The Best Ghost Towns In The Western U.S.

July 2, 2015 6:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Visiting one of the few ghost towns in the western region of the United States may be one of the most unique and educational experiences you have. You will see remnants of old buildings, hike to mines and discover what may have caused these once thriving towns to become abandoned. However, because these small, former mining towns are now abandoned, you will have to find a place to stay and eat in neighboring towns.
Skidoo, CA

Skidoo, California is located in a barren patch of desert in the Death Valley area. There you will find abandoned mine shafts and a landscape that is peppered with broken bottles. So why is this small mining town so desolate now? It all dates back to when an angry lynch mob hung and buried local saloon keeper, Joe “Hooch” Simpson. It was believed Simpson had killed the town banker back in 1908. The body of Simpson was dug back up for a photo opportunity for a Los Angeles Times reporter and then his head was cut off by a local doctor who wanted to test Simpson’s head for syphilis. It is believed that Simpson’s hanging was the beginning of the end for this small town and it is believed that his headless body continues to haunt Skidoo today.

There is not much to see in Skidoo, but you will want to stop for a moment and get a look at the Skidoo Pipeline before passing through to the next town.

There are no places to stay in the immediate area near Skidoo, so the closest accommodations are at the Furnace Creek Inn, Stovepipe Wells Village HotelThe Ranch at Furnace Creek and Panamint Springs. Dining is available at all of these hotels, including the Forty-Niner Café, Wrangler Steakhouse and Buffet, Badwater Saloon and the Toll Road Restaurant.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Rhyolite, NV

Rhyolite, Nevada is a small town near Death Valley National Park that was established in 1905 and named for its silica-rich volcanic rock. Back in the day it had a school, a hospital and a stock exchange. There were more than 2000 claims that covered a 30-mile area from the Bullfrog District, including the Montgomery Shoshone mine. It was definitely a bustling society, until 1907 when the financial panic took its toll on Rhyolite residents. This was just the beginning of the end for this small town. The directors of the Montgomery Shoshone mine and mill voted to close it and in 1916 all lights and power to the town were finally turned off.

Today you will see many remnants of this town, including walls of the three-story bank building and part of the old jail. If you plan on visiting Rhyolite and the Death Valley National Park, you probably will want to stay in Beatty, Nevada. This small town will keep you close to the town of Rhyolite and is often referred to as the Gateway to Death Valley.

In Beatty you will find accommodations ranging from bed and breakfasts to RV parks and casino hotels to quaint inns. Some of the best places to stay when visiting the area include:

Points of interest in the Beatty, Rhyolite and Death Valley areas include:

When it comes to dining in the area, chances are you are not going to find a five-star, fine dining establishment. However, the locals are more than happy to have you come in for a bite to eat before heading off into Death Valley. Just be prepared to pay with cash, because many of these establishments have a cash only policy. Popular places to dine in the area include:

Vulture Mine City, AZ

Vulture Mine City, Arizona is no stranger to the violence these early mining towns experienced. The small mining town was established in 1863 and by the end of the 1870s, 18 miners had been hung. Despite the violence, the Vulture Mine was one of the most productive gold mines in the history of Arizona, producing more than 200 million dollars of gold. The mine was shut down in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. Many of the residents who left believed they would return within six months, however, they never did and the mine never reopened.

Today, there is not much to see and do in Vulture Mine City, however, there are still some sights worth seeing in the area. The town of Wickenburg is approximately 15 miles from Vulture Mine City and offers plenty of things to do, places to eat and stay while visiting the area.

Accommodations within a 15 mile radius of Vulture Mine City include:

Restaurants in Wickenburg include:

Things to do near Vulture Mine City include taking a historic walking tour of Wickenburg, panning for gold, visiting the Hassayampa River Preserve and hiking up Vulture Peak. Do not forget to stop at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum for an inside look into the area’s history.

Related: Outdoorsman’s Guide to Arizona’s Lake Havasu

St. Elmo, CO

Located in central Colorado, the small mining town of St. Elmo has the reputation of being the most well-preserved ghost town in the state. Those visiting St. Elmo will get a close look at what life was like back in the day when these mining towns were scattered across the western United States.

St. Elmo was originally settled in 1878, and the amount of gold and silver found in this area attracted many people. Even under a blanket of snow, this small mining town was bustling as more and more miners found their way to the area. In 1910, numerous mines started to fail and the Alpine Tunnel was closed. Many of the miners moved away in search of new gold strikes, and the town eventually failed.

When visiting St. Elmo, Colorado, you have to make sure you take your time to explore the area, but you do not want to miss out on seeing the St. Elmo Schoolhouse and Tincup Pass.

There are several places to stay, most within a five mile radius of St. Elmo. Top places to stay in the area include:

There are not a lot of places to grab a bite to eat, but some of the popular places nearby in Buena Vista to dine at include Eddyline Restaurant, Brewery & Taphouse, Pancho’s and Quincy’s.

Related: Top National Parks and Monuments in Colorado

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jerome, AZ

The former mining town of Jerome, Arizona is a popular tourist destination welcoming more than 250,000 tourists a year. It was believed that the town’s mercantile was built over an old padre’s grave and that is what townsfolk believed fueled a lot of the violence in the area. Over time mines started closing up and townsfolk moved on to find their next place to call home. Jerome, which was once the wickedest town in the west, was abandoned in 1941, but still thrives as a tourist destination and home to a little more than 400 residents.

Being a popular tourist destination, Jerome is home to a few quaint and small hotels and bed and breakfasts. Area hotels include:

Popular dining establishments in Jerome include the Mile High Inn & Grill, Asylum Restaurant, Vaqueros Grill and Cantina, Flat Iron Café and The Haunted Hamburger.

Things you must see while visiting Jerome include the Douglas Mansion State Park, Gold King Mine and Ghost Town and the Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum.

There are many different places to see in the Old West, including some ghost towns scattered throughout the Death Valley area. You will see just why so many others plan their vacations to go and explore these ghost towns and get a glimpse of the history in this region.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.

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