16 Ghost Towns to Visit on Your Summer Road Trip
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- Bodie, California
- Calico, California
- Goodsprings, Nevada
- Nevada City, Montana
- Blue Heron, Kentucky
- Cahawba, Alabama
- Spokane, South Dakota
- St. Elmo, Colorado
- South Pass City, Wyoming
- Independence, Colorado
- Goldfield, Arizona
- Santa Claus, Arizona
- Frisco, Utah
- Grafton, Utah
- Ruby, Arizona
- Terlingua, Texas
- Jerry’s roadside assistance membership
No matter which part of the country you’re traveling through, there’s probably a ghost town nearby. From the mining communities of the Wild West to abandoned Civil War towns in the South, get ready to get down with the paranormal.
If you’re planning a road trip to explore abandoned ghost towns in the US, we’ve got you covered with 16 that you definitely shouldn’t miss. Plan your trip around these haunted areas or make like Calamity Jane and take a hasty detour from your main route.
But before you go, make sure you’ve got strong car insurance. There’s no policy we know of that will protect you from murderous paranormal prospectors, but the insurance comparison app Jerry can help you find savings so that you can spend your nights in comfortable hotels. Unless, of course, you prefer to camp out in the open…
Here are the best ghost towns to visit on your road trip.
West Coast road trippers will love the ghost town of Bodie, just 45 miles away from Yosemite.
In its heyday, Bodie supported 10,000 residents—and the remains of the ghost town are robust. Newspapers stuffed into walls reveal old-timey headlines and there are vintage trucks surrounded by overgrown grass scattered throughout the town.
Some buildings remain standing exactly as they were when abandoned, with goods on the shelves.
But beware the curse of Bodie. Anyone who takes an artifact from the site is said to be cursed with bad luck, which will only be lifted once the item is returned. Real curse or clever tourism team? You decide.
Pro Tip The ghost town is officially part of Bodie State Historic Park, so book a guided tour if you want the inside scoop and all the spooky legends.
An old sleigh workshop in Bodie State Historic Park
Two hours north of Los Angeles is the beautifully restored ghost town of Calico. It was founded as a silver mining community and the area once contained 500 mines—but just 10 years after its founding, the town was abandoned when silver lost its value.
Visitors can explore the old structures on site, but the real benefit of visiting Calico is touring a silver mine. Of course, if you prefer a more passive adventure then you can hop on the Calico Odessa Railroad or sign up for a nighttime ghost tour on Saturdays.
Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, California
This quick, 30-minute detour from Las Vegas is definitely worth a stop. The town is still home to 200 residents, although it retains much of the past. Put on your spurs and get ready to strut around Goodsprings.
The Pioneer Saloon was built in 1913 and is said to be haunted—but you can always snap a photo of the old-timey exterior and dash away quickly. There’s even a tour where you can relive the experience of a film crew who had a brush with the paranormal in 2013.
Nevada City, Montana
Not too far from Yellowstone National Park is the ghost town of Nevada City. It’s been somewhat restored so that families and visitors can explore safely. This is the perfect destination for adventurers who want to bask under Montana’s big blue sky while learning about the state’s early history.
In Nevada City, start by exploring ghost-riddled original log structures like Sullivan’s Saddlery. Then, visit the town’s unique collection of player pianos and antique music boxes. You might even catch a live reenactment of history while you’re meandering the dusty streets.
Before you leave, try your luck and pan for gold. Admission is $8 for adults.
Pro Tip Visit the Old Town Living History Museum & Music Hall to see one of the largest collections of old west items outside of the Smithsonian.
Building ruins in Nevada
Blue Heron, Kentucky
Some of the most interesting ghost towns are not in the Wild West—and Blue Heron is a prime example. This abandoned mining community is located on a beautiful spot along the Big South Fork River near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
Blue Heron’s mine was operational from 1937 to 1962 and the structures on site were built to mimic the originals—so you won’t be exploring historic buildings. But what Blue Heron lacks in authenticity it makes up for in storytelling. You can enjoy an audio tour in every building that shares more about life in a mining camp.
If you want to stay overnight, there’s a nearby campground or you can head east to Stearns for a hotel.
A train in Kentucky’s coal mining mountains
This is a Civil War ghost town where floor damage and historical damage are proudly on display.
Cahawba was actually the capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1826. The style of the abandoned buildings on site clearly indicates the aspirations of the town, but it’s easy to see the water damage that forced the town to close down.
The town’s history includes serving as a jail site for Union soldiers in the Civil War and later as a meeting place for freed slaves. You can explore the ruins of streets, buildings, and cemeteries here.
Pro Tip Cahawba is a short drive from Selma, where you can spend an afternoon learning at the National Voting Rights Museum.
Old Cahawba, Alabama
Spokane, South Dakota
If you want to see rustic pioneer architecture then Spokane, South Dakota fits the bill. Only 10 miles from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, this ghost town is full of spooky vibes and even spookier real-life history.
Start by exploring around the old schoolhouse—but don’t go inside any crumbling buildings! You’ll also see some old cars left abandoned on the street. Before you leave, find the tombstone of the gold prospector who was killed here in cold blood.
If you want to stay the night nearby, head to Keystone, which is just five miles away.
Pro Tip You’ll have to walk about half a mile from the road to get to Spokane, so wear comfortable shoes!
An abandoned schoolhouse in South Dakota
St. Elmo, Colorado
Just over an hour away from Aspen, Colorado is a delightfully creepy ghost town called St. Elmo. This town was formed in 1880 to serve miners who made the trip west to look for gold and silver.
After only 40 years, the town closed down entirely and the last residents absconded. You can still see the remnants of wooden storefronts, including a quaint general store.
Of course, there aren’t a ton of services available to visitors in a ghost town. You’ll have to rent a log cabin or go car camping if you intend to stay in the area.
Pro Tip St. Elmo is one of the few ghost towns that’s accessible year round. Visit in the fall to see beautiful foliage or in the winter to experience the town by snowshoe.
St. Elmo, Colorado
South Pass City, Wyoming
If you’re road-tripping between mid-May and mid-October, stop by the ghost town of South Pass City in Wyoming. This area once contained more than 30 gold mines and you can see more than 20 buildings from the 19th century here.
There’s actually another reason South Pass City is historically important: it was the first territory where women could vote and hold public office.
Make sure you set aside at least a half-day to explore this ghost town. After you’ve yarned the hours away, head to nearby Lander to stay the night. You can choose between a casino or a boutique hotel.
Pro Tip Hit the 1890s dance hall where you can take a walking tour of the historic site.
South Pass City, Wyoming
With stunning views of the mountains, the ghost town of Independence is perfect for road trippers who don’t mind exploring by foot.
The town was founded in 1880 but only lasted 19 years. There are still original buildings on site, like a general store and stables. You can even see real metal stagecoaches and tin cans from back in the day—all with gorgeous clear skies and tree-studded hillsides in the background.
Get here by taking the Independence Pass section of Highway 82. It’s an easy pit stop if you’re passing near Aspen.
An abandoned general store in Colorado
Goldfield was a sizable town in the days of the Wild West. Now, it’s a solid tourist attraction with saloons, a boarding house, a general store, reenactments, a train, and panning for gold. Adventurous types can even zip line, ride horses, or do target shooting on site.
If you want abandoned ghost town vibes, then Goldfield may not be the best place to visit. But if you prefer a bit more infrastructure with your ghostly explorations, you may enjoy this destination. Goldfield is only 40 miles east of Phoenix, and a great place to spend half a day on a road trip.
Pro Tip Take a 25-minute tour of an underground gold mine to learn about the history, equipment, and processes.
Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona
Santa Claus, Arizona
This has got to be one of the most bizarre ghost towns in the country!
In the 1930s, this town was launched as a Christmas-themed attraction in the desert to draw tourists. The idea was that visitors could meet Santa any time of year. In its later years, the town functioned mostly as a post office, stamping its famous postmark for kids who wanted a letter from “Santa Claus.”
Go and explore the creepy vandalized buildings, the extra-creepy rusting pink children’s train, and the extremely creepy wishing well. Santa Claus is a good detour if you’re passing by the Hoover Dam—just don’t expect to see any elves or snow.
Pro Tip If you choose to explore, be wary of rotting wood and rattlesnakes—both of which are plentiful in Santa Claus.
One of the more violent ghost towns on this list, Frisco supposedly hosted one murder every single day during its history.
You’ll have to go out of your way to get here, as Frisco is more than 100 miles from Utah’s main national parks. But once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with architecture that is incredibly unique among ghost towns. Frisco’s charcoal kilns resemble extraterrestrial dwellings and you can get up close and personal with them on foot.
Once you’ve explored the cemetery, the decaying buildings, and the rusted mining equipment strewn throughout the town, head southeast to Beaver to find city lodging or to Zion or Bryce for camping.
An abandoned house in Utah
The ghost town of Grafton boasts one of the most well-preserved historic schoolhouses in the state. It’s incredibly picturesque and not far from Zion National Park, if you want to tack on a camping excursion.
The town has a unique claim to fame: it was featured in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!
Grafton was settled by Mormons in 1859 but eventually abandoned as communities amalgamated. It’s free to explore and you should plan to set aside a few hours to do so.
An uninhabited house in Utah
Ruby used to be the largest mining camp in the area and they struck gold in the late 1870s. The mine here closed in 1940 and left lots to explore! Find the small cemetery with rocks as grave markers or discover the school and playground.
This is a special destination because of the additional activities nearby. You can hike Montana Peak, which is just miles from the Mexican border. You can also fish on isolated lakes and camp rough, just steps away from the abandoned mining community.
Pro Tip Bring everything you need, including a full tank of gas, because there’s nowhere to shop or fill up in the town.
A boarded up Arizona mine
Terlingua is an abandoned mining community that’s now home to a famous chili cook-off and plenty of cold drinks for visitors.
It was originally a source of mercury in the early 20th century, but most residents moved away in the 1940s. Keep an eye out for vintage typography on old storefronts, like the Starlight Theatre.
The Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas
Jerry’s roadside assistance membership
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What is the largest ghost town in the United States?
Jerome, Arizona, is the country’s largest ghost town. You can find it in the Black Hills where the Yavapai tribe used to mine for copper to make jewelry.
In its time, the town made millions for its investors. Jerome isn’t completely abandoned today, as artists and the government have rebuilt the town.
What’s the most famous ghost town?
Bodie, California, is the most famous ghost town in the country. It was a huge mining community in its heyday but was abandoned in the 1940s. Today, it has hundreds of old buildings that are open to the public for exploring. Plus, its location is convenient for California road trippers.
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