Off the Beaten Path Series, Small Footprint ~ Big Impressions, Travel Destinations & Stories

Exploring America’s Abandoned Gems: Our Top 31 Favorite Ghost Towns to Visit

Venturing into the heart of the United States, one can find a myriad of abandoned towns that once thrived with life but now stand as captivating relics of the past. For us, visiting these once-vibrant places gives us a thrill. These ghost towns offer a unique blend of history, mystery, and an eerie charm that draws in intrepid adventurers and history enthusiasts alike. In this blog, we will unveil our 31 favorite ghost towns in the USA that are waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting your journey, these locations are sure to captivate your imagination.

Bodie, California

Located in Eastern Sierra, California: Bodie is one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the country. Its weathered buildings and authentic artifacts offer a glimpse into the Gold Rush era of the late 1800s. Visitors can explore the remnants of saloons, homes, and even a church, making it a photographer’s paradise. Definitely don’t forget your camera! Looking for some additional hidden gems in California? Check out our blog here: Off the Beaten Path in California. Our Top Hidden Gems

Jerome, Arizona

Jerome was once a thriving copper mining town in Verde Valley, Arizona. Perched on Cleopatra Hill. Today, it boasts artistic charm with a collection of galleries, shops, and fascinating historical sites. The stunning panoramic views from Jerome make it an unforgettable destination. You can find more amazing and fun things to do here: Off the Beaten Path in Arizona

Rhyolite, Nevada

Located near Death Valley, Nevada. Rhyolite’s ruins include a bank, train depot, and several other structures, showcasing the boom and bust of the early 20th-century mining era. Be sure to visit the iconic “Bottle House,” constructed entirely from glass bottles.

St. Elmo, Colorado

St. Elmo is located near Sawatch, Colorado, and nestled amidst the Rocky Mountains, an exceptionally well-preserved mining town. It offers a rare glimpse into the past, complete with wooden storefronts and stunning mountain vistas.

Garnet, Montana

One of our favorites. I mean, it’s Montana! We spent an entire summer in Montana in 2018. Don’t miss this one! Located in Garnet, Montana. Garnet is a true gem hidden in the hills of Montana. Wander through the well-preserved buildings, like the J.K. Wells Hotel and the Kelly and Irene’s Saloon, and imagine life during the gold rush. Super fun! Bring the kids! They will love it. Find more amazing adventures we discovered here: Off the Beaten Path in Montana – Our Top Hidden Gems in Montana!

Calico, California

Located in the Mojave Desert, California. Once a bustling silver mining town, Calico now stands as a fascinating tourist attraction. Tour the Maggie Mine and take a trip back in time with costumed guides who bring the past to life.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. I was so glad I was able to visit this place before they shut down and paved over the one historical street “of art.” Centralia is an abandoned coal town with a unique and eerie history. It had been on fire since 1962 due to an underground coal seam fire, giving it an otherworldly appearance with smoke rising from fissures in the ground. From what we understand today, the fire has burned itself out. I would love it if anyone had an update on this fantastic place. We really enjoyed it. This location was also used for filming the movie Silent Hill.

Terlingua, Texas

Location: Big Bend, Texas. Terlingua thrived on cinnabar mining, producing almost one-third of the nation’s mercury. Today, it’s a quirky town with a ghostly past, offering stunning views of the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande.

Virginia City, Montana

Located in Alder Gulch, Montana. Virginia City is a living ghost town that takes visitors back to the Gold Rush era. Wander its wooden boardwalks, attend a staged gunfight, and ride a historic steam train.

Kennecott, Alaska

Located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Kennecott is a remote and breathtaking copper mining town in the heart of Alaska. Tour the massive red mill building and explore the stunning surroundings of America’s largest national park.

Bannack, Montana

Located in Beaverhead County, Montana. Bannack, once Montana’s first territorial capital, is now a well-preserved ghost town frozen in time. The town offers guided tours and even hosts an annual reenactment of its founding.

Glenrio, New Mexico/Texas

Located on the New Mexico/Texas border. Straddling the state line, Glenrio was a famous Route 66 stop. Today, it’s a snapshot of the mid-20th-century roadside culture, with abandoned gas stations and motels.

Cahawba, Alabama

Located in Cahawba County, Alabama. Once Alabama’s state capital, Cahawba was a prominent antebellum town. Now, visitors can explore its haunting ruins and learn about its rich history.

Ruby, Arizona

Located in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. Ruby was a mining town, and though many of its buildings have deteriorated, the picturesque setting and the nearby Ruby ghost town cemetery are worth a visit.

Goldfield, Nevada

Located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. Goldfield was a prosperous gold mining town that boomed in the early 1900s. Visitors can explore the Goldfield Hotel and the International Car Forest of the Last Church.

Cahokia, Illinois:

Located in Collinsville, Illinois. Once the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico, Cahokia offers visitors a chance to explore ancient Native American mounds and learn about the Mississippian culture.

South Pass City, Wyoming

Located in Fremont County, Wyoming. South Pass City was a booming gold mining town in the 1860s. Now a state historic site, it allows visitors to experience Wyoming’s gold rush heritage. Looking for more hidden gems in Wyoming? Take a look at some top places we found here: Off the Beaten Path in Wyoming. Our Top Hidden Gems!

Two Guns, Arizona

Located near Canyon Diablo, in Arizona. Two Guns is a ghost town with a turbulent history, once home to Apache conflicts and a popular tourist stop along Route 66. We are big fans of ruins! We find them so unique. The ruins and petrified forest are fascinating sights.

Nevada City, Montana

Located in Madison County, Montana. Nevada City is an outdoor museum town with over 90 historic buildings, making it a perfect destination for history buffs. A great place for homeschooling events!

Animas Forks, Colorado

Located in San Juan County, Colorado. Accessible only during the summer, Animas Forks is a high-altitude ghost town in the San Juan Mountains, showcasing well-preserved mining structures.

Berlin, Nevada

Located in Gabbs, Nevada. Berlin offers visitors a glimpse of life in a late 19th-century mining town. Explore its preserved buildings and mines while enjoying the rugged beauty of the surrounding area.

Silver City, Idaho

Location: Owyhee County, Idaho. Silver City is an idyllic ghost town with well-preserved buildings, including a schoolhouse and the historic Idaho Hotel.

Gothic, Colorado

Location: Near Crested Butte, Colorado Description: Gothic was a mining town turned research station in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Look at the stunning mountain views and learn about the unique ecology.

Leadville, Colorado

Aside from being one of our very favorite places to visit (and boondock with our RV), did you know that Leadville is the highest incorporated town in America? I believe there are 4-6 ghost towns just in Leadville alone. Eat lunch outside at one of the many restaurants on the main street, and then explore the ghost towns all over the place. You can find out more here. If you don’t go for the ghost town tours, just go explore Leadville. You won’t regret it.

Gleeson, Arizona

Location: Cochise County, Arizona. Gleeson once had a bustling population thanks to mining. Today, visitors can explore its historic cemetery and old town remnants.

Independence, California

Located in the Eastern Sierra of California. (Not be confused with the Independence CO Ghost town below.) Independence was a significant mining and military town. Visit the historic courthouse and learn about the region’s rich history.

Independence, Colorado

Located off Independence Highway in Colorado. Love, Love, Love! Between 1881 and 1882, over $190,000 worth of gold was produced. The following year it dropped to $2,000. Throughout its brief history, Independence was also known as Chipeta, Farwell, Hunter’s Pass, Mammoth City, Mount Hope, and Sparkill. There is an easy walking trail to go as little or as far as you’d like! You can see a little bit about it in our video below.

St. Thomas, Nevada

Another favorite! Located near Lake Mead National Recreation Area. St. Thomas was once a farming community that disappeared underwater when the Hoover Dam was constructed. During droughts, the remains resurface, offering a unique sight for visitors. Don’t miss this one when visiting the Hoover Dam.

Seneca, Oregon

Location: Grant County, Oregon. Seneca was a lively gold mining town that suffered several fires. Visit the Seneca Schoolhouse and take in the beauty of the nearby Silvies River. If you want to see more things to do in Oregon, check out our blog here: Off the Beaten Path in Oregon – Our Top Hidden Gems!

Gilman, Colorado

Located in Eagle County, Colorado. Gilman was a mining town known for its zinc and copper production. Explore the remnants of this high-altitude ghost town in the Rockies. Watch the weather, and contact them during the off-season to make sure you can get there.

Bingham Canyon, Utah

Located in Salt Lake County, Utah. Bingham Canyon was once a bustling copper mining town and is now home to one of the largest open-pit mines in the world. Visitors can experience both the old and modern aspects of mining.

These 31 ghost towns scattered throughout the United States are captivating time capsules, transporting visitors to a bygone era. From the rugged landscapes of the Southwest to the stunning mountains of the Rockies, each location holds its unique charm and history waiting to be explored. Whether you seek adventure, history, or simply a glimpse of Americana, these ghost towns are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who venture to visit them. So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and prepare to embark on a hauntingly beautiful journey through America’s abandoned gems. Share your favorite ghost town with us! We’ll add it to the list!

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