February 26, 2024 | Sammy Tran

America’s Best Ghost Towns


America’s Best Ghost Towns

Mentions of a "ghost town" usually conjure thoughts of a haunted site, but the term really just refers to an abandoned place. 

In the late 1800s, the western United States experienced a mining boom that saw the creation of hundreds of mining towns. But within a few years, the mines ran dry and many of these new towns were abandoned. 

Today, these ghost towns are important historical sites that give tourists a chance to imagine what life may have been like in the Wild West.

America’s Best Ghost Towns

St. Elmo, Colorado

About 80 miles from Aspen is where you’ll find one America’s best-kept ghost towns: St. Elmo. Miners created the town in 1880, when they went looking for gold and silver. 

But their days in St. Elmo were fairly short-lived and by 1922, the last of the residents abandoned the town.

St. Elmo ghost town buildings - 2016Karen Blaha, Flickr

St. Elmo, Colorado (cont’d)

Nowadays, the town is home to several rustic stores, including the popular General Store. Visitors can rent a log cabin nearby to full immerse themselves in the eerie atmosphere of the town. 

There also a nearby cemetery and the town of Tin Cup, which was a popular among outlaws.

Colorado's most famous ghost town - St Elmo, Colorado - 2014Jeffrey Beall, Flickr

Nevada City, Montana

This eerie ghost town is located about 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park and was once a thriving gold mining town. 

Nevada City still has many of its original features, like antique player pianos and music boxes.

The front portion of this Nevada City hotel - 2009Spend A Day Touring, LLC, Flickr

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Nevada City, Montana (cont’d)

Visitors to the town can enjoy live re-enactments of life in the Wild West and take a train ride to another nearby ghost town, Virginia City. 

Travelers can erally get a feel for what was life was like all those years ago by staying in a real pioneer cabin or at the Nevada City Hotel, a former stage stop that was built in the 1860s.

Nevada City Train Depot - 2009Spend A Day Touring, LLC, Flickr

Rhyolite, Nevada

The remains of Rhyolite lie on the the eastern side of  Death Valley. In the mining town's better days, in 1907, there was a hospital, an opera house, and a stock exchange. 

The mines in the area seemed so prosperous that everyone was rushing to invest. Even the famous steel magnate, Charles M. Schwab, bought one of the mines. 

Rhyolite NV Ghost Town - 2022samiamx, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Rhyolite, Nevada (cont’d)

Sadly, it wasn't long before the fortunes in the area turned around. Rhyolite was hit by natural disasters and financial crises as the mines were depleted. 

When the mines lost all funding for their operations, pretty much everyone living there abandoned the area. By 1920, it was a ghost town. 

Rhyolite Mercantile, Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada - 2009Ken Lund, Flickr

Calico, California

Calico was once the site of a thriving silver town. Now, it's one of California's most unique tourist attractions.

In 1881, the state experienced a silver boom, and the area around Calico held 500 mines. Unfortunately, by the mid-1890s, silver lost its value and Calico's residents left to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Calico, a ghost town - 2012InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Calico, California (cont’d)

Nowadays, visitors can see many of the town's original buildings, which have been restored. They can also explore one of the old silver mines, take a ride on the Calico Odessa Railroad, and go on a ghost tour of the town. 

For accommodations, most people camp at one of the hundreds of campsites nearby or check into a hotel in Barstow. 

Entrance Gate, Calico Ghost Town - 1992Steven Martin, Flickr

Frisco, Utah

The town of Frisco was created to be a home for silver workers who were employed at the San Francisco Mine nearby. 

The town had more than 20 saloons and was quite a violent place. So violent, in fact, that a murder was reported in the town every day. 

Ghost town Frisco in Beaver County, Utah - 1997Michael Gäbler, Wikimedia Commons

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Frisco, Utah (cont’d)

Today, Frisco is a great historical site. The town features unique charcoal kilns that are made of stone. 

Visitors can also see an old cemetery, rusty mining tools, and what's left of the town's saloons. 

Frisco is a ghost town in Beaver County, Utah - 2016arbyreed, Flickr

White Oaks, New Mexico

White Oaks was built after they struck gold in Baxter Mountain, which is nearby. White Oaks grew to be the second-largest city in New Mexico and was a pretty opulent place with Victorian houses. 

It was also one of the favorite hotspots of the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid. 

Former White Oaks school house - 2007Don Barrett, Flickr

White Oaks, New Mexico (cont’d)

Nowadays, tourists can explore White Oaks' saloon, some of the town buildings, and the cemetery. 

To really immerse yourself in the Wild West atmosphere, stay at one of the nearby ranches. There are also lots of accommodations in the nearby town of Carrizozo. 

A refurbished, but re-abandoned, building in White Oaks. - 2007Don Barrett, Flickr

Cahawba, Alabama

Welcome to  "Alabama's most famous ghost town." Before the Civil War, from 1820 to 1825, Cahawba was the state capital and a thriving hub for cotton trading and transport. 

After the war, it became a town for freed slaves. Sadly, the town was hit by a series of floods and yellow fever epidemics. By 1900, it was completely abandoned. 

St Luke's Episcopal Church in Cahawba, AL. - 2011Pat Henson, Flickr

Cahawba, Alabama (cont’d)

These days, the town is known as the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. The town's cemeteries and ruins are rumored to be haunted and it's now a popular destination for visitors who want an authentic ghost tour. 

One of the most famous apparitions if the orb of Colonel C. C. Pegues, which still hovers in the gardens of his old home. 

Old Cahawba town - 2013Scott Weingart, Flickr

Spokane, South Dakota

You'll find this ghost town about 10 miles away from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1890, Spokane was a bustling town surrounded by gold, silver, and copper mines. 

Now, it's where you'll find one the largest groups of original ghost town buildings. 

Old Church in Ghost Town - 2009Paul Williams, Flickr

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Spokane, South Dakota (cont’d)

Visitors to Spokane can see the town's original buildings, but they can't go inside since much of the infrastructure is falling apart. 

The schoolhouse is one of the town's more popular attractions, as is the gravesite that tells the tale of prospector who was murdered there. 

Ghost town graveyard.groucho, Flickr

South Pass City, Wyoming

South Pass City was once the site of more than 30 gold mines. It also has an important place in the history of women's rights in America. 

The country's first female judge served in South Pass City. It's also where a law was passed that made Wyoming the first state where women could hold public office and vote. 

South Pass City WY - 2015Don Barrett, Flickr

South Pass City, Wyoming (cont’d)

Walking the old streets of South Pass City makes for an immersive experience. And more adventures await in the nearby city of Lander, where visitors can find accommodations and casinos. 

Lander Field Office - 2010BLM Wyoming, Flickr

Independence, Colorado

If you're ever heading to Aspen, be sure to stop by the town of Independence. Independence was founded in 1880, but was abandoned 19 years later after a horrible winter storm. The miners had to make wooden skis from the remains of the town's cabins so they could escape the area.  

Ghost town of Independence, Colorado, September 14, 2014.mlhradio, Flickr

Independence, Colorado (cont’d)

Despite the destruction of the storm, several of the town's original buildings did survive. Many tourists like to check out the old general store and the stables. 

The site is open year-round, late June to late August is the best time to go. 

Ghost town of Independence, Colorado, September 14, 2014.mlhradio, Flickr

Ashcroft, Colorado

Ashcroft is another ghost town near Aspen. It used to be a silver mining town and at the height of its power in 1883, 2,000 people called it home

There were 20 saloons, two newspaper companies, a courthouse, and even a school. Unfortunately, the towns fortunes quickly took a turn for the worst.

Ghost town of Ashcroft, Colorado, USA - 2007John Holm, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Ashcroft, Colorado (cont’d)

By 1885, most people had left the town, and only 100 people called it home during the summer months. 

Nowadays, visitors can see restored building like the town post office and hotel, and the Blue Mirror Saloon. For those looking to learn more about the history of the town, the Aspen Historical Society performs guided tours in the summer.  

Ghost town of Ashcroft CO - 2007Dixie Lawrence, Flickr

Goodsprings, Nevada

Walking the streets of Goodsprings is like a taking a trip through time. This old mining town is located about an hour away from Las Vegas, and is still the home of about 200 people

Sign for Goodsprings, Nevada - 2006Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Goodsprings, Nevada (cont’d)

One of Goodsprings' most famous buildings is the Pioneer Saloon. Built in 1913, the saloon is said to be haunted by the spirit of Old Hollywood star Carole Lombard. Her plane crashed near the saloon, and since then it's been the site of many ghost tours. 

It's also been featured on the TV show Ghost Adventures.

Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nevada - 2011Thomas Dwyer, Flickr

Goldfield, Arizona

This ghost town is located about an hour away from Phoenix, on the Apache Trail. It's often called the "gateway to the Superstition Mountains". 

In the 1890s, the town had several saloons, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a boarding house. 

Goldfield Ghost Town, near Superstition Mountain, Phoenix Arizona. - 2008Jc Olivera, Flickr

Goldfield, Arizona (cont’d)

Today, visitors to Goldfield can witness a thrilling reenactment of an Old West shootout. They can also tour the old mine and pan for gold, take a ride on Arizona's last narrow-gauge train, or go horseback riding or ziplining.

Goldfield Ghost Town, near Superstition Mountain, Phoenix Arizona. - 2008Jc Olivera, Flickr

Blue Heron, Kentucky

The mine at Blue Heron was operational from 1937 to 1962, but the town itself saw its better days in the 1980s. Now, tourists can explore the buildings and learn about life in the old mining camp. 

Coal tipple at the Blue Heron mining community - 2009Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Blue Heron, Kentucky (cont’d)

One of the town's coolest features is the Big South Fork Blue Heron Ghost Train. Visitors can listen to ghost stories as they head up to spend the night at the abandoned mining camp. 

Coal Hopper Cars Under Tipple at Blue Heron Mining Community, KYPatrick Jennings, Shutterstock

Ruby, Arizona

The miners in Ruby struck gold in the late 1870s, turning the town into one of Arizona's largest mining camps

The mine shut down in 1940, but tourists can still visit the old school and playground, and see some of the old mining equipment. 

Ruby Arizona Abandoned Mining TownAlecnesnej, Shutterstock

Ruby, Arizona (cont’d)

In addition to the ghost town, the area around Ruby is a great place to hike or go fishing. there are also many campsites near the ghost town for those who don't mind roughing it. 

School house and Montana Peak, Ruby, ArizonaMichael Landrum, Shutterstock

Bodie, California

About an hour away from Yosemite National Park is where you'll find one of the largest ghost towns in California: Bodie. 

Bodie was a bustling gold mining town, and at one point housed 10,000 residents. Today, visitors can see the remains of an old church, a cemetery, abandoned trucks, and old gas pumps. 

Bodie Ghost Town - 2013Mike McBey, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bodie, California (cont’d)

The cool thing about Bodie is that some of the buildings are left exactly as they were, and even have goods dating back to the town's glory days. 

The town is now part of the Bodie State Historic Park, which provides ghost tours of the town three nights each year. 

Abandoned Car - Bodie Ghost Town, CaliforniaSteven Castro, Shutterstock

Grafton, Utah

Situated on the southwest side of Zion National Park is where you'll find Grafton. This ghost town was founded by Mormons in 1859, and the old schoolhouse is often considered to be the best-preserved building in Utah's ghost towns. 

Abandoned buildings at the Grafton Ghost Town in Utah. - 2020Gestalt Imagery, Shutterstock

Grafton, Utah (cont’d)

In addition to the school house, visitors can check out the town's cemetery and several houses that have been restored. 

The area also provides tourists with incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, which were featured in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Cemetery of the Ghost town named Grafton (Utah) - 2007mandj98, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kennecott, Alaska

Located in the middle of Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, Kennecott is a great example of an early 20th-century copper mining town. 

From 1911 to 1938, 600 people lived in the town. Half of them worked in the town while the other half worked in the mines, raking in almost $200 million worth of copper. 

Kennecott, Alaska copper mine complex.Sewtex, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kennecott, Alaska (cont’d)

The town was supported by the Kennecott Copper Corporation who built it up to include a hospital, a school, a skating rink, general store, and recreation hall. 

But when the copper mine ran dry in 1938, the company abandoned the town, leaving the equipment and buildings that can be seen today. 

The abandoned and spooky remnants of the Kennecott Copper processing mill building.Emma Rogers, Shutterstock

Bannack, Montana

Bannack is famous for its high levels of paranormal activity, and was once feature on the show Ghost Adventures. This abandoned mining town was founded in 1862, after gold was struck on Grasshopper Creek. 

A view of Bannack Ghost Town, Montana - 2014Mr Hicks46, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bannack, Montana (cont’d)

When gold was found in Virginia City nearby, many of Bannock's miners moved to the new hotspot. Bannock became a town of lawlessness, and soon saw more robberies and murders than most of America's other stagecoach routes.

 The last of the town's residents left in 1950, and the remaining sixty buildings are now protected by the state. 

Hotel Meade, Bannack, Montana - 2011Diana Robinson, Flickr

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia used to be the home of a coal mine, but in 1962, a landfill burn spread to the coal mine, creating an underground fire that has been producing smoke and harmful gasses ever since. 

It's expected to burn for another 250 years. 

A bench near a park in the center of Centralia, Pennsylvania - 2007Mredden, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Centralia, Pennsylvania (cont’d)

Initially, the fire destroyed much of the town and the surrounding area, and caused huge fiery sinkholes to tear open the land. Pretty much all of the town's 2,000 residents left the area, and Centralia has all but been condemned by the state. 

As of 2020, only five of the original residents remain in the town. 

Centralia : The abandoned town.RinTinRon, Shutterstock


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