7 Must-See Wild West Ghost Towns in the USA


The term “ghost town” has an ominous tone, but most of the ghost towns in the United States used to be mining towns that boomed quickly then died out when the mines dried up and the townspeople left in search of better luck elsewhere.The dilapidated buildings and ruins of these towns serve as a living history of wild west living in the late 1800s and early 1900s. You can watch all the Western movies you want, but if you truly want to know what life was like in the wild west, you need to see these ghost towns for yourself.

7 Must-See Wild West Ghost Towns in the USA:

1. Bodie, California
Located about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe lies the ghost town of Bodie, California. This gold mining town boomed from late 1877 to 1880 with a population of 5,000 to 7,000 and around 2,000 buildings, including 65 saloons along Main Street, but as the mine declined, miners sought work and wealth elsewhere and moved on to other boomtowns. Bodie is now registered as both a California Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, and the town officially became a state park in 1962. It receives about 200,000 yearly visitors.

2. Calico, California
The town of Calico (in present day San Bernardino County, California) was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town after four prospectors discovered silver in the mountains and opened the Silver King Mine, California’s largest silver producer in the 1880s. The town boomed quickly thereafter, but declined with the passing of the Silver Purchase Act, which drove down the price of silver. Today the town of Calico is a County Regional Park that has been restored to look the way it did during the silver rush. It’s a popular tourist site, and the park operates mine tours, gunfight stunt shows, gold panning, and several restaurants.


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3. Elkhorn, Montana
This silver town in Jefferson County, Montana, also boomed in the 1880s, with the Elkhorn mine producing more than $14 million in silver. Once at a dance in the Fraternity Hall (pictured below) two men got into a fight over what kind of music the band should play. The story goes that the square dancer shot the waltzer dead, and then was hanged for it. Elkhorn is now a Montana State Park.

4. Goldfield, Arizona
Back in the 1890s Goldfield was a booming town with three saloons, a boarding house, general store, brewery, school house, meat market, and blacksmith shop, but when the gold ran out, the people moved on. This town is now a tourist attraction in Apache Junction, AZ. Visitors can check out some of its restored buildings, take an underground mine tour, or take a 20-minute train round around the town.

5. Kennecott, Alaska
In the early 1900s Kennecott, Alaska, was a booming copper mining town that supported miners from five different mines. In 1916, the mines produced copper ore that was valued at a whopping $32.4 million, but by the early 1930s, the highest grades of ore were largely depleted. Kennecott, Alaska, is now preserved inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Both the camp and the mines are now a National Historic Landmark District.

6. Rhyolite, Nevada
This mining camp turned into a town in early 1905, and Industrialist Charles M. Schwab bought the Montgomery Shoshone Mine in 1906, investing in railroad transportation and infrastructure for the town. The town’s boom didn’t last long. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made investors nervous. Then shortly thereafter an independent study found the mine overvalued, and the company’s stock crashed. The population fell from an estimated 5,000 in 1907-08 to below 1,000 in 1911. By 1920, the population was nearly zero.

7. St. Elmo, Colorado
This ghost town in Chaffee County, Colorado, was once home to 2,000 people who settled there for silver and gold mining in the 1890s. Most people worked the Mary Murphy Mine, which recovered, $60 million in gold while in operation. Even though St. Elmo is considered a ghost town, a few people still live there, welcoming tourists and fishermen who come to fish the Chalk Creek. The general store is still open during the summer and many of the buildings are still intact.