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Explore Arizona’s most terrifying—and delightful—ghost towns, including the famous Tombstone. There’s something in these destinations for everyone, whether you’re passionate about the historic Wild West or simply looking to enjoy a beautiful landscape.
Arizona has lots of major cities, but it’s also full of hidden ghost towns just waiting to be explored. Of course, they’re not a secret. After all, Tombstone is one of the most famous ghost towns in the country!
Take note that some of these ghost towns are only reachable on backcountry roads that are no longer maintained. Get the best protection for your vehicle with help from the car insurance app Jerry so you can adventure confidently.
Without further ado, let’s explore the histories of Tombstone, Castle Dome, Ruby, and Fairbank.
What is the story of Tombstone?
In the late 1800s, Ed Schieffelin discovered silver in the hills near Tombstone, AZ. For many years, Tombstone was host to one of Arizona’s largest silver mines.
The city attracted many adventurous types and eventually accumulated over 15,000 residents. It had a saloon, a post office, and a theater.
Tombstone also hosted some famous gunfights and gunslingers. The town was resilient, even though fires nearly wiped out the town twice. While the town has never officially died, it never managed to modernize, instead remaining a window into the past.
Tombstone’s post office has been in continuous operation since 1878. The saloon and theater are still open to visitors and propped on a picturesque dusty road through town. You can even enjoy three staged gunfights each day, among other attractions organized by local historians.
What makes Tombstone special?
This is probably the most famous ghost town in Arizona, if not the entire country.
- Have you heard of the O.K. Corral? The world-famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday happened right here in Tombstone.
- Visitors can explore the Boot Hill cemetery and see real gravestones (including Billy Clanton’s).
- Staged gunfights and original buildings add to the authentic ambiance.
Simply put, Tombstone is special because it’s stuck around for so long. While it’s no longer a lawless territory outside the law, Tombstone has retained much of its original charm.
How to visit Tombstone
Tombstone is one hour and fifteen minutes away from Tucson. Take I-10 E, then exit 303 for AZ-80. This road will take you directly through the town of Tombstone, but turn right on 4th Street if you want to head straight to the O.K. Corral.
Once you reach the town, hop on a stagecoach to enjoy a brief overview of Tombstone’s history. Then, go directly to the O.K. Corral to see the gunfight reenactment. Then, take some time to explore both original and restored buildings.
The nearby Tombstone Courthouse is now a state park and museum packed with antique treasures. Big Nose Kate’s is a saloon-style venue—the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.
The Bird Cage Theater will give you goosebumps (keep an eye out for the bullet holes). Your final stop should be Boot Hill cemetery, with its carefully restored headstones.
Pro Tip There are good options for lodging, food, and gas in town. Just be sure to prepare for the weather.
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What is the story of Castle Dome?
Castle Dome was a mining town in southwestern Arizona that had its heyday in the late 1800s. Its mines mainly yielded lead, which was not nearly as valuable as silver.
Accordingly, the town folded within a few years, leaving behind abandoned mining tunnels and other fascinating debris.
What makes Castle Dome special?
Castle Dome still houses many original structures, but some features have been reproduced. The educational site offers plenty of interactive activities and nifty displays.
- You can find miscellaneous mining trash and exposed building foundations from the 1870s.
- Visitors can participate in interactive activities, like trying on costumes and sitting at desks.
- Mannequins reenact town stories in the self-guided tour.
- Castle Dome Landing, now underwater, was a major supply depot for mines in the Castle Dome Mountains. It was flooded after the Imperial Dam was built.
Warning: mine openings are everywhere, making for dangerous walking. Keep a close eye on young children.
Pro Tip The best view in town is from the second floor of the doctor’s office.
How to visit Castle Dome
Castle Dome is three hours from Phoenix and one hour from Yuma. Take US-95 N and make a slight right on Castle Dome Mine Road. In about 10 miles, you’ll arrive at the attraction.
What is the story of Ruby?
Ruby was a mining town that produced valuable metals and minerals, including gold, silver, zinc, and copper. For a time, the town reaped high profits, although its population was quite small.
The town was originally named Montana Camp, as it sits at the foot of Montana Peak. Julius Andrews, the general store owner, then named the town after his wife.
Ruby’s claim to fame was short-lived. There were two double-murders here in the 1920s. In the 1930s, Ruby had only about 1,200 residents including 150 students. The mine closed in 1940 and the town was pretty much empty by 1941.
What makes Ruby special?
Ruby is a great destination for people who want an authentic ghost town experience. You won’t find any gaudy souvenir shops here, and it’s just an hour and a half from Tucson. Ruby is:
- One of the best-preserved ghost towns in the entire state.
- Only four miles from the Mexican border.
- Less crowded than other Arizona ghost towns.
- Fairly off-grid, but there are plenty of natural features to enjoy like Town Lake. You might even catch a glimpse of Mexican freetail bats if you stay until dusk.
Prepare yourself for a very off-grid experience in Ruby. There is no cell coverage, no water or gas services, and only outhouses. Make sure to bring plenty of food and supplies.
You will have to pay a small fee to visit, which goes toward maintaining the buildings.
How to visit Ruby
Head south out of Tucson on I-19 S and take exit 48 for Arivaca Road. The town of Arivaca is a great place to grab last-minute snacks at the local mercantile.
Turn left and head south on S Ruby Road, keeping left to stay on S Ruby Road. After about 10 miles, turn right on Ruby Access Road and you’ll arrive right in the middle of town.
Check in with the caretaker before you explore.
What is the story of Fairbank?
Not far from Tombstone and near the San Pedro River is the town of Fairbank. Back in the day, Fairbank was the nearest railroad stop to Tombstone. It held strategic importance as a transportation hub and ran a stage line into town.
A foiled train robbery is Fairbank’s main claim to fame.
In 1900, the Burt Alvord Gang attempted to rob a train at the depot. However, lawman Jeff Milton intervened. In the process, Milton’s arm was shattered by a bullet but he still managed to kill the famous “Three-Fingered Jack” Dunlop.
Fairbank was still a functioning town up until the 1970s, although it was in decline for decades when the mining died out. Additionally, many residents were pushed out when original heirs of the Mexican land grant brought their cattle company to the area in the 20th century.
After it was finally abandoned, the Bureau of Land Management took charge of the land for conservation. Today, visitors can explore the nearby woodlands, cemetery, and leftover buildings.
What makes Fairbank special?
Visitors to Fairbank can explore old architecture and natural conservation areas. A few original buildings remain, including a schoolhouse, several homes, and a mercantile building. These are tucked into the mesquite groves near the river.
- Fairbank offers lots of walking trails.
- It is completely free to visit.
- The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area offers beautiful scenery, and you can enjoy the view from the humble cemetery overlooking the mesa.
How to visit Fairbank
Fairbank is one hour and 10 minutes from Tucson. Take I-10 E, AZ-90 S, and then AZ-82 E until you arrive directly in Fairbank. You’re not too far from goods and services here, but it’s wise to stock up before your visit.
Protect yourself with good car insurance
You probably don’t need to worry about a ghostly apparition—but you do need to consider the dangers of remote roads. Many ghost towns are located far away from services. If you need a tow or collide with wildlife, the right car insurance policy can save your trip.
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