Cerro Gordo Ghost Town California

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town California

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town California: A Journey Through Time

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town, California, is a stunning, historic location in the Inyo Mountains high above Owens Valley. With a rich and storied past, this once-booming mining town now stands as a testament to the perseverance and determination of those who called it home.

Today, visitors can explore the remnants of this once-thriving community and learn about the fascinating history that shaped Cerro Gordo, California.

The Origins of Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo, which translates to “Fat Hill” in Spanish, earned its name due to the vast amount of silver, lead, and other metals found within its hills. The first significant silver discovery occurred in the late 1800s, when Pablos Flores stumbled upon a rich vein near Buena Vista Peak. As news spread, hundreds of miners flocked to the area, desperate to strike it rich.

The Impact of Mortimer Belshaw

Mortimer Belshaw, a mining engineer, was instrumental in establishing many of the smelters, shops, and businesses that sprouted up in the wake of the silver strike. He built the first real road up the mountain, known as the Yellow Road due to the rock’s color.

This winding path is still the primary route to access Cerro Gordo today, offering spectacular views of Owens Lake and the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Life in Cerro Gordo: A Wild and Lawless Town

Cerro Gordo was a bustling, dangerous community with around 500 people during its prime. In this lawless town, murder was a weekly occurrence, and miners slept on cots surrounded by sandbags to protect themselves from stray bullets.

Saloons, dance halls, and brothels, such as the infamous Lola’s Palace of Pleasure, were the main stages for gun battles and other violent incidents.

The American Hotel: A Tragic Loss

The American Hotel, built in 1871, was the heart and soul of Cerro Gordo. Tragically, the hotel was destroyed by a fire on June 15, 2020, exactly 149 years after it first opened.

The current owner of Cerro Gordo, Brent Underwood, is committed to rebuilding the hotel to modern standards, ensuring that future generations can experience this vital piece of California history.

The Mines of Cerro Gordo

The mines of Cerro Gordo were the town’s lifeblood, producing 4.5 million ounces of silver before declining precious-metal prices forced the closure of the mines. Today, curious visitors can explore old mine ore cars, safes, drilling equipment, and well-preserved air compressors that offer a fascinating glimpse into early mining machinery and techniques.

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Image Source: Unsplash

Exploring the Union Mine

One of the most intriguing sites in Cerro Gordo is the Union Mine, where a sizable air compressor can be found inside the mill building. For those with a keen interest in mining history, the Union Mine offers a unique opportunity to see firsthand the equipment and methods used by the miners of Cerro Gordo.

The Remaining Structures of Cerro Gordo

While many of the original structures have been lost to time and the elements, several key buildings still stand in Cerro Gordo today. These include the general store, the assayer’s office, and the Belshaw House, believed to be the oldest building in the town.

Throughout Cerro Gordo, mining relics and artifacts can be found, offering a tangible connection to the town’s storied past.

Lola’s Palace of Pleasure: A Glimpse into the Wild West

Lola’s Palace of Pleasure, Cerro Gordo’s infamous brothel, still reminds of the town’s wild and lawless reputation. Although it has seen better days, this once-lively establishment offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives and experiences of the miners who called Cerro Gordo home.

The Future of Cerro Gordo

Brent Underwood, the current owner of Cerro Gordo, is dedicated to preserving and restoring this unique piece of California history. With the support of the nonprofit Friends of Cerro Gordo and generous donations from the public, there are plans to rebuild the American Hotel and continue the restoration of other key structures in the town.

Visiting Cerro Gordo Ghost Town California

Cerro Gordo is privately owned, and the owner must obtain permission to access the property. The town can be reached via the Yellow Road, which traverses the steep and winding terrain of the Inyo Mountains. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, particularly during the winter months when snowfall can make the journey treacherous.

Explore Cerro Gordo’s YouTube Channel

For those interested in learning more about Cerro Gordo and its ongoing restoration efforts, Brent Underwood’s YouTube channel offers a wealth of information and updates on the town’s progress.


Cerro Gordo Ghost Town, California is a remarkable destination for those who appreciate the American West’s history, adventure, and rugged beauty. As restoration efforts continue, future generations will have the opportunity to experience this fascinating and storied location firsthand.

Whether you’re an avid historian or simply seeking a unique and unforgettable journey, visiting Cerro Gordo is an experience you won’t soon forget.

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