Where Are the Real Ghost Towns of the West?

August 18, 2014 | By | Comments (17)

Recently, while deep down some Internet-research rabbit hole, I stumbled upon mention of a place called Goffs, California. No doubt most people would think nothing of that, but since my last name is Goff, I was instantly intrigued and decided to take a Googling detour. Turns out, this little town of Goffs is an abandoned mining and railroad town in San Bernardino County, at the high point of the Mojave desert. It used to be a common stop along Route 66 until the 1930s when the highway was rerouted to bypass Goffs for a more direct path between the larger nearby towns of Needles and Amboy. Today, it’s little more than an old schoolhouse-turned-museum. Even I, as a Goff, couldn’t find much bait to visit.

But it got me thinking about all the other “ghost towns” of the West—and which are worthy of a road trip. When I was 10, my family took a day trip from our Grand Canyon vacation to visit Goldfield Ghost Town in Arizona. Admittedly, I was enamored with the history of this place as a kid, but looking back this “ghost town” was a bit of a farce: a Disney-like restoration of an Old West town, rebuilt for tourism dollars. I still have the old-timey photo of my siblings and me dressed as cowboys and saloon harlots to prove it. (By the way, Mom, what was that about?)

So, I ask you, Westphorians, where are the truly authentic ghost towns of the West—complete with haunted brothels, abandoned cemeteries, and spotty cell phone service? Surely there must still be some vestiges of our Wild West past that are mostly untouched by modern commercialism and still have something interesting to see. Please share your favorites in the comments!

COMMENTS

  1. Bill Hobbs

    Cuervo, New Mexico. It’s right beside I-40 a couple hours east of Albuquerque. http://billhobbs.com/ghost-town/

    August 19, 2014 at 9:49 am
  2. Gina Marie Goff

    Wow, thanks for all the great suggestions! Sounds like I have a lot of roadtripping in my near future!

    August 19, 2014 at 9:27 am
  3. Judy Heatwole

    Kent, Oregon, is the town where I went to grade school but is nearly abandoned now with burned out school and empty and falling down buildings. Yet it once had stores, a box factory and a newspaper. I have some recent photos to share.

    August 19, 2014 at 5:57 am
  4. Ge9 Weal

    Bodie, CA and a guy who looks like ‘Stinky Pete’ from Toy Story will be there to greet you. I believe he lives there.

    August 19, 2014 at 5:32 am
  5. C. Collins

    Ludlow, Colorado is a true ghost town.

    August 19, 2014 at 12:58 am
  6. JBannis

    Ah, Locke, CA — the only town in the United States built by the Chinese for the Chinese. The photos at http://www.locketown.com do not include deserted old buildings in a preserved part of Locke.

    August 19, 2014 at 12:09 am
  7. Cat Connor
    August 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm
  8. Cat Connor
    August 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm
  9. earthgir

    A ghost town with a town sits near the center of Las Vegas: Kiel Ranch. Once a 240-acre homestead turned dude ranch, the remaining 7-acre Kiel Ranch site holds one of the two oldest buildings still standing in Nevada. Local natives helped erect the Adobe in 1856. Learn more about this little-known piece of Las Vegas history at http://earthgirlswildwest.com.

    August 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm
  10. Candi Durusu

    Silver City, Idaho. It has a great collection of buildings which are kept in good shape by the inheritors of the land. Anyone who wants to understand the boom and bust of resource driven economies should visit a Western ghost town. Probably not that different from those found in oil driven towns in Africa or mineral driven towns in South America.

    August 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm
  11. Dale Danell

    Bannack, MT comes to my mind first, when I think of ghost towns with a storied past.

    August 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm
  12. Debbie V.

    I went to Bodie (way off the highway) when I was a teenager in the late 1960’s. It was pretty interesting as a lot of things were just left as-is. I’ve still got the pictures.

    August 18, 2014 at 4:03 pm
  13. Audrey

    When I was a kid we would always go to Bodie near Mono Lake. One of the best preserved ghost towns!

    August 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm
  14. Linda Graham

    I agree with Julie: Bodie is the ultimate ghost town as far as things to see. It is being kept in a state of “arrested decay.”

    August 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm
  15. Lara W

    If there is anyone who would know it would be this guy: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ghost-Towns-of-Washington/135388916507502

    August 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm
  16. Julie Cason

    Chloride, New Mexico is totally worth the slow but beautiful drive up the mountain. And of course, Bodie State Historic Park is THE ultimate ghost town. So much fun to look in the windows and see all the original things, like the map and globe in the schoolroom, the pool table in the bar, the typewriter in the hotel lobby, etc.

    August 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm
  17. MaitoMike

    We have quite a few ghost towns up here in British Columbia. If you did a quick Google search, you are bound to find several results. If you fancy an adventure, perhaps North is where you should drive next. ;)

    A good place to start is Butedale although you will require a boat to get there.

    August 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

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