10 Best Ghost Town Destinations
Many towns named after gold rushes in America include California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, and Wyoming. These boomtowns were filled with miners looking for riches. They often used prostitutes to attract men into town. Churches sprang up to serve these new communities.
People moved into towns for many reasons. Sometimes they were looking for work; sometimes, they wanted to escape war or famine; and sometimes, they just wanted to live elsewhere. Often, however, no sooner would a town get settled than whatever bounty had appeared would be gone, or disaster (both natural and manufactured) would strike – and the town’s inhabitants would move out, often en masse.
Ghost towns are places that were built at a time when there wasn’t much around. They’re usually old buildings that sit empty today. There are many ghost towns scattered across America. Here are some of the coolest ones to explore.
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Cerro Gordo, California
Driving directions: From Los Angeles, take Highway 101 north until you reach San Bernardino. Take exit 134B toward Redlands/San Gorgonio Pass. At the top of the hill, turn right onto State Route 38 West. Drive about 3.5 miles past the intersection with County Road 905 North. Turn right into the campground entrance. The office is located near the back corner of the parking lot.
In 1866, miners discovered gold at Sutter Creek near Sacramento. By 1870, California was producing half of America’s gold output. That year alone, San Francisco had over 40,000 residents. At peak production, 5,000 men were working in the mines.
But the town’s wealth brought mayhem, with a supposed murder a week. Death was all around, including shootouts and a massive mine collapse that killed 30 Chinese immigrant miners. Then a fire wiped out most of the town in 1880. That’s a past few people wouldn’t want to embrace, but one Tik Tok influencer did just that. He bought the ghost town, which still had 22 buildings, and moved into it right before the pandemic hit.
According to local media reports, Underwood plans to revitalize downtown San Diego by converting hotels into luxury condos. He wants to bring new life to the city’s historic district, including the former American Hotel, which he hopes to convert into a boutique hotel.
Where to stay: There are several motels along US Highway 95 between Henderson and Boulder City.
Rhyolite was founded in 1876 near present-day Beatty, Nevada. Its location made it accessible to travelers heading west along US Route 40 through California and Utah. The town grew quickly until mining operations slowed down during World War I. After the war ended, miners left Rhyolite. Today, visitors enjoy hiking around the ruins, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery.
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About 100 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona, about 2 hours away by car
Jerome is a former gold rush boomtown located near Lake Tahoe in California. Jerome has been called the Wickedest Town in the West since its heyday in 1859. Today, Jerome continues to attract visitors looking for inspiration and creativity. Artists share space with the remnants of old buildings, including a jailhouse built during the Gold Rush era.
If you’re visiting the city during Halloween, there are plenty of spooky places to check out. One of the most incredible options is the Jerome Grand Hotel, which is used to house patients at nearby St. Mary’s Hospital. Nowadays, guests say they hear noises from rooms upstairs, see apparitions walking down hallways, and smell strange odors throughout the building.
Hamburgers have been around forever, but they were made by hand before being cooked in large vats of boiling oil.
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About 5 miles south of McCarthy, 90 miles north of the turnoff off the Richardson Highway.
In 1891, Kennicott was incorporated as a city named after George M. Kennan, founder of the Copper River Mining Company. Today, Kennicott remains within Wrangell–Saint Elias National Park & Preserve. Many of its original structures remain intact today, including the former schoolhouse, post office, fire station, railroad depot, water tower, and many homes.
Ma Johnson was born in 1881 near McCarthy, Minnesota. She grew up working at hotels around the country before opening her hotel in 1936. It has been preserved just like it would have looked during its heyday.
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St. Derion, Nebraska
Where to stay: The hotel offers free Wi-Fi access, and parking is available upon request. It is located just off Interstate 80 near downtown Omaha.
St. Derion has been long forgotten, but there are still plenty of stories about it being haunted. Many believe that the spirits of former residents wander the grounds at night. There are reports of strange noises from buildings and the feeling of someone watching you. Others say they’ve seen apparitions walking through rooms and hallways.
Tip: The location of St. Derion makes it a perfect addition to any trip to Indian Caves State Park.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Head north from Rapid City for approximately 40 miles
Take off your shoes and step into the Old West at the Historic Gold Rush Town of Deadwood, South Dakota. Once the site of legendary outlaws like “Wild Bill” Hickok and Calamity Jane, this former mining camp has been preserved as it looked over 150 years ago. From its original wooden buildings to the streets lined with Victorian homes, there’s plenty here to see and do.
Ferguson, South Carolina
Numerous ghost stories are associated with Deadwood, including those surrounding the famous saloons at the town center. One of these spooky places is the infamous Bullock Hotel, which was built during the gold rush era and now serves as the site of the hotel museum.
Another place of interest is the cemetery located just outside town, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. There are several reports of ghosts being seen there.
Tip: For more spooky stories, visit one of the hotels’ in-depth tours ($10), where they’ll tell you about their most haunted rooms.
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Ferguson, South Carolina
Where to stay: There are several campgrounds along US Hwy 70 between Greenville and Columbia.
Ferguson is located at the confluence of the Little Pee Dee River and the Santee River near Columbia. Because of its location next to Lake Marion, the water level fluctuates significantly throughout the year.
During low tide, visitors can walk over sandbars and explore the old foundations of buildings. At high tide, however, the waters rise too much for boats to navigate. To visit Ferguson, you’ll need to rent a canoe or take a tour. Tours generally last around 2 hours and cost $10 per adult and $5 per child. Boats run hourly during daylight hours; call ahead to confirm times.
Camping at Taylor’s Landing State Park means sleeping in a real bed instead of a hammock. There are no hookups here; bring water, food, and toiletries. Bring bug spray, too – mosquitoes love this place during August.
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Thurmond, West Virginia
How To Get There: Part Of The New River Gorge National Park, Highway Access Is From Route 19 Between Beckley And Hico
In 1875, the C&O Railway began running passenger service through Thurmond, West Virginia. By 1880, there were over 30 hotels, restaurants, saloons, banks, groceries, drugstores, doctors’ offices, and churches. There was even a newspaper called the Daily Times.
These businesses thrived until the early 1900s, when the economy crashed, followed by several devastating firestorms. Today, Thurmond has been restored to its original glory thanks to preservationists working hard to preserve the history of this once-thriving community.
Visit the Beury Mansion State Historic Site nearby, where you’ll find the remains of the Beury General Store and learn how coal mining baron Joe Beury lived like royalty.
Tip: You can take advantage of whitewater rafting trips near you by going to Adventures on the Gorge.
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How to get there: 50 miles East of Ely on US Highway Hwy 50; four hours from Reno
Like its neighboring town, Victorville, California, Belmont was founded during the gold rush era. Unlike nearby Victorville, however, Belmont had been established long before discovering precious metals. After settling in 1849, Belmont saw little activity until the late 1860s, when prospectors discovered rich deposits of silver near the present-day city limits.
Mining boomed over the next twenty years, but Belmont did not last forever like many mining communities. By 1900, the population had fallen to just 463 residents. Today, only a few buildings remain standing from those early days.
If you’re looking for a place to stay during your trip to New York City, check into the Hotel Belleclaire. Located just outside Central Park, this hotel has been around since 1892 — but don’t expect any modern amenities like Wi-Fi or TVs. Still, there’s plenty to do at this historic property. From horseback riding lessons to guided tours, the staff at Hotel Belleclaire offers everything you need before heading off to explore NYC.
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Population: 0 (However, park rangers reside here when on duty)
Head south on Highway 89/89A through South Lake Tahoe toward Stateline, Nevada. Then take US Hwy 50 east across the state line into Emerald Bay. Continue 5 miles until you reach the trailhead parking lot at the end of the road.
Bodie State Historic Park is located near Bridgeport, California, just outside Yosemite National Park. Originally founded during the Gold Rush Era, the town has been preserved as a historical monument. Today, visitors can tour over 200 structures and visit the cemetery of the original miners.