Abandoned towns, or ghost towns as they’re often referred to, are not a rare thing in the United States. According to GPS fleet management company Geotab, which has mapped the ghost towns in the US, there are more than 3,800 of them across the country. The largest number are in the American West, where boom towns popped up in the 1800s in areas where natural resources like oil and gold were found. But now, there are little to no people in these towns and the buildings have been abandoned. If you go on a road trip through states like Texas, California, Colorado, or Kansas, you are likely to see a fair number of ghost towns. We’ve rounded up some towns that were once thriving and are now mostly abandoned. If you’re in the area of one of these, it’s worth your while to stop and perhaps be a bit creeped out.
1. Rhyolite, Nevada
This former Gold Rush town sits 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas on the edge of Death Valley and was only occupied for about 12 years in the early 1900s. After the town’s demise, Rhyolite was used to film movies in the 1920s and beyond. Now there are some buildings still standing, and you can also find art installations.
2. St. Elmo, Colorado
This former gold mining camp had more than 2,000 inhabitants after it was founded in the Sawatch Range of Colorado in 1880. Located about 3 hours southwest of Denver, St. Elmo is now a well-preserved ghost town. It was occupied until about 1920 after the mines dried up and a fire destroyed a portion of the town. After that only about 7 people were still living there, including a family running a general store and hotel (that is supposedly haunted).
3. Bodie, California
You can find Bodie just to the east of Yosemite National Park close to the Nevada border. The town has been preserved in a state of “arrested decay” by the California State Parks Department as the Bodie State Historic Park. Bodie has existed since about 1861 after gold was discovered and 20 years later had 10,000 people. But by the end of 1880 Bodie was in decline after the gold began to run out and people left for other boomtowns. Today you can go on a tour of the mill and see the buildings that are still standing.
4. Bannack, Montana
This ghost town sits in southwestern Montana, just off of Interstate 15 south of Butte. Like many of the other places on this list, Bannack was founded when gold was discovered and miners showed up in droves in 1848. Sixteen years later there were about 10,000 people living here, but the town had also gained a reputation for lawlessness and the gold had dried up. Bannack became a ghost town after most of the people in town had moved out in the 1940s. Today you can explore the more than 60 structures that remain standing in what is now Bannack State Park.
5. Kennecott, Alaska
Yes, there are even ghost towns amid the stunning scenery of Alaska. Kennecott (sometimes called Kennicott) is the site of an abandoned copper mining camp that popped up in 1903. However, the drying up of resources and low prices caused most of the residents to move out by 1938. It is now a National Historic Landmark and major tourist attraction in Alaska, with many of the buildings like the old mill being preserved.
6. Goldfield, Arizona
Goldfield became a boomtown in the 1890s when gold was discovered but went bust within 5 years. This ghost town has been turned into a tourist attraction, and is perhaps the least isolated on this list, sitting on the edge of Phoenix. You can see gunfights, go on mine tours, and ride a historic train.
7. Calico, California
Located just outside of Barstow, California on the way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, this former silver mining camp is the place to go for ghost tours and to see mines. There were once around 500 mines in the area around Calico after the town was established in 1881. But like many other ghost towns, within 15 years the silver ore was gone and so were the people. As part of the San Bernardino County Parks system, many of the town’s buildings have been preserved and there are even shops, restaurants, and places for camping.
8. Grafton, Utah
Are you headed to or from Zion National Park on Highway 9? Then you can make a quick detour south to Grafton, a ghost town with well-preserved buildings and even a cemetery to tour. People moved here in the 1850s not to work in mines, but to farm, and the last residents left in the 1940s. There are only 5 large buildings remaining but the town is easily accessible just southwest of Zion National Park.