labyrinth maze outdoor stanley hotel the shining stephen king
There's a difference between mazes and labyrinths: You're supposed to find yourself in a labyrinth and lose yourself in a maze. (Photo: Jon Candy/Flickr)

Get Lost in These Outdoor Mazes

Test your inner compass in these six labyrinthine gardens!

Ben Yeager

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The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, once hosted Stephen King and inspired him to write The Shining. But one of the book (and film’s) most memorable hotel scenes—murderous, ax-brandishing Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) stalking his son Danny (Dan Lloyd) through a sprawling hedge maze—never could have happened at The Stanley. That’s because—Surprise! It never had a maze! Also, in the book, said scene was in a lawn of hedge animals. But never you mind—the collective memory of the movie’s crux has had quite an impact on The Stanley.

Since the book’s 1977 release (and subsequent 1980 movie—shot at the Timberline Hotel in Oregon), the Stanley’s staff has had to explain to quizzical guests (for whom the film is available on a constant loop in their rooms) that there’s no maze. But they have finally decided to do something about it: build one. Why now? According to the Stanley’s owner John Cullen, the maze will commemorate the upcoming 20th anniversary of his ownership.

The design won’t be exactly like the film though—it was decided by a contest, based on aesthetics, functionality and feasibility. Out of 329 total entries from 33 countries and 40 states, they chose one by New York-based architect Mairim Dallaryan Standing. The maze will be constructed by May 2015, in time for the hotel’s horror movie film festival.

Labyrinth expert John W. Rhodes, Ph.D. said that mazes are growing in popularity but there’s a little confusion about their purpose. “A maze is designed for you to lose yourself and a labyrinth is designed for you to find yourself,” he said. In modern usage, ‘maze’ and ‘labyrinth’ have swapped meanings, a labyrinth having a single path for walking meditation, a place to calm the mind, and a maze being a place in which to get lost, to revel in the chaos.

Designer Dallaryan Standing was keenly aware of the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. It was a labyrinth in the movie, but the contest called for a maze. “I was trying not to mimic the labyrinth in the movie, which is funny,” she said. Either way, taking on an outdoor maze can be a fun way to exercise both mind and body.

Wanna give some a go? Here are a few of the best mazes in the country.

Davis Mega Mystery Maze

(Davis Family Farm)

Sterling, Massachusetts
The Davis Mega Maze stretches over eight acres of corn at Davis Family Farm in central Massachusetts, containing approximately three miles of paths. Redesigned every year by a renowned maze architect, it has its own zip line, over 200-feet long and 3 stories high, which flings you at 21 mph over the maze.

Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze

(Dole Plantation)

Wahiawa, Hawaii
In 2008, the Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze was dubbed the largest on earth at over three acres and two-and-a-half miles of paths. Its hedges are built with 14,000 Hawaiian plants. At the center is a giant garden in the shape of a pineapple. Those who finish fastest win a prize, and are immortalized on a sign at the maze’s entrance.

Cool Patch Pumpkins

(Cool Patch Pumpkins)

Dixon, California
This enormous, hand-cut corn maze about an hour outside of San Francisco covers 60 acres, and according to Guinness, is the largest temporary corn maze in the world. It changes each season to outwit its guests.

Cherry Crest Farm Maize Maze

2010 Cherry Crest Farms Corn Maze Matt Pennsylvannia

Ronks, Pennsylvania
About an hour and a half from Philly or two and a half hours from NYC, this five-acre corn maze unfolds over 2.5 miles of paths, with scenic bridges and clues to get you back on track. It takes about an hour to complete, and you’ll be given a gameboard and instructions to help you on your way. You can choose three difficulties that will get you through the maze in either 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or up to two hours.

The Great Vermont Corn Maze

(The Great Vermont Corn Maze)

Danville, Vermont
You’ll need four-wheel drive to reach this corn maze just outside of White Mountain National Forest . Its three miles of trails with 10-12-foot walls are spread out on over ten acres on a hill, which makes for great views but also a workout. Management urges discretion, and asks guests to bring water, anticipate spending two to five hours lost, and if not healthy adults, have supervision.