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd, Minnesota. Last year, we met with the Arb's Executive Director, Candice Zimmerman, for an update on the Scare Trails, available with COVID-19 precautions implemented. The trails are sponsored by local groups and organizations and supported heavily by volunteers.

She tells me Autumn has always been her favorite season, not just because of the pumpkin spice flavors and flannel shirts, but the dramatic entry nature makes into this region. "Overnight the trees come alive with new colors. It is the season of cozy blankets and sweaters, warm drinks and mouth-watering soups and stews."

Go during the day, though, since the facility is open dusk to dawn 7 days a week to offer respite to residents and visitors. You'll be impressed with how very inexpensive it is to become a member.

Candice points out some ways you can take advantage of your annual membership. Sit in the gazebo, perfect for homework. Linger on the bridge or stroll along a path. In winter, the trails are groomed so you can wind through the winter woods on ski paths.

Whether you have an hour or a day, the Arb's tranquility will surely enhance your visit. But not at Halloween.

Candice tells me that the Scare Trail is one of the Arb's favorite events. "The event committee has great plans in place for a safe outdoor event that will still scare you silly."

The general admission fees $15/person for both high and low scare trails, and $10/ person for the low scare trail available during earlier hours. $5/person for Trunk or Treat.

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The High Scare Trail Pirate Ghosts of the Caribbean

Fairytale Dreams:

The Low Scare Trail, perfect for the young and low fear threshold individuals, include friendly sites and games. You may even spot some singing pumpkins along the way. Keep an eye out for The Great Pumpkin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Underwater World or Jurassic Park.

Underwater World includes skeletal mermaids, jellyfish, scuba divers and sea creatures all in a lovely bluish-purple cast. If The Little Mermaid is your child's favorite movie, you won't be disappointed with this artistic underwater re-creation. And if you have any scuba divers in the group, you'll be pleased by the variety of fish and sea life. Much more than you can see in the Mine Pits.

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Underwater World of the Mermaid in the Low Scare Zone

Jurassic Park has all the dinosaurs you could ever want to see, from the babies and eggs in the nest to the T Rex, with Venus flytraps scattered throughout the lush vegetation along a haunting orange path. Look for the butterflies that still agitate the T Rex long after he's gone.

Or stop at the schoolhouse, you'll find a teacher pointing to E=mc2.

Or the Garfield pumpkin keeping a friend company in the bathroom. Don't let any schoolhouse nightmares prevent you from seeing this fun group.

The best photo opportunities are towards the end, with singing pumpkins, backdrops, minions, and an angel-winged hockey player. It is Minnesota, after all.

In addition to the Low Scare Trail, children can experience Trunk or Treat on Saturday, October 30 between 4p and 6p. Have the kiddos get the trick or treating completed safely.

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Low Scare Trail Family Photo Opportunity


High Scare Trail

There is no better time to come face to face with your nightmares than Halloween. And The Arb's High Scare Trail is guaranteed to give you a start, if not actual nightmares. Some trails fill with ravenous zombies, some with terrifying creatures of the night and some with only things you can imagine in your worst nightmares.

When night falls and the monsters of this former landfill begin to howl or laugh or rev the buzzsaw, you'll enter a realm of temporary terror you wouldn't think possible.

Acres of mortifying scenes and unnatural, ghoulish creatures eagerly await your screams. What lurks among these trees? What sinister beings have you in their sights?

And that's between the actual exhibits, including the Butcher Shop and Snake Pits.

If you're first in line, you'll garner the attention of the chainsaw-wielding clowns. Then, reach the Pirates of the Caribbean ghostly exhibit.

Then the Snake Pit snake logs line the path.

You will scream through the murky darkness not knowing what's ahead.

But the scariest for me was the Butcher shop. A pig looking creature wields a carving knife on a slow-moving visitor and intestines go flying.

Dare to walk amongst these haunted trails in Brainerd for the most thrilling outdoor adventure of the Halloween season.

High Scare Trails are for older teens and adults.

The Arb sells finger flashlights, glow necklaces & t-shirts for sale to add to the night's fun or memories thereafter.
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Where: Northland Arboretum, 14250 Conservation Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401
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