Think of the USA and you will conjure up a number of images - amazing BBQ (check out Top 9 Best BBQ in the USA blog!), road trips down Route 66, the Wild West West, and of course - Ghost Towns.
Ghost Towns fascinate folk as they represent a brief moment in time where a town was built, it thrived, and was abandoned - often across only a few decades and sometimes a few years. They represent people chasing dreams, with the hope of finding gold or making it rich in the mines.
What is also so fascinating about them is that they were often abandoned in such haste that today you can visit them and really feel what it would have been like to live during its heyday - often with historic buildings still standing, mine shafts still home to tools dropped and never recovered.
Today, the USA has an incredible number of ghost towns that you can visit, so we explore our Top 5 Ghost Towns in the USA that make a great addition to any trip across the great land that is the United States!
1. Bodie State Historic Park - California.
Bodie Ghost Town is one of the most preserved ghost towns in California, and arguably the entire USA.
Bodie became a State Historic Park in 1962, but what's amazing about this ghost town is that the park decided not to restore the buildings, just let them "be", meaning you can see them in their weathered and aged 1880s state which completely adds to the experience.
It was in 1859 that William S. Bodey discovered gold near Bodie Bluff, and the town began to grow in 1861 after a mill was established. What started out with 20 miners had grown to over 10,000 by 1880! At one time it was said you could even find 65 saloons in the town!
In total the area produced over $35 million in gold and silver!
Read more on our listing here!
2. Calico Ghost Town - California
Located in Yermo, Calico Ghost Town is an old West mining town that dates back to 1881 and was abandoned not long after in the mid-1890s after silver lost its value.
Calico once gave miners a good living but like many other gold/silver rush towns, lost its hustle ultimately became a “ghost town.” Luckily for you, the town is still incredibly preserved and you can visit!
In the 1950s, all but 5 of the original buildings were restored to look as they did back in the 1880s, and along with its history and attractions, Calico Ghost Town is also home to shops and restaurants, and it offers camping, hiking and off-roading!
Image Credit: San Bernadino County
3. Bannack State Park - Montana
The Old West comes alive again at what is arguably Montana's most preserved ghost town! Bannack also happened to be the site of the state's first ever gold discovery back in 1862 (it was also Montana's first territorial capital)
Today this National Historic Landmark once saw it's population boom to over 3,000 in just over a year after gold was first struck, and the town grew to over 50 buildings. However, as like many ghost towns, as the gold dwindled so did the population.
Today, you can visit this incredibly well preserved ghost town but also enjoy re-enactments, a visitor center, historic displays and activities!
There are also camping opportunities too if you really want to make the most of the visit!
Image Credit: Montana Parks
4. St. Elmo Ghost Town - Colorado
It is said that St. Elmo's population rode the last train out of town and never came back!
St. Elmo was founded back in 1880, and in 1883, the Commercial Hotel was built. As gold and silver was discovered in the area it saw over 150 patented mine claims, building the population to over 2,000.
Known as Colorado's most original ghost town, the peak of St. Elmo's was in the 1890s with the town hosting five hotels, a telegraph office, a town hall, saloons and dancing halls.
Then, the mining industry declined, and so did the town. In 1922 the railroad was abandoned, and the postal service remained until 1952 when the postmaster passed away.
Whilst the town is now privately owned, visitors are welcome!
Image Credit: Colorado.com
5. Nevada City - Montana
Whilst you can visit isolated, quiet, and hard to reach ghost towns where you might be the only explorer there, you can also visit some super fun ghost towns that have been preserved and have become very family friendly - Nevada City is one of them!
Nevada City was one of those quiet, totally abandoned ghost towns until the Bovey family restored it between 1945 and 1978, turning it into a complete living history museum and now a famous tourist attraction.
When you visit, you'll see many of the original log buildings as well as an outstanding collection of old-time music boxes and player pianos.
You'll really find fun for the entire family during it's season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. On weekends you can enjoy live interpretation of historic events and experience life in the late 1800s!
Image Credit: Visit Montana
So whether you grab those hiking shoes and shuttle off with a map into the hills that once were teeming with gold, or you visit restored ghost towns where the family can enjoy shopping and dining among original historic structures, the USA has a host of ghost towns just waiting to be explored, so grab that map and that history book and let's get exploring!
I ain't afraid of no ghost (town)!