America’s coolest ghost towns with everything from curses to underground fires

During the Gold Rush in the 1800s, there were heaps of towns thriving across the USA as new residents flocked to the areas to try and make their fortune.

However, when the initial excitement wore off, the towns were abandoned as quickly as they were built.

Today you can find plenty of these ‘ghost towns’ dotted throughout the USA – and they’re often firm favourites with visitors.

We’re talking Old West style towns with original buildings, quirky locations and heaps of fascinating history.

Oh and yes – some of these ghost towns do claim to be haunted too (one is even believed to be cursed).

We take a look at 12 of the USA’s coolest ghost towns to bookmark for future adventures…

1. Calico, California

Calico Ghost Town
Calico Ghost Town

Once a thriving mining town with over 500 silver mines, nowadays Calico doesn’t have many residents, although it does still get lots of visitors.

That’s because the ghost town has been transformed into a museum where you can visit the Old West style buildings (including a school), not to mention some of the mines themselves are open for tours.

Thanks to the preservation of its buildings, it’s also been named a Historical Landmark.

2. Kennecott, Alaska

Abandoned factories of the historical Kennecott Copper Mine
Abandoned factories of the historical Kennecott Copper Mine

A thriving copper mining camp, Kennecott was swiftly abandoned in the 1930s once the nearby ore was depleted.

Nowadays it’s a popular tourist destination, and the National Park Service is working to restore the mill and buildings.

You can’t wander around on your own due because of the decrepit buildings, but there are guided tours on offer (the guides know the safest routes as well as the buildings which are safe to enter).

3. Terlingua, Texas

The old company-town movie theater in the ghost town of Terlingua
The old company-town movie theater in the ghost town

Once the setting for the successful Chisos quicksilver-mining company, when the company filed for bankruptcy in the 1940s, Terlingua went from a booming hotspot to a nearly-deserted ghost town.

Nowadays it’s not fully abandoned, and still offers a gift shop, quirky accommodation options, restaurants and bars.

There are also old-town buildings which continue to stand tall, such as the local cinema.

Oh, and foodies may want to bookmark it for the world-famous ‘chili cook off’ championship which historically draws thousands of visitors to the ghost town.

4. Bodie, California


In its heyday, this was a gold mining town boasted 10,000 residents, and was infamously hailed as a hub of depravity.

For the last 70 years Bodie has been abandoned, although its 200 homes and buildings have been left exactly as they were when residents moved on – and it can be pretty eerie.

There have also been reports of ghosts including a woman knitting in one of the abandoned houses, as well as ominous sounds from the nearby abandoned mine.

Oh, and don’t pick up a souvenir; legend has it that any visitor who takes anything from the ghost town – even a rock – will become cursed.

5. Rhyolite, Nevada

Ruined Bank building in the deserted ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty and Death Valley.
Ruined Bank building in the deserted ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty and Death Valley.

Tucked away in Nevada’s Death Valley, in the 1900s Rhyolite was booming as thousands flocked to the area during the Gold Rush.

It flourished with businesses, homes and schools – but as the Gold Rush passed, the town quickly deteriorated.

Nowadays it’s a series of crumbling buildings and ruins, with some properties still standing tall such as the bank and the train station.

The town is located on Nevada’s Death Drive, so it’s popular with road trippers who want to stretch their legs and explore the derelict spot.

6. Shaniko, Oregon

An old truck in Shaniko
An old truck in Shaniko

If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Old West, then Shaniko needs to be on your radar.

Once hailed as the ‘Wool Capital of the World’, nowadays it’s nearly deserted, but a number of its iconic buildings still stand tall including the City Hall with its jail, a school and a post office, as well as the Shaniko Hotel.

The town itself is a tourist attraction so there are a few fake facades, but the remains and old time buildings are very much real.

7. Thurmond, West Virginia

Scenes within the ghost town of Thurmond, West Virginia, a National Park Historical Site.
Thurmond, West Virginia

At the start of the 1900s, Thurmond was booming.

Its trains and location by the coal mines saw it boasting heaps of wealth. Shops and saloons were always busy, hotels were always filled.

However, as demand for coal depleted, the town’s residents began to move on to pastures new – and eventually, it became an abandoned town.

It’s remained relatively untouched since then, although it underwent some restoration when it became a National Park Historical Site.

Nowadays you can visit the town and take tours to learn all about its fascinating history.

8. St Elmo, Colorado

St Elmo, Colorado, United States, North America
St Elmo, Colorado, United States, North America

St Elmo had around 2,000 residents in the 1880s when it was a popular spot for mining gold and silver.

It’s hailed as one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns, although there are still a handful of residents who call the area home.

A lot of its original buildings are still standing, and there are restoration efforts ongoing for some of its bigger buildings such as the Town Hall.

9. Goldfield, Arizona

Isolated Mine Cart with Red Paint Danger Trestle Sign on Old Rusted Rail Tracks next to Saguaro Cactus in Arizona Desert near Phoenix
An isolated mine cart in the Arizona desert

Back in the 1890s, the mining town of Goldfield had saloons, a boarding house, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market and a school.

However, as the ore depleted, slowly it started to become a ghost town with residents moving on to new adventures.

Nowadays it’s a historic spot and a tourist attraction.

You can take tours of the mines, or go on walking tours to learn about the ghosts said to haunt the region. (Those really after a thrill can even have a go on the zip line).

10. South Pass City, Wyoming

South Pass City State Historic Park, Wyoming, United States, North America
South Pass City State Historic Park, Wyoming, United States, North America

At its peak, South Pass City was home to nearly 3,000 residents, from the miners and journalists swept up in the Gold Rush.

However, as the opportunities dried up and people began to look elsewhere to make their fortune, it quickly became a nearly-deserted town.

Nowadays, you can step back in time and explore the mining town.

South Pass City offers tours of the pits and shafts in the Carissa Mine where the miners once worked, as well as some of the tunnels.

There are plenty of walking trails in the area so you can really soak up the history.

11. Centralia, Pennsylvania

Smoke rises from a large crack in PA Highway 61 in Centralia
Smoke rises from a large crack in PA Highway 61 in Centralia

A coal mine fire in the 1960s transformed Centralia from a bustling town into a nearly deserted area.

Smoke used to show through the cracks formed along the nearby highway. Although these sightings are rare nowadays, the underground fire continues to burn nearly 60 years later.

Centralia isn’t a tourist destination – some parts can be dangerous to visit due to the toxic substances and parts of the roads which can cave in.

12. Fairbank, Arizona

Old rustic cabin at ghost town of Fairbank
Old rustic cabin at ghost town of Fairbank

Fairbank was once the nearest rail stop to the city of Tombstone, meaning it was in a prime location for both tourists and mining companies who needed to ship their cargo around the country.

However when the nearby mines shut, the town slowly lost its appeal.

Nowadays, it’s owned by the Bureau of Land Management and has been opened to the public as a museum.

There are some fascinating buildings still standing, for example one property which was home to the general store, post office and saloon.

Other highlights include a hotel from the 1880s, a schoolhouse dating to the 1920s, a stable, a railroad bridge and a railroad platform.

      • During the pandemic, travel restrictions are in place, including between the UK and USA. You can find out more in the latest FCDO USA travel advice.

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