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Ghost Towns of the Lone Pine Area

083 Lisa Allsup

The townsite, closed to collectors for nearly two decades, is also the perfect locale for rock and mineral collectors. The site features several hundred thousand tons of dump materials from the main mine workings. Cerro Gordo is world renown for: Anglesite, anhydrite, argentite, atacamite, aurichalcite, azurite, barite, bindheimite, bouronite, calcite, caledonite, cermrgyrite, cerussite, ceruantite, chrysocolla, dufrenoysite, fluorite, galena, geothite, greenockite, hemimorphite, hollosite, hydrozincite, jamesonite, leadhillite, limonite, linerite, liroconite, malachite, mimerite, plumbgumite, pyrite, quartz, silver, smithsonite, sphalerite, stibnite, stromeyerite, tetrahedrite, tetrajymite, wilemite and wulfenite.

The famous old Cerro Gordo Ghost Townsite is now available by Reservation! You and your group can now enjoy the 1868 Townsite; including the 1871 American Hotel, the fully restored 1904 Bunkhouse (accommodates up to 14), the Belshaw House (accommodates up to 5). You and your group will enjoy colorful history and artifacts in Beaudry’s General Store (now a museum complete with viewing deck.), an assay office, the 1877 Hoist Works, and numerous other remaining structures. For further information, rates and a customized itinerary, please call: (760) 876-1860 or 1-888-Ghost-88. Or write: Cerro Gordo Tours, P.O. Box 221 Keeler, CA 93530

Keeler Keeler, a town with a population of 300 in the early 1870’s, was home to miners most of whom lived in tents, caves, rock wall wind breakers and a few in cabins. In 1883 the Carson and Colorado Railroad was built from Belleville, Nevada, across the White Mountains to Benton and down into the Owens Valley where the rail line ended in the town of Keeler. With the coming of the railroad, large marble quarries were opened near Keeler, producing a material which tests proved to be stronger in crushing resistance than any other known. Ultimately the material was used for finishing the Mils Building in San Francisco and the floor at the Los Angeles Airport.

The arrival of the rail line and stagecoach in Keeler was a great event. Passengers came in on the evening train twice a week to take the stage o the following day to Mojave. Passengers spent the layover at the Lake View hotel, later the name changed to the Hotel Keeler. The hotel burned down on March 19, 1928.

Swansea There is not much left of the once booming town of Swansea which boasted a population of 2.200 inhabitants and two smelters. The tumbled-down rock building in Swansea was once a stagecoach stop. The ruins of the smelters which reduced the ore from the Cerro Gordo mine can be seen on the north shore of the now dry Owens Lake, near Swansea. Also remaining are the remnants of a 1200′ wharf built from low-grade slag from the smelters.

Darwin Darwin was founded in 1874 and in 1877 the population was 45,000 about the same as Los Angeles in that same year. There were 20 saloons on the main street and all disputes were handled by the “Constable”, Mr. Colt. An interesting piece of history has to do with an infamous California outlaw known as Three-fingered Jack, who was killed in Darwin. The town was burned out by fire on three separate occasions. Only one of the original buildings still stands today.

Tramway West of Swansea are the ruins of the ghost town of Tramway, once a terminal of the Southern Pacific Railroad. On the mountain ridge above, you can see the skeleton of a tram completed in 1912. This cable and bucket tram once carried 25-30 tons of salt per day, up 7,000 feet from Saline Valley to the crest of the Inyo’s, then down 5,000 feet to Tramway.

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lone pine california ghost town

Visiting Cerro Gordo Ghost Town in the Inyo Mountains in California

Table of Contents

The Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is one of the best-preserved ghost towns I ever visited. I have been to other so-called “ghost towns” but they were more like a tourist trap. Cerro Gordo which means “fat hill” in Spanish was a bustling silver mine. The mine was established in 1867 and was the first major silver strike in Owens Valley.

Today the town is privately owned by a group of investors but still open for tourists. Ultimately the owners plan to transform the ghost town into a retreat center for conferences, workshop events, and film shoots.

Cerro Gordo is located 200 miles north of Los Angeles and 200 miles west of Las Vegas. The closest town, Lone Pine, is about 22 miles away. In Lone Pine, you can find hotels, restaurants, and stores if you are in need of these on your journey. From Lone Pine, you will travel east on State Route 136 until you meet the turn off to Cerro Gordo St in Keeler. The town sits in the Inyo Mountains near Death Valley National Park.

The drive from the intersection of Cerro Gordo Road and CA-136 to the ghost town is just under 8 miles. Cerro Gordo Road is a County-maintained dirt/gravel road. A 4WD-vehicle is recommended for the drive up to Cerro Gordo. In reality, you can do it in a 2WD car, but you should have some ground clearance.

On your way up to Cerro Gordo, you will gain over 4300 ft (1310 m) in elevation. The town is located at an elevation of approximately 8000 ft (2440 m) above sea level. You could suffer slight altitude sickness, so be aware.

Drive slowly ad the gravel here has some sharp edges and can damage your tires, which is the last thing you want to experience on your trip. Also, keep an eye on your transmission temperature. On your way down you should put your transmission into a low gear. That way the engine will assist you in breaking on your way down. This will save your brakes from high wear. It will take you about 30 minutes to get up or down.

The road starts out wide and flat but you will pass some very narrow spots and also drive very close to the side of the hill. There is two-way traffic on the road, be prepared to stop. There are plenty of turnouts to let opposite traffic pass. Here some photos from the drive to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town.

lone pine california ghost town

Once at the ghost town, park around the church or at the turnout just before that. Don’t park on the road as it is a public road and there are people traveling through here. Once there, make sure you check in with the caretaker. There is usually always a caretaker on site. Just look around. He lives in the first house you see on your right while driving into the town.

There is a fee to tour the ghost town. It’s private property and you have to pay the fee either for a self-guided tour or a tour given by the caretaker.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Tour

I recommend you make reservations in advance. As I just found out about the place as I was in the area, I tried my luck and drove up there and encountered the caretaker checking in another group just before me. They only accept cash when you pay on location. Advanced reservations can be made on the homepage of the Ghost Town . However, the website shows a price of $15 at the checkout page , but $10 on the regular homepage . I got charged $10 which I paid cash on site.

The Cerro Gordo Mining Town website shows that the guided tours take place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Jonathan, the part-time caretaker giving my tour, told me that you can just come up and they are welcome to accommodate you.

Opening Hours

The town is open to be visited all year long. Remember that there is no snow removal in the winter. Hours are during the daytime and are as follows.

Standard Time

Monday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Daylight Savings Time

Monday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

You want to make sure, you get off the mountain before it gets dark. It’s just for safety.

Guided Tour

I joined a guided tour by the part-time caretaker Jonathan. He was very knowledgeable about the history of the town and all the artifacts around the place. He guided us through most of the different buildings in the ghost town. He told us about what buildings got upgraded from its original state. Some of them needed to have some work done for safety reasons. If you look closely you will find some satellite dishes up here on some of the buildings. Also, the large cell tower on the hill next door is a little bit disruptive in photos.

During the tour, you get to know all the facts about the mine past and current. Our guide, Jonathan was very knowledgeable and gave us in-depth information about how the mine was first founded, operated, and so on.

You won’t be able to get into the mine shafts themselves. There are 25 miles of tunnels in the mountain and many of them are unsafe, including the entry to the tunnel system. I got told, that you can request a special tour to get to the entrance and up to the tower, but you won’t be allowed inside the mines for safety reasons.

The old store got transformed into an exhibit hall for all kinds of artifacts from the mine’s time period. Our tour guide explained some of the objects found there, which I would have never guessed what they were supposed to be. Jonathan showed us how the silver came out of the mountain and in what it was transformed before it got loaded on a mule train heading down the mountain. You can buy Cerro Gordo Ingots in the old store as a souvenir or on their website .

lone pine california ghost town

In case you are a geocacher, there is a nice cache up at the ghost town. Easy to find, but wait until the muggles pass. Probably after the tour or in between. There are multiple other caches on the way up, might worth checking out as well.

Cerro Gordo (Fat HILL) Ghost Town

Photo Gallery

Below you find a gallery with all my pictures of Cerro Gordo Ghost Town. You can click the “Load more photos” button at the bottom of the gallery or just click on the album name to open Flickr.

lone pine california ghost town

Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.

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Cerro Gordo Mines

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California , Death Valley , Historic , Mojave Desert , Places , Railroads , Road Trips Easy , Season: Fall , Season: Spring , Season: Winter

Ghost Town Trail Near Lone Pine

In the Owen’s Valley, about a two hour drive north of Los Angeles near the town of Lone Pine, is a string of “almost” ghost towns that are fun to visit and explore.   You’ll also get to experience the views and vastness of Owens (Dry) Lake, the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains – each can take your breath away.  You can spend anywhere from a half to an entire day taking this trip.  It all depends on how much time you spend looking around each site. 

Attractions

  • Long scenic views
  • Many historic sites
  • Desert “artifacts”
  • Ghost towns
  • Most of trip is on pavement
  • Side trip to Cerro Gordo requires 4WD
  • Make sure to purchase fuel in Lone Pine
  • Remote areas – cell phones will not work

How to find these places

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Only a hundred years ago, this area was much different.  The Owens Lake wasn’t dry and was more like a large inland sea than a lake.  This lake, along with the mining and agriculture that was going on then, supported a much larger population.  Over time, the City of Los Angeles gulped the lake dry and the mines have played out. 

Today, only a few people still live in these towns which are what keeps them from becoming true “ghost towns”.  Wind and time have left little evidence of those more prosperous times of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.

Interagency Visitor Center

Our trip starts one mile south of Lone Pine at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center located at the junction of Highways 395 and 136.  If you haven’t stopped here before, you should.  The center offers a wealth of information along with several well done interpretive displays that cover area subjects such as the L.A. Aqueduct and the topography of the Sierras.

At the visitor center, reset your odometer, then head east on Hwy 136.  You are now headed straight towards the mighty Inyo Mountains and the wide open expanse of Owens Lake on the right.  Before leaving, make sure you filled up your tank full of gas in Lone Pine.  You’ll see some gas stations along our route but they haven’t pumped gasoline for decades! 

At 2.6 miles, you’ll cross the Owens River.  This once mighty river used to drain the Eastern Sierras and deposit that water into Owens Lake just to the right.  If you look back and west at this point, you’ll be rewarded with a grand view of the Sierras themselves.

Dolomite Loop

At 3.4 miles, as Hwy. 136 bears right, turn left onto Dolomite Loop.  At about 5.7 miles, look for some very large holes in the mountain to the left.  Notice how much of this rock is white.  This is the beginning of the huge Inyo Dolomite Quarry.  High-quality dolomite limestone marble has been dug out of this site since 1862 and it’s still being quarried today.  Marble from this site was used in the construction of many famous California buildings including Los Angeles’ City Hall and its International Airport.  The marble was also used to create classic 1920’s-era Terrazzo flooring.

Continue on to a large, gated driveway at 6.7 miles.  Behind this locked entrance is our first ghost town.  About a quarter of a mile past the gate are the remains of several buildings that were once the company town for the dolomite quarry.  In more productive years, company workers lived here and several of those buildings still stand today.  None of these old buildings are used anymore having been replaced with the modern industrial buildings behind the ghost town.  All of the buildings are on private property.

At 7.9 miles, Dolomite Loop rejoins Hwy 136.  Before turning left to get back on the highway however, notice the historical marker on the right that explains Dolomite.

At 8.9 miles, you’ll see a small building off the road on the left.  This is the site of “Tramway” which was the terminus of the Saline Valley salt aerial tramway.  Not really a town, it was a cluster of buildings and a siding along the Carson & Colorado Railroad (more on that later).

This aerial tramway was an engineering masterpiece when it was built in 1912.  It transported the salt that was mined in Saline Valley, the next big valley to the northeast, and stretched 13.5 miles over the Inyo Mountains.  From Saline Valley, the tramway climbed up 7,500 feet and then descended 5,000 feet down into Owens Valley.  Salt was dumped from the tram buckets and then loaded onto train cars.  This all occurred between the road and the foot of the mountain.  You can still see the first tramway tower on the hill above.  The tramway operated on and off until 1933.

Petroglyphs

Our next stop is to see some unusual Native American petroglyphs that may mark the site of a very old ghost town.  Look for a faint dirt road on the left at 9.4 miles.  Go up this road a short distance and park your vehicle. 

Walk over the open desert to the northwest, paralleling the highway back to Lone Pine.  Soon, you’ll come to a steep ridge.  Follow the ridgeline to the right and you’ll see the petroglyphs.

Most petroglyphs are drawn on dark, almost black, rocks but these are on beige rocks.  This is what makes them unusual as well as a little difficult to see.  When you’re done looking, return to the highway and continue your trip.

In 9.8 miles, you will arrive at the old smelting town of Swansea.  This town sprung up in 1869 when a company built several blast furnaces here to process silver from a large mine high up in the Inyo Mountains named Cerro Gordo.  A year later, Swansea became a port on the Owens Lake where a steam boat docked to load silver ingots for transport to the town of Cartago on the south end of the lake.

A single building on the left, now a residence, marks the site of the town site of Swansea.  Once there were many wooden buildings behind the residence but over the years they have disappeared.  Park on the right side of the road to see the historical marker and the remains of the smelter.  The smelter itself, which is a small pile of eroded red bricks located just beyond the marker, is unfortunately disappearing into the desert sand.  It was much bigger just two decades ago.

At 12.8 miles, turn right onto Malone Street and into the heart of Keeler.  This rather interesting town sprung up to support the large increase in activity at the Cerro Gordo silver mines mentioned earlier.  The 1872 Lone Pine earthquake disabled the port at Swansea so a new one was built in what was then called Hawley. 

Renamed Keeler in 1880, it started out as a supply town and transportation hub for Cerro Gordo and other area mines.  Silver from Cerro Gordo would later supply the funding for the growth of a small village named Los Angeles.  Cerro Gordo was the mine that changed the “tide of money” which, back then, usually flowed to San Francisco but was now flowing to Los Angeles since it was much closer.

The narrow gauge Carson and Colorado Railway reached Keeler in 1883.  The 300 mile line started near Virginia City, Nevada, and ended in Keeler.  Decreasing the costs of shipping ore, the railroad brought even more commerce to Keeler as other mines needed to ship various salts, borax, talc and dolomite.  In 1900, the line was sold to the Southern Pacific and continued to thrive due to increased mining activity further to the north in Tonopah and Goldfield.  The line continued to serve Keeler until 1960.  One of the gems of Keeler is its surviving train depot.

Believe it or not, Keeler experiences the worst air pollution in California.  After Owens Lake dried up in the 1940s, the wind began blowing large plumes of alkaline dust through Keeler making it impossible to breath.  Recently, a multi-billion dollar lawsuit was won and the City of Los Angeles is now flooding the lake bed once again to remedy the dust problem.

According to the 2010 census, 66 people call Keeler home.  This is evident when you take a swing through town.  You’ll find a collection of old and eclectic buildings as well as collections of various old artifacts from a once booming mining town.

More…

Below are some pictures of what you will see along the way.

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Cerro Gordo

Get back to Hwy 136 and turn right.  Go a short distance and turn left onto Cerro Gordo St.  Then pull over and stop.  Located here is another historical marker about the ghost town of Cerro Gordo.  High above you in the mountains, but not in sight, is the town and mines of Cerro Gordo.

Continuing on this dirt road will take you to Cerro Gordo but should only be done in a 4WD vehicle.  The road is not part of our suggested trip.  It is very steep and not for someone that is afraid of heights.  You can easily spend half day on this road alone.  The ghost town is privately owned and sometimes welcomes visitors to its tiny museum.  Along the way, look for the remains of an aerial tramway that used to stretch between Keeler and Cerro Gordo.  In one spot, there’s still an ore bucket dangling high on a cable above a canyon.

Several mines were discovered and started by Mexican prospectors at the end of the Civil War and all of them had names reflecting their heritage.  Cerro Gordo translates to “Fat Pig”.  By 1868, investors from afar heard of the quality silver ore and the rush was on.  Two years later, furnaces were producing nine tons of pure silver per day!  The ingots couldn’t be shipped out fast enough.  Miners seeking shelter literally built homes out of silver ingots, just like Eskimos build igloos out of ice blocks.

Silver mining continued until about 1879 when pay dirt was played out and other booms were beginning, such as the one close by in Darwin (our last stop on this trip).  New veins were discovered in 1907 and Cerro Gordo saw a revival.  Mining continued until the mid-1930s.  After World War II, various mining efforts in the surrounding mountains showed a lot of promise but not much materialized.  If you’re taking this side trip, retrace your route back to Hwy. 136.

To continue the trip, reset your odometer at this junction and turn left onto Hwy 136.

Our next stop, which will be the Talc City turnoff, is 14.6 miles from Cerro Gordo Road.  At 4.6 miles, SR 190 joins in from the right.  At this intersection, there is an interesting kiosk that explains some of the history of the area.  Continue straight (southeast) on SR 190.

As the name implies, Talc City is the location of a series of talc mines.  Although not a ghost town, several buildings were scattered in this small area that served as offices and houses for the miners, so it was close to being a “town”.

Talc was first mined in Inyo County just after World War I.  There are a series of many talc mines that lie in a 125 mile-long straight line, starting near Shoshone, through Death and Panamint Valleys, Talc City, Saline Valley and Owens Valley.  This “line” was a major producer of talc from the 1920s until roughly 1980.  Talc from the Death Valley area was shipped south to Victorville where it was milled.  Talc from this area was shipped, often by rail from Keeler, to all over California.

Talc, sometimes known as soapstone, has many uses.  Its mineral name is magnesium silicate.  Everyone has probably heard of talcum powder.  It is used to absorb moisture, oils and odors.  Talc is also used in the production of paint, ceramics, paper, cosmetics, tires, building materials and many other things.

During World War II, high-tech war tools such as radios and radar were being developed and talc was needed for certain electronic components.  Soon, miners realized that talc was the new gold.  In fact, more money was earned from Inyo County talc mines than all other mines combined, including gold.

By the 1970s, the need for talc was beginning to fade.  In the electronics industry, other materials, such as silicon, were being used.  The nail in the coffin for many talc mines in Inyo County was the introduction of much cheaper talc from China.  By 1990, most talc mines were no longer operating.

At 14.6 miles, turn left off SR 190 and make an immediate right.  You will now be on Talc City Road.  Visiting Talc City requires a high-clearance vehicle.  If you don’t have one, keep going on SR 190 and turn right onto Darwin Road at 17.4 miles to continue this trip.

A trip through Talc City will take you past several of the mine sites.  Look for the first mine at 16.6 miles on the left.  At 17 miles, keep left (straight) at the fork.  At 17.4 miles, more diggings are passed on the right.  At 17.5 miles, bear right and follow the main road as it makes a sweeping 180 degree turn back to the south.  At 17.9 miles, another mine and several ruins are on the left.  The flat area is where one of the company towns existed.  At 18.2 miles, you will pass by an area where talc ore was loaded into haul trucks.  You may see the remains of a few old trucks and skip loaders.  Just down the road is another mine on the left.  At 18.6 miles, bear left at the fork.  Keep going until this road dead-ends at the pavement of SR 190.

At the end of the dirt from Talc City, cross over SR 190 and head east down paved Darwin Road.  Roughly a half mile before reaching Darwin, look for the large Darwin Mines complex and company town (still active in 2016) on the left.  Downtown Darwin is reached at 5.7 miles from SR 190.  Here you’ll find another town that is “almost” a ghost town.  As of the 2010 census, 43 people call Darwin home.  Like Keeler, Darwin sports a post office that’s still open.  Darwin’s opened in 1875.

Rich silver-lead ore deposits were discovered here in 1874.  By 1880, Darwin became a full-fledged mining town, complete with saloons, hotels, dance halls (aka brothels) and smelters to process the ore.  Many of the businesses came over from Cerro Gordo, which by now was beginning to fade.  With the new Darwin rush came the normal rough and ready people common at mining camps.

Unlike other mining towns in the Southwest though, Darwin held on to life for a long time.  By 1884, the easy surface mining was exhausted and the big rush faded.  Plus, miners and businesses were being lured to the Bodie mining rush of the 1880’s.  Some miners at Darwin, however, kept digging and discovered that Ophir Mountain (to the north of Darwin) was rich with all kinds of minerals, mainly zinc, tungsten, antimony and others.  When the two World Wars came along, demand for these minerals increased and so did mining activity at Darwin.

By the late 1950’s, mining slowed down.  After decades of mining the combined minerals, Darwin experienced a total production of $35-40 million.  When compared to other mining areas, this is considered very good.

We were lucky to partake in a tour of the Darwin Mines complex.  This site was the original Defiance Mine back in the 1880’s and was later operated by the Anaconda Mining Corporation in the middle 1900’s.  Today it has been owned since the 1990s by husband and wife entrepreneurs that have big plans to bring more minerals out.  Mining engineers say that valuable ore is reachable from the mine’s massive, existing tunnel network.  Since California’s laws are so strict now, building any type of mill for processing the ore would be unthinkable.  However, because of the mine’s tunnels and caverns, much of the processing can be done underground, bypassing environmental regulations.  Hopefully, they can make a go of it and breathe new life into this forgotten corner of the desert.

Wandering the streets of Darwin (there aren’t very many) is definitely a different experience than wandering around other old towns.  Many of the old buildings are second generation, meaning they were not the original ones built in the 1880’s.  Many of the town’s occupants have collected various antique odds and ends which are fun to look at.  Remember that this is all private party, so enjoy looking at the artifacts from the street.

The cemetery is the typical old style with big headstones and wood fences around some of the plots.  Visiting it is worthwhile if you haven’t seen an old western cemetery before.  It is located by turning right on Main Street (at the stop sign) head southwest for a quarter of a mile, then turn right and continue for another quarter mile.

That’s it for our tour.  From Darwin, either take the paved road back to SR 190 or, if you like 4WD adventure, go north on Main Street to explore China Garden Spring, Darwin Falls and the amazing canyon that they are both in.  All are located inside Death Valley National Park.

See more places to visit around Lone Pine .

To help plan your trip, either use our interactive Google Map below or download our GPX file that points out the places to see that are mentioned in this chapter.

Click here to download our GPX file for the Ghost Town Trail. We recommend using a GPS mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to view these points on your computer or to locate them using GPS with your mobile device or phone. Click the ad below to purchase Gaia GPS using our discount code which offers up to a 50% discount.

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The Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Guide

By: Author The Drivin' & Vibin' Team

Posted on April 1, 2021

If tales of the American Wild West ignite your excitement, you’ll love learning about the ghost town of Cerro Gordo. This ghost town sits in California’s mountains and has a simultaneously dark and prosperous past. 

Let’s dive into the history of the Cerro Gordo ghost town to help you decide if it’s worth visiting.

lone pine california ghost town

Where Is Cerro Gordo Ghost Town and How Did It Come to Be?

Cerro Gordo is a ghost town in the Inyo Mountains near Lone Pine, California. Like many ghost towns today, it was once a bustling mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The main mining prospect was silver, but the area also produced zinc and lead. Prospectors worked the mines here off and on until 1933. 

Although the remote and mountainous location made it difficult to transport supplies, this town once had over 4,000 residents, seven saloons, and three brothels. Additionally, it was once known for “a murder a week,” creating a poignant image of the dangerous American Wild West days. 

As the minerals began to dry up, miners left, and no one worked the mines. Consequently, Cerro Gordo was a ghost town by 1938. With so many instances of death-by-draw here, it’s no wonder people believe it’s haunted! 

Today, Cerro Gordo has private owners and is mostly intact–just the way it was when it was a booming mining town. 

Can You Visit Cerro Gordo?

Although Cerro Gordo is privately owned, you can book guided or self-guided walking tours. All tour proceeds go to the Cerro Gordo Historical Association, which funds and preserves the town. 

As a result of the association’s efforts, the town is utterly picturesque, offering many photo opportunities. So, don’t forget your camera!

If you come to visit, note that there are currently no camping or overnight stays allowed. You might not want to camp there either since there’s no wifi, limited cell service, and no facilities other than outhouses. At least they allow pets, but you must keep them on a leash. 

Adult admission is a $10 donation, and children are free. 

lone pine california ghost town

Who Owns Cerro Gordo?

The abandoned town’s owners are Brent Underwood and Jon Bier, two friends who purchased the town for $1.4 million with other friends and investors’ help. The pair planned to preserve the town’s history while making it an excellent place for visitors. 

As a result of his investment, Brent Underwood has since moved to Cerro Gordo full-time and is documenting the journey on a YouTube channel called Ghost Town Living.  

Does Cerro Gordo Still Have Silver?

Cerro Gordo once had California’s most fruitful silver-producing mines, but do they still have silver today? Probably, but nothing worth a commercial mining effort. 

One long-time resident explained that he’d spent 22 years searching for a lost vein of silver. And, in 22 years, he’d only found approximately a wheelbarrow’s worth of the precious mineral. 

Love ghost towns? Then you will love our collection of 5 creepy ghost towns in California .

The Best Hikes to Experience Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Cerro Gordo lies in a remote mountain setting with stunning views of other mountains and the valley below. One of the best ways to get a closer look at the ghost town is hiking some of these trails. 

Swansea-Cerro Gordo OHV Route

This route is a 34-mile OHV loop trail that starts near Lone Pine, California, and can be used as an alternate route to access the ghost town. As the name suggests, OHVs (off-highway vehicles) most often use this trail, which has excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities. 

lone pine california ghost town

Mobius Arch Loop Trail

The Mobius Arch Loop Trail is a shorter hike near Lone Pine that’s just 0.6 miles long. As you walk, you’ll see incredible scenery around the Lone Pine area. 

It has a moderately steep grade, so although it’s a short hike, it might be challenging for some. But at least you can bring your dogs and horses along! 

The Best Campgrounds Near Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Because there are no campgrounds inside the Cerro Gordo area, you’ll need suggestions on where to stay. Here are some nearby campgrounds you’ll love. 

Boulder Creek RV Resort

Address : 2550 S Highway 395, Lone Pine California 93545

Why You’ll Love It : This RV resort is in Lone Pine , California, a 40-minute drive from the ghost town. It has RV sites for rent, cabins, and even a market for supplies. Plus, you’ll love the free coffee and muffins served in the morning at the clubhouse!

Price : $55 nightly rate for all sites

Diaz Lake Campground

Address : 3 miles south of Lone Pine on Highway 395

Why You’ll Love it : Diaz Lake Campground is a no-frills dry camping area along the shores of Diaz lake, south of Lone Pine. Therefore, if you’re into dry camping, this is the spot for you! Activities include swimming, water sports, fishing, and more. 

There are no showers at this campground, and the bathrooms are vault toilets, but it’s a great jumping-off spot for exploring Cerro Gordo and the Lone Pine area. 

Price : $14 per night

This Well-Preserved Ghost Town Is a Must-See

Cerro Gordo is one of the best-preserved ghost mining towns, so it’s definitely a must-see! A step into this town is like a step back in time to miners’ lives and living conditions over a hundred years ago. 

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California ghost town with a bloody past suffers a new calamity

Brent Underwood stands amid the mountainside ashes of the American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, far above the desert below.

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The smell of scorched wood and melted wiring lingered in the air Thursday as Brent Underwood surveyed the damage to this 19th century mining town perched 8,500 feet above the Owens Valley floor.

The marketer and his partners bought the Cerro Gordo ghost town for $1.4 million in 2018 with the goal of transforming it into a remote tourist attraction. Visitors would enjoy gourmet meals, hikes to scowling mine shafts and overnight stays in a rickety bunkhouse and hotel.

But that dream suffered a fiery setback last week. Underwood said he was awakened at 3 a.m. June 15 by the stuff of nightmares: furious winds driving flames that were leaping like demons and scorching unpredictable paths up slopes dotted with historic mining structures. Then came the explosions of propane tanks as flames engulfed the hotel.

In a cruel irony, Underwood said, “The American Hotel opened on June 15, 1871, and it burned to the ground 149 years to the day later on June 15, 2020.”

Rustic buildings on a brushy slope below mine tailings near the blackened ground where Cerro Gordo's  American Hotel burned.

Asked Friday about the cause of the blaze, the Lone Pine Fire Department said only that it was still under investigation.

There is no running water in Cerro Gordo’s weathered collection of old mining equipment, junked cars and 22 structures, some of them with walls insulated with newspapers. “All I could do was call 911,” Underwood said. “And then, with help from a caretaker, I used buckets to desperately fling water from storage tanks onto the flames.”

After firefighters put out the last embers, three historic treasures had been reduced to ashes: an icehouse, a residence and the hotel.

“We may never know exactly what started this fire,” Underwood said from a balcony overlooking the charred ruins. “Fire officials told me that it could have been a thousand different things in these old buildings.”

A weather vane blackened by fire stands among charred debris on a dry, brushy mountainside above a desert valley

Then, the lanky 32-year-old suggested the cause might be paranormal. “The caretaker here told me that he and another person saw a shadowy apparition moving in the hotel kitchen at 4 p.m. the previous day.”

Strange occurrences and ghostly apparitions are part of the myth and allure that Underwood and his partners are banking on, in part, to create a wilderness hideaway like no other for urbanites aching to escape the clatter and routine of city life.

LONE PINA CA DECEMBER 18, 2019 -- Allen Berrey visits the grave site of Jose C. Pires, a.k.a. Portagee Joe, at Mt. Whitney Cemetery in Lone Pine. (Louis Sahagun / Los Angeles Times)

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Their supporters include Terri Geissinger, a historian of the West. “Cerro Gordo is a nugget in time that needs to be preserved,” she said. “But maintaining a ghost town is only for the roughest and toughest of people. That’s because you’re going to get frustrated, beat up and kicked in the gut.

A fire-blackened old stove with broken glass panes and two small doors ajar sits among other charred debris

“You can’t do it with just money,” she added. “It’s takes a heart of steel.”

Located on roughly 400 acres in the Inyo Mountains, Cerro Gordo was not designed for comfort.

In its heyday, there was a murder a week in Cerro Gordo, an extraordinarily violent community of about 500 people. Silver miners slept on cots surrounded by sandbags stacked 4 feet high to protect themselves from stray bullets. In the late 1800s, an estimated 30 miners who had emigrated from China were buried in a mine shaft.

The house that was destroyed by fire on Monday once belonged to a man named William Crapo, who gunned down a postmaster as he walked along the dirt road skirting the American Hotel.

A fundraiser organized by the nonprofit Friends of Cerro Gordo has already collected more than $17,000 that will be used to rebuild the hotel to current construction and safety codes.

“The loss of the American Hotel is incalculable,” said Roger Vargo, president of Friends of Cerro Gordo, “due to its historic value to the growth of Los Angeles and much of the Old West.”

Brett Underwood stands between massive wooden posts of the headframe of the Union Mine in Cerro Gordo ghost town.

“Only a week ago,” he added, “it commanded the center of town on a mountain with views of Owens Valley and the eastern Sierra Nevada to the west and Death Valley to the east.”

A year ago, the hotel and other Cerro Gordo structures were explored in an episode of the TV show “Ghost Adventures” that focused on two children who died after being trapped in a steamer trunk.

Underwood’s commitment to the Cerro Gordo restoration project has been tested mightily in recent months.

The mean comments on social media platforms started the moment Cerro Gordo was sold. Underwood was vilified as a trust-funder who took over the mining town as some sort of hobby.

“That hurt a little bit,” said Underwood, the son of schoolteachers who was born and raised in Tampa, Fla.

A creased paper check, yellowed with age, drawn on the Lone Pine Branch of Inyo County Bank and stamped June 4, 1926

Shortly after he decided to wait out the coronavirus lockdown in Cerro Gordo, the area was buried in 5 feet of snow.

“There was no way in or out for several weeks,” he said. (The only way to get to the mining town is via a 7½-mile steep, gravel road.) “ After the snow melted, I was hospitalized with a bad case of appendicitis.”

Judging from historical records, the original residents of Cerro Gordo may not have been sympathetic.

Vintage chemical jars and crucibles on a shelf at the Cerro Gordo ghost town in the Inyo Mountains

The town’s name translates from Spanish into “Fat Hill,” and 150 years ago it was the home of silver miners who shipped their diggings off to the small pueblo of Los Angeles by 20-mule team or by steamboats that navigated the once-full Owens Lake.

Life was short and hard in the area, which produced 4.5 million ounces of silver before declining precious-metal prices sank the local economy, save for a zinc revival from 1911 to 1919.

Today, only a small fraction of the town’s original 500 structures still stand. They include a general store, an assayer’s office, the well-preserved mining operation up on a hill and the remains of a brothel once known as Lola’s Palace of Pleasure.

The Yellow Road winds up the Inyo Mountains to the town Cerro Gordo

The outdoor plumbing consists of unheated and unlighted Old West outhouses. The ground bristles with artifacts: rusty pocket watches, iron tools, shattered window glass and whiskey bottles.

“The fire was heartbreaking, because I have a deep emotional attachment to this place,” Underwood said. “But we’re not giving up.”

“Truth be told,” he added, “we’ve got big plans for little Cerro Gordo.”

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lone pine california ghost town

Louis Sahagún is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. He covers issues ranging from religion, culture and the environment to crime, politics and water. He was on the team of L.A. Times writers that earned the Pulitzer Prize in public service for a series on Latinos in Southern California and the team that was a finalist in 2015 for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news. He is a former board member of CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California and author of the book “Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall.”

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Death Valley-Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

The American Hotel in Death Valley Cerro Gordo Ghost town

Site Location and Description   Cerro Gordo Ghost Town located in Death Valley,  is considered one of the best ghost towns in California.  It is privately owned and operated by the Cerro Gordo Historical Society. Because this is on private land, permission to visit must be obtained. Do not try to enter buildings without the caretaker there to give you a tour and do not remove any items from this historic site.   TAP note: Robert, the caretaker, may be available for a guided tour. He is friendly and highly knowledgeable. If he gives you a tour, please feel free to leave a generous tip as it goes to the maintenance of this amazing piece of historical Death Valley.    This 1868 town site includes: the American Hotel built in 1871, the 1904 Bunkhouse, and the Belshaw House built in 1868. The General Store, now a museum, gives the visitor a peek at the colorful history of the mine and life in the town as well as a vast array of artifacts to explore. You can also see the 1877 Hoist Works, and numerous other remaining structures. The views from this town site are amazing.

  Directions: Starting point from the west: California 136 at Keeler, 12 miles east of Lone Pine.

Death Valley Cerro Gordo Ghost Town saloon, Death Valley, Deserts,  overlanding, over landing, off-roading, off-road, vehicle supported adventure,

  The History of Cerro Gordo Mine  

The early days….

Cerro Gordo, means “fat hill”in Spanish.  It was named for the vast amount of silver it contained.  The principal mines at this time were: San Lucas, San Ygnacio, San Francisco, and San Felipe. Within four years, the number of mining claims would increase to more than seven hundred.

Cerro Gordo’s ore was of extremely high quality, but numerous obstacles  restricted it’s growth, these being mainly the ruggedness of terrain, scarcity of water on the mountaintop, and the location which was far from any settlement with a large population.  It did not become a boomtown overnight. The first claim to be seriously developed was the  San Lucas mine in 1866 by Jose Ochoa, who was extracting about 1112 tons of ore every 12 hours. The silver ore was transported in sacks by pack animals to the Silver Sprout Mill located west of Fort Independence.

The “Boom”….

This trade brought prosperity to Los Angeles and, by the end of 1869, 340 tons of bullion had passed through the city. Cerro Gordo and it’s silver ingots(retangular blocks of silver) became well known and were displayed in most prominent businesses.  News of the  lawless”goings on” at Cerro Gordo was widespread and many prospectors heard that copious amounts of riches were to be had there.  Local farmers and businessmen prospered from sending mule wagons and other freighters full of produce, flour, sugar, barrels of wine and all other consumables as well as bales of hay and mining tools to the Cerro Gordo miners.  Within a year,  Cerro Gordo was the leading source of business in Los Angeles.

By 1871, Cerro Gordo was well established as a mining town.  The American Hotel was completed that year, as were several other permanent structures. A general store, restaurants, and saloons replaced the canvas shacks that has been scattered throughout town.  Small clusters of stone and canvas homes were built down the San Lucas canyon and the side of the canyon was also covered by prospect holes. The biggest structure located there was the the 300-foot vertical shaft house covering  the Newtown mine.

Cerro Gordo was known as a “wide-open town”, meaning it had only little to no law and order.  The law  was not respected by most of the town’s inhabitants, and enforcement proved a challenge. This lawless type of miner/prospector found Cerro Gordo’s remoteness a refuge, and was responsible for the bloody record of shootings compiled during the bonanza days. Today, you can see the bullet holes of past fights in the saloon area.

Whiskey and women made the dance halls, and the red-light houses  the main stage for gun battle.  A story told by Dr. Hugh McClelland, a physician at Cerro Gordo claims that he had gone to a dance hall with friend and was telling him about a nick-name given to one of the girls there.  She came at him with a stiletto in her hand and was intercepted by another girl who caught her by the wrist and grabbed the shoe out of her hand.  Meanwhile the first girl’s enraged boyfriend was shot while attempting to charge the good doctor with a knife drawn, ready to plung it into him.   As a result of the killing, a widespread gunfight broke out amongst the attendees and stopped only when the lights were extinguished.

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Legends of America

Legends of America

Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., death valley ghost towns & mines.

20 Mule Team Wagon, Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley, California, Kathy Weiser, 2015.

20 Mule Team Wagon, Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley, California, by Kathy Alexander.

Since the 1848 discovery of gold in  California ,  Death Valley has experienced over 140 years of boom and bust mining, creating several  ghost towns  in the area. Little did those many miners passing through the area in 1849 know that there were vast deposits of gold, silver, copper, and borax just waiting to be taken out of the mountains and valley floor.

From the 1880s to the early 1900s, mining was limited and sporadic in the Death Valley region, mostly because many of these early mining districts met with a notable lack of success. Primitive and inefficient technology, scarcity of water and fuel, and the difficulties of transportation made it economically impossible to mine any but the highest-grade ores. Some of the towns that died even before the turn of the century included Kasson, Rhodes Spring, Old Tecopa, Old Stovepipe Wells, Panamint City , and dozens of mines.

However, one of the earliest successful mining operations was the Harmony Borax Works, active from 1883 to 1888. This mill was famous not for its ore deposits but for the Twenty Mule Team wagons used to transport the partially refined borax.

With renewed interest in gold and silver mining, the early 1900s witnessed several new mines and settlements. Skidoo ,  Rhyolite , and Keane Wonder Mine became large-scale operations. The boom towns which sprang up around these mines flourished during the first decade of the 20th century but soon slowed down after the panic of 1907. Prosperous large-scale metal mining in Death Valley ended around 1915.

In February 1933, President Herbert Hoover signed the proclamation creating Death Valley National Monument, which temporarily closed monument lands to prospecting and filing new mining claims. However, by prior agreement, the monument was quickly reopened to prospecting and mining by Congressional action in June of the same year.

Close-up of wagon wheel, Twenty Mule Borax Wagon in Death Valley, California.

Close-up of a wagon wheel, Twenty Mule Borax Wagon in Death Valley, California.

As improvements in mining technology allowed lower grades of ore to be processed and new heavy equipment allowed greater amounts of rock to be moved, mining in Death Valley improved. Open-pit and strip mines for borax and talc began to scar the landscape as internationally-owned mining corporations bought claims in highly visible locations of the national monument. However, the public outcry that later ensued led to greater protection for all national park areas. Congress passed the Mining in the Parks Act in 1976, which closed Death Valley National Monument to the filing of new mining claims, banned open-pit mining, and required the National Park Service to examine the validity of thousands of pre-1976 mining claims. Mining was allowed to resume on a limited basis in 1980 with stricter environmental standards.

In 1994, when the area became the Death Valley National Park, the park assumed jurisdiction over hundreds of additional unpatented mining claims. The Billie Mine, an underground borax mine along the road to Dante’s View, was the only active mine in the park for the next decade. In 2005, when the Billie Mine closed, the last of Death Valley’s mines ceased operations.

In its wake, mining created more than a hundred ghost towns and mining camps in Death Valley, though these are quickly decaying due to weather, vandalism, and neglect. The ruins of mills, metal and stone buildings, mine openings, and a few still intact towns are throughout the valley.

There are numerous ghost towns in the Death Valley area in California and Nevada. Here is a list with the location and a few notes about what remains for each.

Ghost Towns, Mining Camps, and Closed Mines:

Amargosa , Nevada – East of Amargosa Valley, Nevada  – Railroad foundation only. Note: The townsites of Original , Nevada, and Death Valley Junction, California, were also called Amargosa. Bullfrog, Nevada , was called Amargosa City briefly.

Amargosa Borax Works , California – Near Shoshone, California – Foundation remains and low adobe walls.

Arrastre Spring , California – Eastern slope of the Panamint Mountains overlooking the salt flats of Death Valley – An old deteriorating arrastre and numerous petroglyphs.

Ashford Mill, Death Valley, California

Ashford Mill, Death Valley, California, Dave Alexander.

Ashford Mine and Mill , California – West of Shoshone, it has several standing buildings and mining remains.

Ashton , Nevada – Southwest of Beatty, Nevada, there are no remains.

Ballarat , California – Northeast of Trona, California. There are a few remaining residents, miners’ cabins and other tumbling shacks, crumbling walls, and several foundations.

Barker Ranch , California –  In Death Valley National Park, there are ruins of a cabin and a small guest house.

Beatty, Nevada – In Nye County, this is not a ghost town, but a vital part of Death Valley mining days.

Bend City , California – Near Kearsarge, there are no remains.

Beveridge , California – East side of the Inyo Mountain Range. Mining remains and rock walls. Recommended only for experienced back-packing hikers.

Bonnie Claire , Nevada – Northeast of Scotty’s Castle, there are significant ruins and mining remains.

Bowlerville , Nevada – A few miles south of the Johnnie Mine in Nye County, Nevada, there are no remains.

Browne’s Camp , Nevada – In Nye County, Nevada, there are no remains.

lone pine california ghost town

Old jail at Bullfrog, Nevada, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Bullfrog , Nevada –  Near Rhyolite, Nevada, remains include an icehouse, jail, and some small ruins. A cemetery is nearby.

Bullfrog Mines , Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Some

Bullfrog Mining District , Nevada – Nye County, Nevada, near Beatty. There are many mining remains and ghost towns, including the Queen City of the district — Rhyolite.

Carrara , Nevada – South of Beatty, Nevada, there are a few foundations.

Cartago , California – About three miles northwest of Olancha, California. This is a semi-ghost town with about 100 residents.

Cerro Gordo , California –  Near Keeler , California, there are numerous remains; check in with the caretaker.

lone pine california ghost town

An old cement plant near the ghost town of Carrara, Nevada. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

Charleston City , Nevada – Nye County, Nevada – Rubble from the water tank.

Chloride City , Nevada – Southwest of Beatty, Nye County, Nevada – Mining remains.

Chrysopolis , California – South of Aberdeen, California – Loose stone walls and mine tunnels.

Claire Camp , California – About six miles east of Ballarat in Pleasant Canyon – Mill site and living quarters for the Radcliffe Mine, tram towers, and cables.

Coso Junction , California – About 3.5 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, California – Probably none. Located within the boundaries of the United States Naval Weapons Center at China Lake.

Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns , California – 14.4 miles south of Lone Pine on US Highway 395. Two charcoal kilns used by the Cerro Gordo mines

Currie Well , Nevada – North of Rhyolite, Nevada. – Debris, low stone wall, ruins of a small beehive furnace.

Darwin , California – About 24 miles southeast of Keeler , California. Many buildings and mining remains. Still occupied by about 50 people.

Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction, California by Kathy Alexander

Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction, California, by Kathy Alexander

Death Valley Junction , California – Intersection of SR 190 and SR 127, just east of Death Valley National Park. It still has many buildings.

Dolomite , California – California State Route 136 between Lone Pine and Keeler , California. Some old buildings and working mine. Located on private property with no access.

Dublin Gulch , California – In Shoshone, California, it has dugouts on the side of clay cliffs.

Dunmovin , California – South of Olancha, California. Has several old buildings.

Eagle Borax Works , California – South of Bennett’s Well, California. Low foundations only.

Echo , California – About four miles southwest of Lee, California. No remains. Requires 4-wheel drive.

Emigrant Springs , California –  Aboutseven miles northwest of Harrisburg , California. A few mining remnants.

Furnace , California – 6.5 miles northwest of Funeral Peak. No Remains.

Furnace Creek Inn , California – Furnace Creek, California. Is now an operating resort with a borax museum.

Furnace Creek Ranch today

Furnace Creek Ranch entry in Death Valley National Park, California. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

Furnace Creek Ranch , California – Furnace Creek, California. Is an operating resort.

Gladstone Mine, California  –  See Kasson , California. Very little remains.

Gold Bar , Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Mining remains, large mill foundations.

Gold Center , Nevada – Near Tonapah, Nevada. Foundations of a stamp mill and brewery.

Gold Hill Mining District , California

Goldbelt Spring , California – Was once located southeast of Teakettle Junction. Very little remains today. The actual spring is marked by an old dump truck.

Gold Valley , California – About ten miles south of Greenwater , California. – Very little, tailings, leveled tent-sites.

Grant , California – 1½ miles south of Olancha – A few old buildings.

Greenwater , California –  About 27 miles southeast of Furnace Creek , California.  –  None at new Greenwater – a few at the original site of Kunze .

Greenwater Mining District , California – About 27 miles southeast of Furnace Creek, California.  – Very little.

Harmony Borax Works by Dave Alexander

Harmony Borax Works by Dave Alexander

Harmony Borax Works , California – About a mile north of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center along Highway 190.  – Ruins of the refinery, outbuildings, 20-mule team wagon.

Harrisburg , California – About two miles down the dirt road to Aguereberry Point off of Highway 178.  – Nothing of the townsite, but Aguereberry’s camp and mine remain.

Ibex Springs , California – About two miles south of Ibex Pass. – Buildings, mining ruins, stamp mill, smelter.

Inyo Mine , California

Johnnie , Nevada – 16 miles north of Pahrump, Nevada – Many, but located on private property which allows no visitors.

Kasson , California – About 12 miles northwest of the old town of Tecopa, California. – A few stone buildings.

Keane Springs , California – East of Furnace Creek, California. – A few mining ruins.

lone pine california ghost town

The Keane Wonder Mine in Death Valley National Park. Photo by Gianfranco Archimede, 2000.

Keane Wonder Mine , California – East of Furnace Creek, California – Many; however, closed by the National Park due to instability as of this writing.

Kearsarge , California – High on Kearsarge Peak – None.

Keeler , California – 11.5 miles southeast of New York Butte, California. – Semi-ghost town, current residents.

Keynot , California –  North of Beveridge , California – Mining remnants. Access should only be made by experienced backpackers.

Kunze , California – About 27 miles southeast of Furnace Creek, California.  – Rock dugout, low rock walls, and mining remnants.

Laws , California – Four miles north of Bishop, California.  – Is now a museum and historic site with many buildings.

Leadfield , California – On the Titus Canyon Road  – Scattered mining remains, requires 4-wheel drive.

Lee, California/Nevada  – At the California /Nevada state line, 30 miles south of Rhyolite. – Stone walls and foundations, mine shafts and tunnels, rubble.

Leeland , Nevada – About 17 miles south of Beatty, Nevada – A foundation and railroad debris.

Lila C/Old Ryan  – 6.25 miles southwest of Death Valley Junction, California – Only tailings.

Little Lake , California – 38 miles south of Keeler on U.S. Route 395. – None.

Long Street Cabin , Nevada – National Wildlife Refuge in Amargosa Valley, Nevada – Reconstructed cabin.

Lookout City, California – About 15 miles southeast of Panamint Springs, California – Low walls, foundations, mining ruins. Accessible by 4-wheel drive only.

Loretto , California – Off of Loretto Mine Road, southeast of Deep Springs, California. Remains include low stone walls, mining portals, and equipment.

Manse Ranch , Nevada – Near Pahrump, Nevada. – A ranch and dairy farm.

Manzanar, California

Mexican Camp , Nevada – 13 miles west of Rhyolite, Nevada – None

Monarch Canyon Mine , Nevada – West of Beatty about 17 miles – requires about a one-mile hike – Many – Mill, machinery, adits, foundations.

Monte Blanco, California

Noonday Camp, California

Olancha, California

Original , Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – None

Owenyo, California

Panamint City , California

Pioneer , Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Some mining remains.

Reilly, California

Resting Springs, California – Area is dotted with mining remains.

Reward, California

Rose’s Well , Nevada – 17 miles south of Beatty – Ruins of the well

Ryan, California – 14.6 miles southeast of Furnace Creek Ranch , California – Numerous old buildings and mining remains.

Rhyolite Depot

Rhyolite Depot, which became a Casino at one point.

Rhyolite , Nevada – 5 miles west of Beatty – Many buildings

San Carlos, California

Sandspring, California

Schwab, California

Scotty’s Castle , California – Esmeralda County, Death Valley National Park – Mansion and outbuildings

Shoshone Caves –  See Dublin Gulch

Shoveltown, California

Skidoo , California

Springdale , Nevada – 10 miles north of Beatty, Nevada.  – Mansion and outbuildings

Stirling , Nevada – 20 miles north of Pahrump, Nevada. – Scant remains.

The roof line of Scotty's Castle shows the Spanish Moorish influences, Dave Alexander

The roofline of Scotty’s Castle shows the Spanish Moorish influences by Dave Alexander.

Stovepipe, California

Strozzi Ranch , Nevada – 16 miles northwest of Rhyolite, Nevada – Old cabin, shacks, fencing, fruit trees.

Swansea, California

Telluride , Nevada – 4.5 southeast of Beatty, Nevada – A few mine tailings

Transvaal , Nevada – 12 miles north of Rhyolite, Nevada – Mine dumps

Ubehebe, California

Wild Rose Camp, California

White Pot Mine, California

White Mountain City, California

Willow Creek , California – About ten miles south of Greenwater , California  – Very little, tailings, leveled tent sites.

Zurich, California

Compiled by Kathy Alexander / Legends of America , updated November 2022.

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9,518' 2,901  m, 4,586' 1,398  m, 8,999' 2,743  m, know this trail, dogs off-leash, features commonly backpacked · spring · views · wildflowers · wildlife, description, flora & fauna.

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Sunrise from Frenchies Cabin I believe. Looking east toward Saline Valley.

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Fall foliage on the Mt. Whitney Trail.

Whitney Portal to Lone Pine Lake

6.1 mi 9.8 km • 1,715' Up 522.61 m Up • 1,714' Down 522.44 m Down

Tired and happy to be on the summit of Mt. Whitney, a pair of hikers enjoys their accomplishment.

Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route

9.2 mi 14.9 km • 5,928' Up 1806.72 m Up • 5,919' Down 1804.14 m Down

View west from Mount Whitney Trail

Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

20.5 mi 33.0 km • 6,404' Up 1951.98 m Up • 6,405' Down 1952.1 m Down

Hiker and forest in Kern Canyon on High Sierra Trail.

Eastern Sierra Tour

66.9 mi 107.6 km • 8,476' Up 2583.59 m Up • 8,477' Down 2583.64 m Down

Looking southeast into the far distance from Cottonwood Pass. The forested hills and meadows of Golden Trout Wilderness are seen below.

Golden Trout Creek Loop

25.0 mi 40.3 km • 3,095' Up 943.37 m Up • 3,094' Down 943.2 m Down

Darwin Falls cascades peacefully down the rocks into a pool below.

Darwin Falls

2.1 mi 3.4 km • 425' Up 129.44 m Up • 425' Down 129.39 m Down

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lone pine california ghost town

California's Epic 395: Hidden Gems Along the Way

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Created by Knansea - July 10th 2016

Our family has traveled on I395 for over 50 years and we are off again to revisit favorites and discover new treasures. Highway 395 is most often used to travel from Los Angeles to Mammoth or on the way to Reno in a day. However the entire route is filled with enough natural and human history to warrant a multi-day trip. You pass through desert, by lakes, below soaring peaks, and past ancient volcanoes. Whether traveling 395 on the way to ski in the winter, hike in the spring or summer, or to watch the leaves turn in the fall, we always something new to explore along the way. We've been known to head up and back on the 395 a few times a year!

Most people start this route heading north on the I15 that is accessed by many roads in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties. Anyone from out of the area can even fly into Ontario International Airport (instead of LAX) and rent a car. There are actually 2 Holiday Inns next to the airport and another nearby at Ontario Mills Shopping Center! Even locals may want to stay here to get an early start and miss the LA traffic!

From here, follow the I15 north to Victorville, CA and the start of your journey after you go through the Cajon Pass.

There are obviously many good camping options along the way, but there are more civilized choices like the Holiday Inns in Bishop, Carson City, and Reno! We have learned to make reservations ahead of time on weekends. Lots of ideas on Roadtrippers. You can make this trip last as long as you want to with so much to do!

Victorville, California, United States

Photo of Victorville Fire Department Museum

15620 8th St, Victorville, CA, US

Victorville Fire Department Museum

A quick stop for little kids and those who love shiny red fire engines! http://www.victorvilleca.gov/site/citydepartments.aspx?id=132

Photo of California Route 66 Museum

16825 D St, Victorville, CA, US

California Route 66 Museum

Victorville is not only the beginning of I395, it's also part of Route 66! The CA Route 66 Museum is a good place to inspire a future trip. It's full of vehicles and signs and maps and photos.

Photo of Buddhist Meditation Center

20635 Hwy 395, Adelanto, CA, US

Buddhist Meditation Center

As you drive through the high desert, you'll suddenly see an interesting assortment of statues and buildings. One is a 60 ton marble statue of this center's patron saint Quan Yin. This is a Buddhist Meditation Center that has classes on meditation and the fundamentals of Buddhism. Not exactly what you expect to find in Adelanto but at least good for a drive-by photo!

Kramer Junction, California, United States

Kramer Junction is the big crossroads of this area. It's got gas stations, a couple restaurants, and some great funky shops. You'll pass fields of solar panels outside of town.

Photo of Borax Visitor Center

14486 Borax Rd, Boron, CA, US

Borax Visitor Center

Take a quick detour for a fascinating look into the history of the area. Borax has been mined in this desert for over a century and is still a thriving operation. This free Visitor Center museum has exhibits on the history, uses, and current extraction of boron. Kids and adults both enjoy it. It's impressive when to see the mining operation from the air conditioned comfort of the museum. http://www.borax.com/about-borax/visitor-center

Randsburg, California, United States

There's a certain kind of mystery to the "living" ghost towns of Red Mountain, Johannesburg, and Randsburg. You see mine trailings on the hills and abandoned ghost town buildings, but it's obvious that people still live and even mine here. Just off 395 is the tiny town of Randsburg and it's worth a stop.

Photo of Randsburg General Store

142 Butte Ave, Randsburg, CA, US

Randsburg General Store

Randsburg has a historic General Store with an old fashioned soda parlor that makes a great pit stop in the desert. There are also artists who call this little town home. It's a unique little community.

Photo of Randsburg Desert Museum

161 Butte Ave, Randsburg, CA, US

Randsburg Desert Museum

Only open on weekends, this small museum is a great resource in the history of the local Rand District mining areas, including Johannesburg, Red Mountain, and Garlock. You can also visit the cemetery in nearby Johannesburg.

"BLM Wild Horses and Burros" — Photo Credit: Animals' Angels

Ridgecrest, California, United States

Ridgecrest is just off the I395 and has many services. It's easy to zip past, but then you'd miss some interesting museums. There are also gas stations and grocery stores here.

Photo of Maturango Museum

100 E Las Flores Ave, Ridgecrest, CA, US

Maturango Museum

The Maturango Museum has displays on the natural and cultural history of the Upper Mojave Desert. This area is rich in human history and here are excellent exhibits on the Coso Petroglyphs and the people who made them. In the Spring and Fall the museum leads tours to the otherwise inaccessible rock art.

Photo of U.S. Naval Museum of Armament & Technology

130 East Las Flores, Ridgecrest, CA, US

U.S. Naval Museum of Armament & Technology

Ridgecrest is next to China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. To visit the museum you need to be cleared by security, which can be done at the Visitor's Center at the entrance to the base.

Photo of Indian Wells Brewing Co.

2565 California 14, Inyokern, CA, US

Indian Wells Brewing Co.

Another short detour takes you to a historic spot where the 20 mule teams from Death Valley would stop to water their horses at an artisanal spring on the way to deliver Boron. Now, there's an acclaimed tasting room for the Indian Wells Brewing Co. and the adjoining restaurant.

Photo of Fossil Falls Scenic Area

Cinder Rd, Inyokern, CA, US

Fossil Falls Scenic Area

Time to stretch your legs and find out more about the changing desert landscape outside. Fossil Falls isn't a fossilized waterfall, and there aren't any fossils, but it is the remains of an enormous basalt lava flow that was carved and shaped by later river flow. Stop here and then start paying attention to the cinder cone hills you'll see along the way later.

Photo of Ranch House Cafe

US 395, Olancha, CA, US

Ranch House Cafe

This is one of the few places to eat in this area if you don't want to wait until Lone Pine.

Olancha, California, United States

Olancha and Cartago were important places during the Coso mining days of the late 1800's. The Coso mines were across Owens Lake to the east. Now it's just a dry saline flat. There are still remnants of stamp mills and charcoal kilns. Look for historical markers. Look for metal sculptures and a giant lemon house! Also, you'll pass the factory that bottles the Crystal Geyser water from local springs.

Photo of Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center

US 395 & SR136, Lone Pine, CA, US

Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center

The Eastern Sierra Interagency Center is an essential stop for anyone visiting the area. There are displays, free guides, and a book store with all of the local information you need. The rangers are on hand to answer questions about the local area, Mount Whitney, Death Valley, and the Bristlecone Pines (the highest and the lowest and the oldest!). The weather and current conditions of roads and trails is available. They also have nice rest rooms and you get your first full view of Mount Whitney here.

Photo of Lone Pine Film Museum

701 S Main St, Lone Pine, CA, US

Lone Pine Film Museum

Welcome to Lone Pine! The movie capitol of the Eastern Sierras. You're not as far from Hollywood here as you may think! Here, under the shadow of Mount Whitney, countless films have been made in the area. The Alabama Hills were the setting from such classics as Gunga Din, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne Westerns, and even Iron Man. The Lone Pine Film Museum many displays and a self guided driving tour to help you visit the sites of your favorite scenes!

You can continue on to the Holiday Inn in Carson City or the one in Reno! The I395 goes back into California much farther to the North. But that's another epic trip! You'll find plenty to keep you busy. We already have plans for new adventures on this route!

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17 Best Ghost Towns in California, from Spooky Old Gold Rush Towns to Abandoned Cities

ghost towns in california

We’ve compiled the best ghost towns in California for those who love eerie old gold rush history.

If you love ghost towns, you’ll love exploring California . The region’s gold rush history gives the Golden State a uniquely high number of ghost towns. 

These towns sprung up quickly to support the mining industry but promptly fell to ruins as soon as the mines dried up.

Getting to these ghost towns isn’t as hard as you might think. Many of them are just off the highway, and four of them exist today as state parks. 

I love ghost towns because I enjoy digging into California history (pardon the pun), and there are actually a bunch of California ghost towns within driving distance of where I live. 

In this article, I’ve brought you the best ghost towns in California. Plus, how to get to each one and where to stay nearby.

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

California ghost towns

Table of Contents

Map of Ghost Towns in California

#1 Bodie State Historic Park

Bodie State Historic Park

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s one of California’s most famous ghost towns. Address : Highway 270, Bridgeport, CA 93517 How to get there: Turn east onto Bodie Road off Highway 395, seven miles south of Bridgeport, CA. Bodie State Historic Park is 13 miles down the road.  Nearby accommodation: Lundy Canyon Campground (28 mi), Lake View Lodge (32 mi)

Bodie State Historic Park may be one of California’s most famous mining towns. Bodie ghost town is situated south of Bridgeport, CA and north of Lee Vining, CA. 

William (Waterman) S. Bodey founded Bodie in 1859 after discovering a modest amount of gold in the hills around the town. By 1880, the city had grown to almost 10,000 and was famously lawless.

During the town’s heyday, there were a reported 65 saloons, not to mention several brothels and gambling halls. 

Today the Wild West town is preserved in a state of “arrested decay” as a state park. 

You can take a guided tour of Bodie Ghost Town or meander on your own with a self-guided walking tour among the 200 remaining buildings. 

One of the neat things about Bodie Ghost Town is that some old buildings still have furniture and supplies. 

For instance, the general store remains stocked the way it was in 1964 when Bodie became a state historical landmark.

Looking to visit more state parks? Reference our complete list of California state parks .

#2 Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site

Why it’s worth visiting : Learn the US’s history of Japanese internment camps. Address : Manzanar National Historic Site, 5001 Highway 395, Independence, CA 93526 How to get there : Go nine miles north of Lone Pine, CA or six miles south of Independence, CA. The historic site is on the west side of Highway 395. Nearby accommodation : Independence Creek Campground (6.7 mi), Mt. Williamson Motel and Basecamp (5.8 mi)

Manzanar National Historic Site isn’t your typical California ghost town because it isn’t related to the gold rush. 

During World War II, the United States Government interned over 100,000 Japanese immigrants and American citizens of Japanese descent at war relocation centers around the country. Manzanar National Historic Site was one of 10 camps. 

Up to 10,000 people lived in internment at Manzanar during the war in long barracks with a mess hall and a community building. 

While the residents were more or less free to walk around the compound, armed guards patrolled the entire exterior. 

I’ve visited Manzanar National Historic Site, which is well worth the stop. The park rangers have converted the old community hall into a visitor center. 

The interpretive panels do a fantastic job of paying homage to this horrible chapter in American history. 

You can also walk inside some of the original living quarters, check out the cemetery, or make the self-guided driving loop.

#3 Empire Mine State Historic Park

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s one of the “oldest, deepest, and richest gold mines in California.” Address : 10791 East Empire Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945 How to get there : Take Highway 49 24 miles north of Auburn, CA.  Nearby accommodation :  Inn Town Campground (4.1 mi), Flume’s End (4.6 mi)

Empire Mine State Historic Park might be my favorite of the ghost towns in Northern California. 

Empire Mine State Park is one of California’s most famous ghost towns because it preserves an enormous old mining operation: the Empire Mine. 

This old mine was operational from 1850-1956 and extracted 5.8 million ounces of gold.

The most mind-blowing fact about the Empire Mine was that it had 367 miles of tunnels in its heyday. That’s about the same driving distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles!

Today, the mines are closed and flooded, but you can still peer down the old mine shaft to the high water mark. 

The mine’s original owner, William Bourne Jr., was one of the wealthiest men in the United States at the time, and his lavish estate remains immaculately preserved.

If you visit, take a guided tour of the estate, the gardens, and the mineyard. 

The blacksmith shop is still on display and features six modern blacksmiths demonstrating early 1900s metalworking techniques.

Fun fact : Empire Mine had a “Secret Room” underground where the foremen kept a working model of the mine to help them manage the digging. Today you can see the model in the visitor center.

#4 Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Why it’s worth visiting : Witness the legacy of hydraulic mining and learn about the first environmental lawsuit in the US. Address : 23579 North Bloomfield Rd, Nevada City, CA 95959  How to get there : Take Highway 40 for 11 miles toward Downieville. Turn right onto Tyler Foote Road and follow the signs for the park. Nearby accommodation : Chute Hill Campground (in the park), North Bloomfield Cabins (in the park)

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park preserves a unique moment in environmental history in the United States. 

The Diggins site employed hydraulic mining, which uses blasts of water to wash away an entire mountain. 

The resulting hillside looks slightly like the sandstone hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park (albeit smaller). 

The disastrous environmental consequences of hydraulic mining eventually led to the first environmental lawsuit in the United States. 

Today, you can explore 20 miles of trails around Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park or stop in at the visitor center or the museum, both of which are open seven days a week. 

Malakoff Diggins State Park is northwest of Lake Tahoe and northeast of Nevada City, CA. It’s also very close to Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley. 

While Malakoff Diggins preserves the remains of the mining site, the ghost town where those miners lived was North Bloomfield. 

Founded in 1851, North Bloomfield was previously called Humbug, a slang term for a place where miners had struck out. 

You can walk around the remaining buildings of North Bloomfield and also spend the night in a few of the cabins.

Note : Don’t follow your GPS to get here if you want to stay on a paved road. See the park website or follow my instructions above.

#5 Shasta State Historic Park

Shasta State Historic Park

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s an easy stop off the highway! Address : 15312 Highway 299 West, Shasta, CA 96087 How to get there : Take Highway 299, six miles west of Redding, CA. Nearby accommodation : Sheep Camp Primitive Campground (2.5 mi), Americana Modern Hotel (10.4 mi)

If you’re visiting Redding, CA, you should stop at Shasta State Historic Park . 

Just six miles from nearby Redding, Shasta State Historic Park preserves the former “Queen City” of northern mining towns. 

Shasta, or “Old Shasta,” hit its boom shortly aft 1848, when pioneers discovered gold. 

The gold mining town was an important transportation hub for coach and train travel until 1873 when the new Central Pacific Railroad bypassed the town.  

Shasta State Park is one of the most accessible California ghost towns because it’s so close to a major city (Redding) and right off the highway.

In addition to the state park, take time to explore the restored Courthouse Museum (open Thurs-Sun), have a picnic next to the Pioneer Barn , or visit the Blumb Bakery for 1870’s style baking demonstrations.

#6 Cerro Gordo, CA

Cerro Gordo, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s the silver mine that built Los Angeles Address : Cerro Gordo Rd, Keeler, CA 93530 How to get there : From CA State Rt 136, turn east onto Cerro Gordo Rd. Nearby accommodation :  Diaz Lake Campground (22.6 mi), Dow Villa Motel (22.4 mi)

The Cerro Gordo silver mining town is north of Death Valley National Park and southeast of Lone Pine, CA. 

“Cerro Gordo” means “fat hill” in Spanish, and that’s precisely what it was in its heyday. In fact, this authentic silver mine helped create Los Angeles. 

An 1872 edition of the Los Angeles News reported, “… Cerro Gordo trade is invaluable. What Los Angeles is now is mainly due to it. It is the silver cord that binds our present existence. ”

However, like all mining operations, the Cerro Gordo mines eventually dried up. 

Today Cerro Gordo is privately owned, with a dozen buildings and scattered mining equipment. You can visit this abandoned town in California by booking a tour on their website.

#7 Keeler, CA

Keeler, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : See the remains of the Cerro Gordo tramway GPS coordinates : 36.488986657100895, -117.87394902392703 How to get there : Go 15 miles south of Lone Pine, CA, on Ste Rte 136 Nearby accommodation : Dow Villa Motel (14.6 mi), Panamint Springs Resort (35.8 mi)

Keeler ghost town, formerly known as Hawley, is another quasi-ghost town in California with around 60 remaining residents. 

Keeler’s development was due to the nearby Cerro Gordo mine, and its success tracked with the mine and Owens Lake. Sadly, both the mine and the lake have seen better times. 

Owens Lake once covered 100 square miles but diminished significantly after they diverted its main feeder river to provide water for Los Angeles. 

At its peak, Keeler had a population of about 2,500. It was the southern terminus for the Carson and Colorado Railroad service, and the abandoned train depot is a popular fixture. 

Keeler also had a bustling public pool, which is drained and abandoned today.

One of Keeler’s most unique ghost town features is the Cerro Gordo tramway, built to move ore from the Cerro Gordo mines. The tramway is broken off mid-air in an almost theatrical way.

#8 Ballarat, CA

Ballarat, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : See the gravesite of famous prospectors “Shorty” Harris and “Seldom Seen Slim.” GPS coordinates : Ballarat Rd, Trona, CA 93592 How to get there : Turn east on Trona-Wildrose Rd (CA-178). Ballarat is 3.6 miles from the turnoff. Nearby accommodation : Panamint Springs Resort (29.5 mi, has tent camping and hotel accommodations)

If you’re looking for a lonely, dusty California ghost town with a spooky feeling, check out Ballarat. 

Located south of the Panamint Springs Entrance to Death Valley National Park, Ballarat sprang up in 1896. But by 1917, it had fallen into disrepair. 

The town’s most famous residents were Shorty Harris and Seldom Seen Slim. These men were the last of the Rainbow Seekers, prospectors from the Mojave. 

When Seldom Seen Slim died in 1968, they broadcasted his eulogy nationwide. The epitaph on his gravestone reads, “Me lonely? Hell no! I’m half coyote and half wild burro.”

More infamous short-time residents of Ballarat were Charles Manson and his family. Today you can see an abandoned truck that belonged to Manson. 

Ballarat isn’t entirely abandoned today–there’s one resident and his dog who run a small general store.

Fun fact : An Australian immigrant gave Ballarat its name after a town of the same name in Australia’s gold mining country.

#9 Darwin, CA

Darwin, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : Hit up Ballarat, Darwin, and Keeler on the same road trip! GPS coordinates : 36.267976126691615, -117.59186346193034 How to get there : From Hwy 190 into Death Valley National Park, turn right onto Darwin Rd. The town is just a few miles down the road.  Nearby accommodation : Dow Villa Motel (37.8 mi), Panamint Springs Resort (23.6 mi)

Named after Darwin French, the ghost town of Darwin was an early miner/pioneer who discovered lead and silver deposits in the area in 1874. 

As the story goes, French was part of an expedition from the east. By the time his party reached eastern California, they were desperately hungry and without a working gun. A Native American man saved them when he fixed it with a silver gunsight. 

French returned to the area years later in search of the “Gunsight Mine.” While he never found the exact mine he was looking for, he still discovered enough to make the settlement prosper. 

Darwin had two ore smelters within just a few years, 20 mining operations, a post office, a drug store, and 200 houses.

Darwin had around 3,500 residents at its peak, making it the largest town in Inyo County until 1878 when smallpox decimated the community. 

Today, there are still around 35 residents of Darwin, making it more of a quasi-ghost town. If you visit Darwin, please be respectful of any private property or keep out signs.

#10 Panamint City, CA

Panamint City, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s a well-preserved ghost town if you can reach it. GPS coordinates : 36.11755413766455, -117.09524686931712 How to get there : Strenuous (15 miles, 3,600 ft elevation gain) hike up Surprise Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Start the hike at Chris Wicht’s Camp, six miles north of Ballarat. Nearby accommodation : ( Panamint Springs Resort (30.5 mi from Chris Wicht Camp Parking)

Panamint City is one of the California ghost towns inside Death Valley National Park . As the story goes, outlaws discovered silver there while using Surprise Canyon as a hiding place. 

Regardless of who found the silver, then-senator William Steward invested in the project, and the town was born in 1873. 

The silver mines in Panamint City once employed 2,000 people for the short boom period of 1873-1875. 

Like many ghost towns from the California gold rush , the city was exceptionally lawless. The Death Valley website calls it “the toughest, rawest, most hard-boiled little hellhole that ever passed for a civilized town.” 

In 1876, a flash flood destroyed much of the town and residents moved away.

Today Panamint City is accessible via a hot and strenuous hike (See OutdoorProject’s hiking description ). Once there, you’ll see the remains of the mile-long Main Street, which included saloons and a red-light district. 

Due to the remoteness of the hike, the historic buildings and mining equipment are well-preserved.

#11 Rhyolite, NV

Rhyolite, NV

Why it’s worth visiting : It was the biggest mining town in the Death Valley area. GPS coordinates : 36.90183679549815, -116.82811700014577 How to get there : Go four miles west of Beatty, NV Nearby accommodation : Spicer Ranch (informal camping, 13.2 mi), Death Valley Inn and RV Park (6 mi)

Ok, I know this article is supposed to be the best ghost towns in *California*, but I had to include Rhyolite. It was one of the most significant mining settlements of its day and it’s a stone’s throw from the California border. 

Plus, it’s a neat stop if you’re making a road trip from Las Vegas. I just drove through Beatty, NV, and I wish I’d known to stop in Rhyolite! It’s a lovely yet stark area. 

Rhyolite’s heyday was 1905-1911. It had fifty saloons, nineteen hotels, two churches, a stock exchange, and even an opera house. 

Today, one of the most popular original buildings is the Bottle House, made of beer bottles (donated from the 50 saloons in town). 

Another popular excursion near this ghost town is the Goldwell Museum , which features outdoor modern art installations.

#12 Calico Ghost Town Regional Park

Calico ghost town regional park

Why it’s worth visiting : See one of the biggest silver strikes in California and enjoy the developed amenities. Address : 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 92398 How to get there : Look for the signs just off I-15 in Yermo, CA Nearby accommodation : Calico Ghost Town Campground (on site), Travelodge by Wyndham Yermo (4.1 mi)

San Bernardino County runs Calico Ghost Town Regional Park , which is all that remains of this old west mining town. 

Originally named “Calico” for the multi-colored hills that resemble calico fabric, this site was established for silver ore but abandoned in the 1890s after the price of silver crashed. 

In the 1950s, Walter Knott purchased Calico Ghost Town and moved many of the buildings to his private attraction back east, Knott’s Berry Farm. The remaining buildings in Calico were restored to their original 1881 appearance. 

Perhaps because of Walter Knott, Calico has a touristy feel and many more amenities than most ghost towns in California. 

In Calico, you can tour the ghost town , eat at the restaurant, explore the Mystery Shack and the Lucy Lane Museum, and camp on site. 

The Calico Odessa Railroad also still runs through the town. You can even explore the Maggie Mine, one of the few old mines safe for visitors.

This ghost town in the Mojave Desert is right off I-15 and is the perfect place to stretch your legs on a road trip between Las Vegas and Los Angeles .

#13 Bombay Beach, CA

Bombay Beach, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : You can check out the edgy emerging art scene. GPS coordinates : 33.35090548856989, -115.72929835827749 How to get there : From Palm Springs , take Highway 111 South. Bombay Beach is off the highway east of the Salton Sea. Nearby accommodation : Mojo’s Slab Camp (22.2 mi), Glamis North Hot Springs Resort (7.2 mi)

Bombay Beach was a thriving resort town on the shores of the Salton Sea in the 50s and 60s but morphed into a ghost town in the 80s after the Salton Sea became toxic. 

Well, pseudo-ghost town, I should say. 

There are still around 200 residents of the dried-up little town, most of whom live in the area farthest from the water.

Unlike other ghost towns in Southern California, which are mainly mining communities, Bombay Beach is mostly old trailers and relatively modern homes. 

The vibe around Bombay Beach is very “Mad Max,” and one of the biggest attractions in the area is the budding art scene, which utilizes the stark landscape and old junk as a canvas.

The Bombay Beach Biennale is a three-month season from January to March that celebrates art and community in Bombay Beach.

#14 Silver City, CA

Silver City, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s one of the most haunted ghost towns in California. Address : 3829 Lake Isabella Boulevard, Bodfish, CA 93205 How to get there : Go 41 miles east on Highway 178 from Bakersfield, CA Nearby accommodation : Hobo Campground (4.3 mi), Barewood Inn and Suites (9.6 mi)

While many ghost towns in California have eerie vibes, Silver City is the only one listed in the National Directory of Haunted Places. 

The ghost town owner reported seeing a historic lunch pail fly across the room (admittedly, though, he has a good reason to stir up intrigue). Visitors have also reported floating bottles and mysterious music. 

Silver City has around 20 abandoned buildings from other ghost towns that came to Silver City to save them from demolition. These include a post office, general store, church, and private cabin. 

The owners of the ghost town have elected to allow the buildings to exist in their dilapidated state, choosing to do minimal restoration. 

That said, Silver City has been the site of film shoots for A&E, the History Channel, and even Nissan.

#15 Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

Colonal Allensworth State Historic park

Why it’s worth visiting : Learn about a Utopian experiment led by African Americans. Address : Highway 43, Earlimart, CA 93219 How to get there : Take Hwy 43 and go 30 miles north of Bakersfield, CA Nearby accommodation : John L. Whitehead Jr. Campground (in the park), Hyatt Place Delano (16.3 mi)

Colonel Allen Allensworth founded the town of Allensworth in 1908. 

Allensworth was born enslaved, and his vision was to create a community honoring the “dignity of the human spirit.” He was the highest-ranking African American servicemember at the time. 

The old 1912 schoolhouse remained in use until 1972. The town also included a library and a Baptist church. 

Colonel Allensworth’s death in 1914 and a lowering water table made it difficult for the town to thrive. Nonetheless, several residents hung on for many years. 

Today you can see the home of Colonel Allensworth and his wife Josephine, preserved in its 1912 condition as Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park . 

Every year Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park hosts a rededication ceremony to honor the ideals of Allensworth on the second Saturday in October.

#16 Drawbridge, CA

Drawbridge, CA

Why it’s worth visiting : You can go bird-watching as you watch Drawbridge sink into the marsh. Address : Don Edwards Environmental Education Center, 1751 Grand Blvd, Alviso, CA 95002 How to get there : You can view the ghost town from a trail near the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center. Nearby accommodation : DoubleTree by Hilton Newark-Fremont (5.6 mi). There isn’t much camping nearby. 

None of the ghost towns that I’ve mentioned on this list are decaying as quickly as Drawbridge.

Drawbridge is in south San Francisco Bay near San Jose and was originally just one home for the drawbridge operator on Station Island in 1876. 

Over the next few decades, more residents accrued. By the 1880s, a thousand visitors came every weekend. People went hunting, fishing, and swimming; during Prohibition, the town featured a few speakeasies. 

At its peak, there were around 90 buildings in Drawbridge. By the 1930s, the water table changed and the town began to sink into the estuary. 

Today Drawbridge ghost town is closed to visitors for safety reasons. 

You can see the remaining buildings from the Environmental Education Center in Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge or you can watch the video below.

#17 Eagle Mountain

Eagle Mountain

Why it’s worth visiting : It’s the largest ghost town in California GPS coordinates : 33.85566000380587, -115.48686417726853 How to get there : Turn north at the junction of Hwy 10 and Rice Rd (you can’t get too close to the town, though) Nearby accommodation : Cottonwood Campground (44 mi), Hampton Inn and Suites Blythe (61.5 mi)

A few ghost towns in California aren’t open to the public, and Eagle Mountain is one of them. 

But because it’s the biggest ghost town in California, I couldn’t leave it out. Plus, you can check out the drone footage at the end to get a good sense of the place. 

Henry Kaiser opened the Eagle Mountain iron mine in 1948, and it quickly became the most significant iron mine in Southern California. 

They soon built a town with 400 homes to better accommodate the workers in this extreme remote environment (let’s just say Eagle Mountain is on the “butt end” of Joshua Tree National Park ). 

At its zenith, Eagle Mountain had 4,000 residents. The town had a school, post office, gas station, and shopping center. 

The iron mining operation dried up in the 80s and the town quickly followed suit. Today, there’s a fence around the town’s perimeter, but the school is still in use.

This video has excellent footage of the ghost town. It hypes up the mystery factor of the city, but the reason for Eagle Mountain’s abandonment is that the mine dried up–plain and simple.

FAQs About California Ghost Towns

FAQs about California ghost towns

What constitutes a ghost town?

A ghost town is an abandoned settlement. To be considered a ghost town, there must be at least a few original structures. Often ghost towns come to be after residents exhaust natural resources.

Is it safe to visit ghost towns?

It is generally safe to visit most ghost towns so long as you stay out of the abandoned buildings and mine shafts. 

Mine shafts not only have physical hazards but can also accumulate toxic gases or be home to bats. 

As there are many endangered bat species, it’s essential not to throw anything into mine shafts or shout into them to avoid disturbing roosting bats with babies.

Are there many abandoned cities in California? How many ghost towns are in California?

Because of California’s Gold Rush history, there are as many as 300 ghost towns in the state. Miners abandoned many of them after the mines became unprofitable.

Why are there ghost towns in California?

First, California has a rich history of silver and gold mining. Many Gold Rush era towns sprung up quickly, only to be abandoned after the mines dried up. 

Second, much of California is dry and hot, which has helped preserve historic buildings and mining equipment.

What is the largest ghost town in California?

The largest ghost town in California is Eagle Mountain. The Eagle Mountain iron mine opened in 1948, but by 1983 the last businesses and the old post office had closed.

What’s the most popular ghost town to visit in California?

One of the best ghost towns in California is Bodie, located in Northern California. Bodie State Historic Park is known for its extensive collection of buildings preserved in a state of arrested decay.

What is the oldest California ghost town?

Many people list Bodie as California’s oldest ghost town, but the truth is that record keeping wasn’t excellent during the 1850s, and there may be older towns than Bodie.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!

Looking for more unique California travel recommendations? Check out these related articles below!

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Lone Pine Ghosts

  • Donna Williams of Emerald Hills, CA on 2021-02-16 said: I stayed in room 251, top above the office below. The radiator in the room is hot and you have to open the windows to cool down. My daughter was quite uneasy as the lamp beside her bed kept turning itself off.
  • Andrew - UK on 2020-07-05 said: In September 2001 I was travelling with a friend from Vegas through Death Valley, with no real plan on where to stop, but we were heading to the Sequoia National Park and Yosemite. We got to Lone Pine and decided, saw teh Dow Jones and decided to stop for the night. I think we were given the Deluxe Queen room, it overlooks the main road and is net to the restaurant. After Death Valley we were both fairly tired and after dinner and coffee decided to get some sleep. I had a great night sleep, but when I woke up next morning all the lights in the room were on and my friend was really on edge. On questioning my friend, he said in the early hours of the morning, he woke up and in the dim light saw a man standing over him in bed watching him. He switched on the light and checked the connecting door to the room next door. It was locked. He then went round the whole room and bathroom and switched every light on and checked to make sure that the door to outside was locked and all windows were shut and locked. I do believe him as he's not the type to make up anything like this.
  • Char Lancaater of St Joseph , Missouri on 2018-11-24 said: Many years ago when my Oldest son was just 9 months old, hes,34 now, we lived in Lone Pine. One night we were in bed watching tv, my husband and I. Our sons crib was,at the bottom of our bed. I had just rolled over to go tonsleep and the next thing I know, my husband is hitting my arm frantically, saying "Oh My God" over and over. I sat up and he was pointing towards the crib, I kinda,shook my head and tried to ficus, the only light was coming from the tv. I looked down there, and I didn't see anything... That's when he said "Oh My Good God" really loud and began to pray. He was,white as,a ghost. He says he looked down to the crib where our son slept ANF there was,an old Indian woman bending over the crib, lookin g like she,was cooing and smiling and tucking the covers over the baby. Wearing traditional native clothing. My husband is part native. He says as,soon as he got my attention and I focused, she looked at him, grinned an ornery, almost devilish smile, and shook her head and Disappeared as soon as I looked. He was so Shook Up and real about it I know he saw her. Tbings,would be moved in our duplex and I was Always finding feathers. That I believed to be eagle feathers. Just laying on top of things. Also, on Whitney Portal road one rather late night we were driving, listening to music with his cousins and the higher up we went, our cassette tape started playing BACKWARDS. And, get this, No Joke, Pat Benatars, He'll is for Children was the song it did it on. We got so scared, it got SO cold in the car, and the wind started blowi g SO hard, we turned around. As,we went down, it started playing right again, the wind stopped, and we are talking It was mid summer, 110 in the shade! It it rumored that there is an Indian Buriel Ground right about where we were. We never went back up there again. I have many more stories, but I'll leave it at these 2. I Am an Absolute Believer that that Valley is Very Haunted!!
  • Glenn of SB, Ca on 2018-03-24 said: I frequent Lone Pine for hiking and fishing trips. Last (03/23/18) night I stayed in Dow VIlla rm 254 in the old hotel. About 2 am I was awaken by my bed shaking. I looked around the small rm and of course nothing. About 10 minutes later same thing, bed was shaking but this time when I woke there was a young blond women sitting on the foot of the bed. I looked at her and she said when ever you remove anything from the night stand the bed shakes. I went back to sleep never felt scared or uncomfortable during the night. However, before I went to bed and was watching TV numerous times I heard people walking up and down the hallway and laughing. One of the time I peaked out the door and not a person was in the hallway.
  • HAYLEY of Riplingham, East Yorkshire, England on 2017-06-19 said: Just found your website and noticed the comment about the ghost cowboy in the Best Western at Lone Pine. It was me who posted the story a while ago on another website. My story goes - "My husband and I stayed at the Best Western, Lone Pine, California on the night of Saturday 20 April 1996. We stayed in the ''Kirk Douglas'' room as it was named at that time. We both awoke at the same time in the early hours, propped ourselves up on our elbows and both looked at a tall thin man leaning over the end of our bed. He faced us for a few seconds then turned and walked through the closed door which led outside. The black shadow of a man wore a cowboy hat. He didn't make a sound. We asked each other if we'd seen the same thing - yes we had. Neither of us were frightened by what we saw and went back to sleep. As we both saw the same thing it proved it wasn't just a dream." It's kind of hard to comprehend what happened. I do believe in ghosts but my husband, still, isn't sure. We do regret not asking the hotel staff if anyone else had ever seen anything. I know a lot of people were killed in an earthquake there in 1872 and I feel he was one of the victims. Hayley and Rob from Riplingham East Yorkshire England.
  • Anonymous on 2017-02-03 said: My husband, daughter and myself have stayed in lone pine many times. It was always a good half way point on the way to Southern California to visit family. The last time we stayed was a couple of years ago, on this trip we decided to bring our well behaved Labrador since it was a dog friendly hotel. All night long she was very distressed. She didn't sleep all night kepted getting up and down like something or someone was touching her. The only time I have ever seen her act this way was in the very hunted town Virginia City.
  • Roxanne Bergman of Milton Keynes, Bucks on 2016-07-15 said: It's so funny to see your comments as I stayed in Dow Villa in the Summer if 2006...well we never actually stayed the night but whily Dad was downstairs talking with staff I had the weirdest and most frightening experience. As soon as we walked into the room I felt incredibly uneasy and once my Dad left the room I began to feel so completely awful, like a most frantic. I found that I just couldn't continue to sit in the room. I ran out of the room and down the corridor and the second I left the room I felt normal, I was thinking "what are you doing, you've just left your passports and money in there" so I walked back, the second i got into the room I felt mental again, like totally crazy and hysterical,it was like all of someone else's hurt and pain went into me. Basically I ended up running up as down the corridor many times until my Dad came back upstairs and told me I looked like I'd seen a ghost (lol). We stayed at the very end of the corridor on the left hand side of the old part of the hotel!!
  • Bart Loney of helena, montana on 2015-10-18 said: I have worked down in lone pine several times during the winter months and had stay at the Dow villa.On several occasions I experienced hearing like cowboy boots with spurs jingeling walking down the hallway and every time I would open the door to my room and look out in the hallway the sound would stop and there would be nobody there, this happened to me at least 5 or 6 times the winter of 2006. After a month stay there in November 2005 it occurred again so I moved across the street to the mt Whitney hostel I never experienced it again I definitely believe the old part of the Dow Villa is haunted!
  • Anonymous on 2015-10-16 said: I grew up in Bishop and spent some time in Lone Pine. About 40ish years ago driving to Bishop at night just north/west of Lone Pine I saw bright lights in the hills. I am convinced it was a UFO. On my way to Bishop at night about 25 years ago same thing on the south/east side just before Lone Pine near the river.
  • Jim of Williams, Arizona on 2015-06-05 said: In Lone Pine, the Dow Villa Motel is very, very haunted. Ask the night time front desk person, they have numerous stories. My wife and I both have had many strange occurances in our many stays there. Write if your interested!
  • Weird California (2006) by Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle, Mike Marinacci, p: 197
  • Haunted Places: The National Directory (2002) by Hauck, Dennis, p: 51 - 52
  • Mysterious California (1988) by Marinacci, Mike, p: 69
  • Great Ghosts of the West (1971) by Webb, Richard, p: 3 - 12, 193 - 213, 221 - 227

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8 Spookiest Ghost Towns in California

lone pine california ghost town

Betsy Malloy

A California ghost town might be the kind you think of, an abandoned mining camp with tumbleweeds blowing down a deserted main street, past a long-disused saloon or general store, toward the old cemetery. You can find those in the Golden State, but there’s more: Abandoned reminders of a grand social experiment, the remains of internment camps, and what’s left of a medicine man’s so-called “health resort.” Some of them may even be spooky, with stories of hauntings and restless spirits.

Know this before you go: Some ghost towns are at high elevations. Others in the desert are hot in the summer, with no shade. They often don’t have water and other amenities. The terrain in a ghost town may be uneven, and you might encounter snakes and other animals. Take sturdy shoes, water, a hat, sunscreen, and snacks. And be sure your vehicle is up to the drive. 

If you only see one ghost town in California, Bodie is the one to visit.

Bodie was a gold-mining town the started in 1876. At its peak, more than 10,000 gold-seekers lived there. The wild, wide-open mining town was so wicked that some people thought even God had forsaken it.

Today, Bodie is a pilgrimage site for people who love ghost towns. It has almost 200 structures still standing, kept in a state of "arrested decay." The large site with so many things to see is unparalleled among California ghost towns.

Bodie is also said to be not spooky or haunted but cursed. Legend has it that any visitor who dares to take anything—even a rock—from this Gold Rush ghost town, isolated beyond the eastern Sierra, will be punished. But in fact, the curse was invented by park rangers, who wanted to keep people from stealing things.

Bodie is a California state park, located east of the Sierras, 13 miles east of US Highway 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport at 8,500 feet elevation. The paved section of the road to it takes about 15 minutes to drive. The last three miles of rough dirt road will take you 10 minutes or more to cross. In the winter, the road becomes impassable, except by snowmobile.

Cerro Gordo

GeoStock/The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus

Some people say Cerro Gordo is a better ghost town than Bodie because it's less crowded with sightseers. To offset that, it has far fewer buildings, and it's harder to get to.

Cerro Gordo is privately owned, and the only way to get a look around is to take a guided tour. You can get tour tickets at the Cerro Gordo Mines website . Structures still standing include a hotel, bunkhouse, the 1877 Hoist Works, a private residence, and other buildings. The old general store doubles as a museum.

Cerro Gordo's silver mining history began in 1865, but it was almost as hard to get to then as it is now. Mule-drawn wagons had to haul the ore 275 miles to Los Angeles, an expensive process. Only high-grade ore could make a profit. By 1868, the richest veins played out, silver prices fell, and mining ceased.

Over the next 50 years, the mines produced silver, lead, and zinc. By 1938, Cerro Gordo was abandoned. But today's caretakers say they may have left a few stray spirits behind . Don't worry about it being spooky; they are only seen at night.

It's just outside the boundary of Death Valley National Park at 8,500 feet elevation and eight miles east of Keeler off California Highway 136. The road is steep in places and not for vehicles with low ground clearance. 

GeoStock/The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus 

Purists might complain that Rhyolite is technically in Nevada, but it's only 10 miles from the state line and well worth a stop if you're touring California ghost towns.

In its heyday, Rhyolite had three train lines, three newspapers, three swimming pools, three hospitals, two undertakers, an opera, and symphony and 53 saloons. It lasted from 1905 through 1910.

The thing that makes Rhyolite unique are its buildings made from permanent materials rather than canvas and wood. Also worth a look is the nearby  Goldwell Open Air Museum  and its collection of sculptures.

Rhyolite is between Beatty, Nevada, and Death Valley National Park off Nevada Highway 374, which becomes California Highway 190 at the border. It is open to the public with no admission free.

wsfurlan/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Calico is one of the easiest California ghost towns to get to, just off Interstate Highway 15 between Barstow and Las Vegas.

Calico's 1881 silver strike was the largest in California history. The price of silver declined in 1896, and by 1904, it was abandoned.

Walter Knott, who also started Knott's Berry Farm , purchased Calico in the 1950s. He restored all but five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Today, Calico is part-authentic ghost town, part-regional park, and part tourist attraction. Don't turn up your nose and let its overt commercialism keep you from visiting. There's plenty of history if you take the time to look for it.

North Bloomfield

jcookfisher/Flickr/cc-by-2.0 

Gold mining at the Malakoff Diggins near North Bloomfield started in 1851. During the town's heyday, it had nearly 1,500 inhabitants and more than 200 buildings. 

By the 1860s, the easy-to-reach gold was depleted. MIners depended on hydraulic mining techniques to get to the gold ore, washing away entire mountains in the process. That was what led to the town’s final demise. When hydraulic mining was declared illegal in 1883, the town went into a slow decline.

Today North Bloomfield is in Malakoff Diggins State Park . You can see the former mining sites and original historic buildings along North Bloomfield Road, including a church, school, barbershop, and fire department.

North Bloomfield is in California’s Gold Country, northeast of Sacramento off California Highway 20 near Grass Valley and Nevada City.

Allensworth

Stephen Saks/Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images Plus

Allensworth holds a unique place in California history. Founded by former slave Colonel Allen Allensworth in 1908, it was to be a place where African Americans could live and thrive without oppression.

The all-Black town’s success was featured in many national newspaper articles around the turn of the twentieth century. By 1914, it had more than 200 inhabitants. Soon afterward, the town water supply started drying up, and the Great Depression came in the early 1930s.

Public services shut down, and residents moved to the cities to look for work. The Post Office closed in 1931. By 1972, the population was down to 90, and it later dropped to almost zero.

Today, Allensworth is a California state park where you can see then restored buildings, including a library, church, schoolhouse, and hotel.

Allensworth is in the Central Valley, north of Bakersfield and west of California Highway 99.

R. Litewriter/iStock / Getty Images Plus 

In 1944, radio evangelist Curtis Howe Springer got title to a piece of the Mojave Desert as a mining claim. He named it Zzyzx, which he said was the last word in the English language.

Instead of digging for minerals, Springer created a small camp around a palm-lined, natural spring. He bottled the water and sold it to travelers. He also operated a health resort (or so he called it).

In 1976, the U.S. government reclaimed the land. Today, it is home to the Desert Studies Center of the California State University system. You can see the springs and a few abandoned buildings.

Zzyzx is a few miles southeast of Interstate 15 at the Zzyzx exit, near the town of Baker.

Rick Gerharter/Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images Plus 

If you think of a ghost town as a place that was busy in the past but is now empty or nearly empty, the former internment camp at Manzanar

More than 10,000 Japanese Americans lived at Manazar from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945. Unlike the people who flocked to the other ghost towns in this guide, Manzanar's residents were more likely to try to get out (or so some people thought). Military police with submachine guns stood watch in eight guard towers around the perimeter of the camp.

Today, you can learn more about Manzanar's history in the visitor center and visit Block 14, where you will find two reconstructed barracks and a mess hall. You can also take the self-guided loop drive and see the cemetery. Even if Manzanar doesn't have ghosts, it can give you a spooky feeling to think of its former internees.

Manzanar National Historic Site is nine miles north of Lone Pine off US Highway 395. There is no admission charge.

If you loved these ghost towns, you might also want to visit:

  • Silver City , near Lake Isabella, which is more like a museum of ghost towns, created from more than 20 historic buildings moved there from mining camps.
  • The Lost Horse Mine at Joshua Tree National Park is known for its well-preserved stamp mill.
  • For a rare look at the mercury mines that supported California's gold rush, visit New Almaden , near San Jose.

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Haunted Places in Lone Pine, California

lone pine california ghost town

Best Western Plus Frontier Motel

Lone pine, california.

The bizarre apparition of a vanishing man in a cowboy hat has been seen in several rooms of the hotel in the early hours of morning. (Submitted by Callum Swift)

Belshaw House - Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Built in 1868 and once the home of Mortimer Belshaw, one of California's Bullion Kings, the small house within the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is believed to be haunted. The area is closed to visitors at this time.

Scotty's Castle

This historic mansion was built for actor Walter Scott back in 1922, and when he passes away in 1954, he and his beloved dog were buried in the foothills behind the building. Workers claim to hear disembodied footsteps walking across the driveway at night, and claim to hear the barks ...

Skidoo is just like Bodie or Calico in terms of its reputation as a classic American ghost town, and just like the others, it too has a reputation for the dead lurking around. A barkeeper named Joe "Hooch" Simpson was responsible for the murder of the town banker. Joe met ...

Sequoia Dawn - Old TB Sanitarium

Springville, california.

Formerly an old TB Sanitarium, Sequoia Dawn Apartments are said to be haunted. At the nearby cemetery, a witness says something unseen pulled his hat off his head and disembodied voices were heard. Inside the apartments, folks have reported strange voices, cold spots, and the apparition of a woman in ...

lone pine california ghost town

The Springville Inn

Four ghosts are believed to haunt the original structure around which the Springville Inn's modern amenities were built. Employees have cleverly named these ghosts "Little Girl", "Old Man". "Young Man" and "The Woman". It's a complete set! You are less likely to see the Old Man as ...

Dunlap Cemetery

Dunlap, california.

A number of spooky occurrences have been reported at this cemetery: Three tall shadow figures that stand near some oak trees, a chanting voice that seems to say "Leave us alone," cold spots near unmarked graves, and footsteps that seem to follow visitors.

lone pine california ghost town

Furnace Creek Inn and Resort

Death valley, california.

The kitchen and dining room are reportedly haunted by a ghost that makes random banging sounds.

Fox Theater

Visalia, california.

The balcony at this historic theatre is supposed to be haunted. Visitors have reported feeling an eerie presence accompanied by a temperature drop, while others have sworn they've seen a figure sitting in the wings after closing hours when the building is empty. (Submitted by Callum Swift)

LJ Williams Community Theater

This 1930's theatre is usually used for school productions, and is reportedly haunted by actors and theatre patrons who loved the building so much that they refused to leave. Visitors have seen a pair of ghostly children in various parts of the building and a teenage girl who hanged ...

lone pine california ghost town

Cinema 1-2-3 Site

Three boys were usually seen here, all of which were transparent. One boy was apparently thrown off of the roof and sometimes, people would see a shadow being tossed off of the roof. The site has since been demolished, but the activity could possibly remain there. (Submitted by Chris Berglund)

Hillman Healthcare Center

Tulare, california.

At Hillman Health Clinic, formerly Tulare County General Hospital, the elevator is said to run by itself, and heavy footsteps have been reported on the stairs.

lone pine california ghost town

Goldfield Hotel

Goldfield, nevada.

TV's Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters and other programs have featured this historic hotel, which is said to be rich with paranormal activity.

Kern County Museum

Bakersfield, california.

Formerly the 1882 Norris School and now Kern County Museum, the place is said to be haunted. Witnesses have heard the mysterious tapping of chalk on the blackboard.

National Chavez Center

Keene, california.

This location used to be a hospital for people suffering from TB. Before it was renovated, curious visitors would be scared off by the sounds of children laughing, EVPs also being common. (Submitted by Chris Berglund)

Garces Memorial Circle

There is a statue in the circle, and locals say its hands move or it can be heard muttering prayers right before a major car accident takes place here.

Central Park

The apparition of a woman in a flowing gown has been seen along the canal near dawn, believed to be the spirit of a woman who was murdered nearby. Her bones were discovered in the foundry across from the park with bullet holes in them.

lone pine california ghost town

Kern County Kids Shelter - Sinaloa Mexican

Once the Kern County Kids Shelter, the Mexican restaurant Sinaloa's 100-plue-year-old building is said to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. The feelings experienced here are generally good ones, reports say.

Club Paradise

At this former night club, folks say they have seen apparitions and objects that move on their own, and some reports say something unseen has locked employees in the storeroom from the outside. Customers inside also have been groped or pushed by something unseen.

lone pine california ghost town

The Padre Hotel

Believed to be haunted by people who died in a fire there decades ago, floor 7 is supposedly the hot spot of activity. Allegedly workers who were involved in a 2008 renovation reported numerous poltergeist/haunted activity including being touched, pushed and other sorts of mischief.

lone pine california ghost town

Bakersfield Californian Building

The old newspaper building is said to be haunted by a phantom German shepherd, a former security guard, and the paper's former editor.

The Green Hotel

Shafter, california.

The 1913 hotel is haunted by two spirits, believed to be linked with the past of the historic town. The first is a female ghost, perhaps the apparition of Marion Hitchcock, who has been observed parting the upstairs curtains and peering into the street. The second is a man ...

Gaslight Melodrama Theatre and Music Hall

This former theater is said to be haunted by the former owner of a toy shop that this building once housed. The owner committed suicide here. Although haunting incidents don't occur as often now, in the 1980s props and stage settings were known to move by themselves and many witnesses ...

Kozy Corner Deli and Coffee Bar

Tonopah, nevada.

Food has been thrown by itself and the bell is said to ring itself. It is believed that the owner's father may be responsible. (Submitted by Chris Berglund)

Mizpah Hotel

The five-story Victorian Mizpah Hotel, built in 1907, is believed to be haunted by a few of the prostitutes from its early days. A Lady in Red may be the most famous, known to touch men's hair or brush against them. According to the stories told here, she was beaten ...

The Clown Motel

As if a clown themed motel wasn't scary enough, this motel is located right in front of an old cemetery. Guests not only feel intimidated because of the clown theme, but also because of a weird presence which they cannot see. EMF meters spike inside (despite no source of electromagnetic ...

Yosemite National Park

Miwok Indians believed that an evil spirit named Po-ho-no would lure hikers near the edge of cliffs before pushing them off. The fallen hikers themselves are thought to be here. Submitted by Chris Berglund

Fort Irwin National Training Center

Fort irwin, california.

Families living in the base housing have reported objects moving and disappearing, hearing the sounds of stomping and footsteps, locked doors unlocking themselves, seeing shadowy figures, and sometimes there are reports of ghostly animals. It's said that there have been many suicides within the base which could account for some ...

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lone pine california ghost town

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities

By Chirasree Banerjee

Last Updated On October 20, 2023

In United States

California, often celebrated for its sun-kissed beaches , cutting-edge tech hubs, and glitzy Hollywood appeal, has another, quieter story to tell.

Tucked away from the limelight are its ghost towns—abandoned remnants of a vibrant past that once glittered with gold, ambition, and dreams.

From the frenzied peaks of the Gold Rush era to unspoken tales of communities left behind, these silent towns narrate a saga of both booming prosperity and poignant decline.

As we embark on a journey through the 20 most captivating ghost towns in California, be ready to immerse yourself in a realm where history whispers from every crumbling wall and empty thoroughfare.

Dive deep with me into the mysteries of these once-bustling, now-forgotten, corners of the Golden State.

lone pine california ghost town

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Interactive Map of 20 Best Ghost Towns in California

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Delve into the rich history of California’s past with these preserved settlements.

Each park offers a unique glimpse into the state’s dynamic history, from the boom of the Gold Rush to the eventual silence of abandonment.

1. Bodie State Historic Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Highway 270, Bridgeport, CA 93517
  • Directions: From Highway 395, turn east onto Bodie Road (about seven miles south of Bridgeport). The historic park is 13 miles ahead.
  • Where to Stay: Bridgeport Inn , Lake View Lodge
  • Fame & History: As one of California’s most renowned ghost towns, Bodie stands testament to the state’s vibrant mining past.
  • Location: Nestled between Bridgeport and Lee Vining, this town offers a scenic route filled with historical tales.
  • Rich Past: Founded by William (Waterman) S. Bodey in 1859, the town quickly grew following the discovery of gold. By 1880, Bodie’s population soared to 10,000, gaining notoriety for its lawlessness.
  • Wild West Ambiance: In its prime, Bodie boasted 65 saloons, brothels, and gambling halls, embodying the essence of the Wild West.
  • Preservation: Bodie’s current state is termed “arrested decay.” As a state park, it’s meticulously maintained to keep its historical integrity.

What to Do?

  • Guided Tours: Dive deep into the history with knowledgeable guides recounting tales of Bodie’s past.
  • Self-Guided Exploration: Roam freely among the 200 remaining structures, absorbing the town’s ambiance.
  • Step into the Past: Unique attractions like the general store, preserved as it was in 1964, offer visitors an authentic glimpse into life back then. Furniture, supplies, and other remnants paint a vivid picture.

Insider Tip:

When visiting Bodie, it’s not just about the buildings. Look closely inside structures like the general store to get an authentic feel of the bygone era. Each artifact tells a story.

  • 25 Best California State Parks Near San Francisco: A Guide

2. Empire Mine State Historic Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: 10791 East Empire Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945
  • Directions: Head north on Highway 49 for 24 miles from Auburn, CA.
  • Where to Stay: Grass Valley Courtyard Suites , Sierra Mountain Inn
  • Historical Grandeur: Recognized as one of California’s most famed ghost towns, the park safeguards the legacy of the colossal Empire Mine – one of the state’s “oldest, deepest, and richest gold mines.”
  • Mining Marvel: Operational between 1850-1956, this mine retrieved an astonishing 5.8 million ounces of gold.
  • Vast Tunnel Network: At its peak, Empire Mine boasted 367 miles of tunnels – equivalent to the driving span from San Francisco to Los Angeles!
  • Peer into the Past: Although the mines are now submerged, visitors can glimpse the old shafts up to their waterlines.
  • Lavish Legacy: Explore the meticulously conserved estate of the mine’s initial owner, William Bourne Jr., once among the nation’s wealthiest. A guided journey across the estate, gardens, and mineyard is a must.
  • Craftsmanship Exhibit: Witness early 20th-century metalworking techniques at the blacksmith shop, which still hosts modern blacksmiths demonstrating their craft.
  • Discover the ‘Secret Room’: Originally used to help foremen strategize mining activities, a working model of the mine is now displayed for visitors at the center.

While the mining operations and their scale are indeed mesmerizing, don’t miss out on the “Secret Room” in the visitor center.

It offers a miniaturized perspective on the vast mining operations and showcases the intricate planning behind them.

  • 28 Top California Gold Rush Towns Near San Francisco

3. Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: 23579 North Bloomfield Rd, Nevada City, CA 95959
  • Directions: Travel on Highway 40 for 11 miles in the direction of Downieville. Make a right onto Tyler Foote Road and keep an eye out for park signage.
  • Where to Stay: Broad Street Inn , Flume’s End
  • Environmental Historical Insight: Malakoff Diggins embodies a pivotal phase in U.S. environmental history, showcasing the aftermath of hydraulic mining.
  • Mining Marvel: Experience the powerful remnants of hydraulic mining which relied on water blasts to erode entire mountainsides.
  • Eco-Legal Legacy: The park stands as a testament to the inaugural environmental lawsuit in the U.S. due to the adverse ecological impacts of hydraulic mining.
  • Picturesque Scenery: The transformed hillsides, reminiscent of Bryce Canyon National Park’s sandstone hoodoos , captivate the eyes, albeit on a smaller scale.
  • Trail Trekking: Traverse the park’s 20 miles of trails, soaking in the rich history and panoramic views.
  • Knowledge Quest: Dive into the region’s legacy with a visit to the on-site visitor center or museum, both operating seven days a week.
  • North Bloomfield Ghost Town : Nestled within Malakoff Diggins, North Bloomfield stands as a testament to the miners who once inhabited the area. This historic settlement, once named Humbug, captivates visitors with its well-preserved buildings. Explore its stories and even opt for an overnight stay in one of its cabins.

Insider Tip: While GPS systems offer convenience, it’s advisable to stick to the provided directions or consult the park’s official website when heading to Malakoff Diggins.

This ensures a smoother journey on paved roads, preventing unexpected detours or challenges.

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4. Shasta State Historic Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: 15312 Highway 299 West, Shasta, CA 96087
  • Directions: Set course on Highway 299, positioned a mere six miles west of Redding, CA.
  • Where to Stay: Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn , Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge
  • Convenient Detour: Its proximity to the highway and major city, Redding , makes Shasta State Historic Park an easy and worthwhile pit stop.
  • Historical Prowess: Step back in time and tread the grounds of the once-regarded “Queen City” among northern mining towns.
  • Gold Rush Glimpse: Shasta’s history is deeply rooted in the gold rush era, offering insights into the lives and aspirations of pioneers who struck gold in 1848.
  • Transportation Tribute: Recognized as a key hub for coach and train commutation, the town thrived until 1873 when the Central Pacific Railroad charted a different route.
  • Courthouse Museum: Embrace the history at the restored Courthouse Museum, which throws its doors open from Thursday to Sunday.
  • Picnic Perfection: Recharge amidst nature by setting up a picnic beside the evocative Pioneer Barn.
  • Bakery Brilliance: Savor the charm of 1870’s baking at the Blumb Bakery, where traditional baking demonstrations provide both education and temptation.

While the park itself holds treasures aplenty, don’t miss out on the neighboring attractions.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or just passing through, Shasta offers a blend of historical allure and natural beauty, making it a must-visit.

5. Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Highway 43, Earlimart, CA 93219
  • Directions: Journey via Hwy 43, heading 30 miles north of Bakersfield, CA.
  • Where to Stay: Best Western Town & Country Lodge , Hyatt Place Delano
  • African American Legacy: Colonel Allen Allensworth, a beacon of hope and resilience, was the brainchild behind this town, conceptualized to embody the “dignity of the human spirit.”
  • Historical Gem: Experience the rich tapestry of history, as Allensworth, born in the shackles of slavery, rose to be the highest-ranking African American servicemember of his time.
  • Educational Institutions: The town, in its prime, boasted a 1912 schoolhouse which catered to the community until 1972, a library, and a Baptist church, all echoes of a bygone era.
  • Colonel Allensworth’s Home: Travel back in time as you explore the Colonel’s home, meticulously preserved as it stood in 1912, offering an intimate glimpse into his life and the life of his wife, Josephine.
  • Annual Rededication Ceremony: Immerse yourself in the annual event that pays homage to Allensworth’s ideals. Held every second Saturday in October, it is a vibrant reminder of the town’s foundational values.

While the vision of a thriving community faced challenges, such as Colonel Allensworth’s untimely death and environmental factors, the town’s resilience is palpable.

The park stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of a community that, against all odds, persisted and held onto its values.

If you’re seeking a historical journey underscored by inspiration, Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park awaits.

These ghost towns are recognized nationally for their historical significance and encapsulate some of California’s most poignant stories. Wander through streets once bustling with activity, now echoing tales of times gone by.

6. Manzanar National Historic Site

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: 5001 Highway 395, Independence, CA 93526
  • Directions: Situated 9 miles north of Lone Pine, CA or 6 miles south of Independence, CA, the historic site is on the west side of Highway 395.
  • Where to Stay: Independence Courthouse Motel , Dow Villa Motel
  • Deep Historical Significance: Unlike the typical California ghost towns tied to the gold rush, Manzanar offers insight into a dark chapter of U.S. history – the internment of Japanese immigrants and citizens during WWII.
  • Internment Legacy: Manzanar stands as one of the 10 internment camps where over 100,000 Japanese individuals were confined. At its peak, up to 10,000 residents lived here in long barracks with shared facilities.
  • A Sobering Experience: While residents could move within the compound, armed guards constantly surveyed the perimeter. This site serves as a poignant reminder of the extents of wartime measures and their impact on innocent civilians.
  • Visitor Center: Once the community hall, it now houses displays that narrate the tales of those interned here. The park rangers and interpretive panels ensure a comprehensive understanding of the events.
  • Authentic Glimpses: Walk inside some of the original living quarters and visualize the conditions the residents endured.
  • Other Attractions: Explore the cemetery which holds memories of those who lived and passed here. Additionally, take the self-guided driving loop to cover the entire compound.

When visiting Manzanar, take a moment to reflect on its significance.

While it’s essential to understand the historical context, it’s equally crucial to remember the personal stories and struggles of those interned.

Engage with the panels and displays, allowing their tales to resonate with you.

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  • Defending human dignity – An exhibition at the Red Cross Museum in Geneva, Switzerland 

Discover a range of ghost towns lovingly preserved in regional parks, from forgotten mining towns to deserted communities.

Each offers a unique narrative, tied closely to the land and its many transformations.

7. Calico Ghost Town Regional Park

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Barstow, CA 92311
  • Directions: Keep an eye out for the directional signs just off I-15 in Yermo, CA.
  • Where to Stay: Travelodge by Wyndham , Rodeway Inn On Historic Route 66
  • Historical Significance: Step back in time to witness one of California’s largest silver strikes, encapsulated in the diverse landscapes that gave Calico its distinct name.
  • Preserved Legacy: While Calico saw its decline in the 1890s after the silver market crashed, the town found a revival in the 1950s. Thanks to Walter Knott, many of Calico’s authentic buildings now stand restored to their original 1881 splendor.
  • A Blend of Past and Present: Unlike many other ghost towns, Calico offers a balanced mix of historical allure and modern amenities, making it a unique and comfortable experience for all visitors.
  • Journey Through Time: Engage in an immersive experience as you tour the remnants of Calico, with options to dine at a classic eatery or explore peculiar attractions like the Mystery Shack and Lucy Lane Museum.
  • Railroad Adventure: Hop on the Calico Odessa Railroad for a ride that offers picturesque views and a slice of history, as it meanders through the heart of the town.
  • Maggie Mine Exploration: Dive deeper into Calico’s mining legacy by touring the Maggie Mine, one of the select few mines that remain safe and accessible to visitors.

Located strategically in the Mojave Desert, Calico Ghost Town is an ideal stopover for those journeying between the buzzing cities of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

If you’re on the lookout for a unique blend of historical depth and modern comfort during your road trip, Calico is a must-visit!

Off the beaten path, these independent ghost towns are true hidden gems.

Explore settlements that might not have the official designations but are brimming with stories, history, and a haunting beauty all their own.

8. Cerro Gordo, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Cerro Gordo Rd, Keeler, CA 93530
  • Directions: From CA State Rt 136, make an eastward turn onto Cerro Gordo Rd.
  • Where to Stay: Dow Villa Motel , Quality Inn Lone Pine near Mount Whitney
  • Historical Importance: Cerro Gordo, or “fat hill”, isn’t just an old mining town; it’s a crucial piece in the puzzle of California’s rich history. The silver extracted from its mines played a significant role in shaping and building Los Angeles into the thriving metropolis it is today.
  • Authentic Experience: Visiting Cerro Gordo isn’t about seeing a reimagined or touristy version of a ghost town. Instead, it offers a genuine feel of what mining life might have been like during the town’s peak.
  • Immersive Tours: Unlike some ghost towns, Cerro Gordo provides an opportunity for guided exploration. By booking a tour through their official website, you can delve into the depths of California’s mining past, surrounded by a dozen authentic buildings and remnants of mining equipment.
  • Step Back in Time: While wandering the town, look out for snippets of history, like newspaper articles or quotes, that highlight the significance of Cerro Gordo in the broader narrative of California and Los Angeles.

Cerro Gordo’s location near Death Valley National Park and its relatively close proximity to Lone Pine, CA makes for an excellent detour for those exploring the larger region.

Just remember, as it’s privately owned, always ensure you have a confirmed booking for your visit.

9. Keeler, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: On the eastern shores of Owens Lake, Inyo County, CA
  • Directions: Head south from Lone Pine on CA-136. Keeler is situated directly by Owens Lake.
  • Where to Stay: Due to its limited size, accommodations in Keeler are sparse. Nearby Lone Pine offers several lodging options like Dow Villa Motel , Quality Inn Lone Pine near Mount Whitney .
  • Historic Significance: Once known as Hawley, Keeler has a storied past that connects deeply with the mining and railway history of Inyo County.
  • Tales of the Past : Keeler offers a fascinating look into California’s mining boom era. It stands as a symbol of the state’s adventurous spirit during the Gold Rush days, representing both the prosperity and perils of seeking fortunes in the wild west.
  • Owens Lake Views: Keeler rests on the eastern edge of Owens Lake, offering serene and often dramatic views of the lakebed and the surrounding mountains.
  • A Quiet Retreat: With a tiny population, Keeler is perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The silence here, punctuated only by the sounds of nature, provides a truly peaceful getaway.
  • Witness the Effects of Water Politics: The receding waters of Owens Lake are a direct result of water being diverted to Los Angeles in the early 20th century. The story of Owens Valley and its “water wars” with Los Angeles is a vital chapter in California’s history.
  • Historical Exploration: Delve into Keeler’s past by visiting some of its historic buildings and sites. Learn about its former significance during the mining boom and the role of the Carson & Colorado Railroad.
  • Explore Cerro Gordo : Just a drive away from Keeler, the Cerro Gordo mines stand as a testimony to the town’s mining heritage. Visiting the mine is like stepping back in time, with its preserved buildings and machinery offering a glimpse into the life of miners.
  • Photography: The landscape around Keeler, especially with the stark beauty of Owens Lake, is a treat for photographers. Capture the contrast of the lakebed, the mountains, and the sky.
  • Nature Walks: While the immediate surroundings are arid, the beauty lies in its desolation. Take short walks around the area to appreciate the unique flora and fauna.
  • Visit Nearby Attractions: The Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney are not too far from Keeler and are worth a visit.

Given its remote location and desert environment, make sure to bring plenty of water, sun protection, and snacks. While there, respect the tranquility of the town and the privacy of its residents.

10. Ballarat, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Ballarat Rd, Trona, CA 93592
  • Directions: From Trona-Wildrose Rd (CA-178), head east. Ballarat lies 3.6 miles from this turnoff.
  • Where to Stay: Panamint Springs Resort (offers both tent camping and hotel accommodations), The Ranch At Death Valley
  • Prospecting Legacies: Pay respects at the gravesites of the iconic Mojave prospectors, “Shorty” Harris and “Seldom Seen Slim,” the last of the Rainbow Seekers. Their tales of fortune and adventures are the stuff of legend.
  • Historic Remnants: Experience the eeriness of a once-thriving town, from its establishment in 1896 to its decline by 1917. The eerie ambiance is palpable, making it a must-visit for history and ghost town enthusiasts.
  • Manson’s Shadow: Add a touch of the infamous to your visit. An abandoned truck, which once belonged to Charles Manson and his family, still sits in Ballarat, a grim reminder of its notorious past.
  • Grave Visits: The epitaphs, especially of Seldom Seen Slim, which says, “Me lonely? Hell no! I’m half coyote and half wild burro,” are intriguing and provide a unique insight into the personas of the town’s famous residents.
  • Ghostly Ambiance: Soak in the desolation and history, feeling the weight of past glories and tales of fortune seeking.
  • General Store: Despite its ghostly reputation, Ballarat isn’t entirely deserted. Meet its single resident and his loyal canine companion, who manage a quaint general store, a glimpse of life in an almost-abandoned town.

Ballarat, named after a famous gold mining town in Australia, offers more than just tales of yore. While its stories are rooted in its gold rush past and prospecting endeavors, it’s also a place of resilience.

This town stands as a haunting testament to the transient nature of boomtowns and the indomitable spirit of those who once called it home.

For a mix of history, mystery, and eeriness, Ballarat beckons to those keen on experiencing California’s legacy in a unique way.

11. Darwin, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : 22 miles southeast of Keeler, Inyo County, California
  • Directions: From Hwy 190 leading into Death Valley National Park, make a right turn onto Darwin Rd. Follow the road for a few miles to reach the town.
  • Where to Stay: Dow Villa Motel , Panamint Springs Resort
  • Historical Significance : Founded during California’s mining era, Darwin is a treasure trove of history. This community has weathered booms, busts, and the challenges of the inhospitable desert, yet it has retained its charm and resilience.
  • Gateway to Death Valley : Its proximity to the Death Valley National Park makes Darwin an excellent starting or stopping point for those venturing into one of the most renowned desert landscapes in the world.
  • Mining Heritage : The town’s origin is rooted in mining, with several mines operating in and around Darwin in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This heritage is evident in the ruins and structures that still dot the landscape.
  • Entwined Tales: Darwin’s origin is as rich as the mines it once boasted. Named after Darwin French, its history is interwoven with tales of survival, fortune, and the elusive “Gunsight Mine.”
  • Bustling Past: At the zenith of its prosperity, Darwin was home to approximately 3,500 souls, two ore smelters, 20 mining establishments, and a post office, making it Inyo County’s crown jewel till 1878.
  • Echoes of a Bygone Era: Though the town faced decimation due to smallpox, its remnants provide a hauntingly beautiful glimpse into a different time, still inhabited by a few souls, making it a quasi-ghost town.
  • Historical Exploration: Stroll through Darwin and examine the old structures, artifacts, and the stories they represent – from the aged ore smelters and remains of mining operations to the enduring post office. While appearing abandoned, some buildings are still inhabited, so always approach with respect.
  • Explore Old Mines : While many of the mines are now closed, their remnants offer a visual history of Darwin’s industrious past.
  • Visit the Darwin Falls : A short drive from the community, the Darwin Falls is a stark contrast to the arid surroundings. This desert oasis is a testament to the surprises the desert holds.

Insider Tip :

The allure of Darwin lies not just in its history but in its enduring spirit.

While a shadow of its former self, the resilience of its remaining residents and the echoes of its past make it a poignant stop for those keen on experiencing California’s legacy.

The tales of Darwin French, his pursuit of the “Gunsight Mine,” and the town’s subsequent rise and fall offer a captivating glimpse into the ebb and flow of fortune.

For those seeking a tangible connection to history, Darwin beckons.

12. Panamint City, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : Panamint Range, Death Valley, Inyo County, CA
  • Directions: The closest approachable point by vehicle is Ballarat Ghost Town. From there, the ghost town of Panamint City is reached via a challenging hike up the Panamint Range.
  • Where to Stay: Panamint Springs Motel & Tents , The Ranch At Death Valley
  • Historical Significance: Panamint City is a relic of the silver and copper boom of the 1870s. The rapid growth and equally swift decline of the town offer a tangible testament to the unpredictable nature of boomtowns.
  • Population Surge: Just two years after its founding due to the discovery of silver and copper, the town’s population mushroomed to around 2,000 inhabitants.
  • Vibrant Town Life: At its peak, Panamint City boasted a mile-long main street, teeming with life and commerce. The town even had its dedicated newspaper, the Panamint News , that chronicled the daily happenings and notable events.
  • Silver Mining: While the area had traces of copper, it was primarily the lustrous silver that drove people to Panamint and led to its brief era of prosperity.
  • Historical Exploration: Walk along the remnants of the mile-long main street, imagining the hustle and bustle of the 1870s.
  • Panamint News Relics: If any copies or artifacts from the town’s newspaper can be found or are on display, they offer a fascinating insight into the daily life and concerns of Panamint’s residents.
  • Scenic Beauty: The juxtaposition of the ghost town against the backdrop of the Panamint Range and the expansive vistas of Death Valley make for breathtaking views.
  • Photography: The dilapidated structures of Panamint City, set against the stark desert landscape and rugged mountains, provide ample photographic opportunities.

While the allure of Panamint City is undeniable, it’s essential to be prepared for the harsh conditions of Death Valley.

Ensure you have adequate water protective gear, and inform someone of your travel plans. As always, respect the area’s history and adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

13. Bombay Beach, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : It is situated on the eastern shores of the Salton Sea in Imperial County, California. It lies 4 miles west-southwest of Frink.
  • Absolutely! That’s a concise and accurate description
  • Directions: If coming from Palm Springs, head south on Highway 111. Bombay Beach is conveniently located east of the Salton Sea off the highway.
  • Where to Stay: Glamis North Hot Springs Resort
  • Unique Transformation: From a bustling resort town in the mid-20th century to its modern-day metamorphosis into an art hub, Bombay Beach offers a distinctive narrative.
  • Modern Ghost Town: With its abandoned trailers and recent homes, Bombay Beach provides a different feel from the typical mining ghost towns. The contemporary ruins set against the backdrop of the Salton Sea create an unparalleled atmosphere.
  • Burgeoning Art Scene: The town is a haven for avant-garde art, utilizing the bleak surroundings and remnants of the past to craft an innovative canvas.
  • Explore the Art Installations: Meander through the town and discover numerous art installations that seamlessly integrate with the landscape, offering both an eerie and beautiful experience.
  • Bombay Beach Biennale: This event, taking place between January to March, is a must-visit. Revel in a plethora of art exhibitions, performances, and community engagements that turn the ghost town into a bustling art hub.
  • Relive History: While Bombay Beach has evolved, traces of its glory days as a resort town are still visible. A walk around the town provides a glimpse into its past and a sense of its transition.

Bombay Beach offers a unique blend of history, desolation, and creativity. While the setting might seem dystopian, the town pulsates with a vibrant art community.

When visiting, keep an open mind and let the juxtaposition of decay and creativity inspire you. It’s more than just a visit; it’s an experience that melds the boundaries of time, art, and nature.

14. Silver City, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : 3829 Lake Isabella Boulevard, Bodfish, CA 93205
  • Directions: From Bakersfield, CA, travel east for approximately 41 miles on Highway 178.
  • Where to Stay: Barewood Inn and Suites , Star Gazing 3-Bedroom Cabin
  • Haunted Appeal: Silver City stands out from other Californian ghost towns due to its reputation for paranormal activity. It’s one of the few towns to have secured a spot in the National Directory of Haunted Places.
  • Historic Relocation: The town boasts approximately 20 buildings from other ghost towns that were transported to Silver City to prevent their demolition, providing an amalgamation of history from various locales.
  • Preservation Philosophy: Unlike some touristy ghost towns, Silver City’s caretakers have adopted a hands-off approach, allowing the town’s structures to wear the marks of time naturally, offering a more authentic experience for visitors.
  • Ghostly Investigations: Given its haunted reputation, why not explore the town with an open mind? You might just witness a floating bottle or hear the mysterious melodies that many claim to have experienced.
  • Historic Tour: Take a tour through the assortment of relocated buildings, including a church, post office, general store, and cabin. It’s like stepping through various chapters of Californian ghost town history in one place.
  • Spotlight on Film: If you’re a film buff, explore locations within Silver City that have featured in documentaries and commercials. It’s exciting to see where the cameras rolled and history came alive for viewers around the world.

For those interested in the paranormal, visiting Silver City at dusk or during the night can be an entirely different experience.

It’s when the tales of haunting become most palpable. However, always prioritize safety and ensure you’re equipped with the necessary gear, especially if exploring after dark.

Remember, whether or not you believe in ghosts, the town’s rich history and atmospheric charm are undeniable.

15. Drawbridge, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : Don Edwards Environmental Education Center, 1751 Grand Blvd, Alviso, CA 95002
  • Directions: The remnants of Drawbridge can be viewed from a trail located near the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center.
  • Where to Stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Newark-Fremont
  • A Rapidly Disappearing Town: Unlike many ghost towns which stand still in time, Drawbridge is actively being reclaimed by nature, providing a unique and fleeting glimpse into the past.
  • Rich History: From its origin as a single dwelling for the drawbridge operator to its peak as a weekend getaway attracting thousands, Drawbridge boasts an intriguing history that intertwines with the Bay Area’s evolution.
  • Natural Beauty: The location, now a part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, offers an opportunity for bird-watching and appreciating the diverse ecology of the San Francisco Bay.
  • Observe from a Distance: While access to Drawbridge is prohibited due to safety concerns, visitors can observe the decaying remnants of the town from designated trails or the Environmental Education Center.
  • Bird-Watching: The location is not just historically significant; it’s an ornithological haven. Bring along binoculars and a bird guidebook to spot various avian species.
  • Learn More: Visit the Don Edwards Environmental Education Center to delve deeper into the history, ecology, and conservation efforts of the area. If available, watch informative videos and documentaries about Drawbridge and its decline.

If you’re planning to visit, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for walking. The area can get windy, so dressing in layers might be a good idea.

While the town’s decay might invoke a sense of melancholy, it’s also a testament to nature’s resilience and the ever-changing landscape of human history.

16. Eagle Mountain, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location : Near the border of Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  • Directions: From Highway 10, turn north at the junction with Rice Rd. Keep in mind that direct access to the town is restricted.
  • Where to Stay: Hampton Inn and Suites Blythe
  • Largest Ghost Town in California: Its sheer size makes it a significant point of interest. Despite its relative youth compared to gold rush towns, the rapid rise and decline of Eagle Mountain is a testament to the transitory nature of industry-based settlements.
  • Industrial Legacy: Once the crown jewel of iron mining in Southern California, the remnants of Eagle Mountain offer a glimpse into the industrial age of the 20th century.
  • Vicinity to Joshua Tree: While Eagle Mountain itself might be off-limits, its proximity to Joshua Tree National Park means visitors can combine their ghost town intrigue with the natural beauty of one of California’s most iconic national parks.
  • Observe from Afar: While entering the town is prohibited, you can view Eagle Mountain from a distance. Often, the mystery of what lies behind the fences adds to its allure.
  • Drone Footage: For those who are keen to get a closer look, check out available drone footage online. It provides a bird’s-eye view of this deserted town and its sprawling infrastructure.
  • Visit Nearby Joshua Tree National Park: If you’re in the vicinity, don’t miss out on the park’s unique rock formations, starry nights, and desert vistas.

Eagle Mountain might be a ghost town, but it hasn’t completely fallen off the map.

While the town’s homes and businesses stand empty, the school remains operational, serving students from nearby areas. This juxtaposition of abandonment and ongoing life makes Eagle Mountain all the more intriguing.

Also, always respect private property and posted signs. Exploring from a safe distance and using available online resources can provide a fulfilling experience without trespassing.

17. Chinese Camp, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Chinese Camp, Highway 120, CA
  • Directions: Located on Highway 120, about 4 miles south of Sonora. If traveling from Modesto, take the CA-108 E for an approximately 1-hour drive.
  • Where to Stay: Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks Hotel & Conference Center (6.9 mi), Jamestown Hotel (6.3 mi).
  • Fame & History: Chinese Camp serves as a remarkable relic of California’s Gold Rush era, playing host to thousands of Chinese miners during its peak years.
  • Location: The town offers a picturesque setting along the historic Highway 120, providing both a history lesson and scenic views.
  • Rich Past: Chinese Camp grew as a result of the Gold Rush in the 1850s, becoming the primary base for Chinese miners. This influx shaped the town’s cultural and historical fabric.
  • Wild West Ambiance: The town is dotted with buildings that date back to the Gold Rush era, with structures like Saint Anne’s Church evoking the spirit of the 1850s.
  • Tong Wars: A significant event was the Tong War in the 1850s, a clash between two Chinese mining factions over mining rights. This event is deeply embedded in the town’s history.
  • Historical Exploration: Tour the various mining-era buildings and churches that still stand as testament to the town’s heyday.
  • Cultural Enrichment: Discover more about the Chinese miners’ influence on the town, learning about the practices, beliefs, and traditions they brought with them.
  • Movie Sets: Owing to its authentic feel, Chinese Camp has been the backdrop for several films. Walk through the town, and you might recognize some locations!

Insider Tip: Don’t just focus on the buildings. Engage with the locals and historians to learn about the personal stories and events that unfolded in Chinese Camp. Every corner has a tale to tell.

18. Cherokee, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Near Oroville in Butte County, California
  • Directions: Situated a short drive from Oroville. From Oroville, take the CA-162 E and follow signs leading to Cherokee.
  • Where to Stay: Gold Country Casino Resort (approximately 8 mi away)

Gold & Diamond Legacy: Cherokee holds a profound place in California’s mining history, settled by Cherokee Indians from Oklahoma before turning into a golden hotspot with the added mystery of diamond deposits.

Significant Visits: President Rutherford B. Hayes’s 1880 visit, along with figures like General William T. Sherman, underscored the town’s importance during its peak.

Mining Marvel: Cherokee is renowned for the Spring Valley Mine, once the largest hydraulic mine in California, and the surprise discovery of diamonds, adding an intriguing chapter to its history.

Diamond Enigma : The intriguing tale of M. E. Cooney’s pursuit of diamond mining, the abrupt closure of the diamond mine, and its unsolved mysteries make for an engaging narrative.

Historic Dive : Visit the remnants of Cherokee’s gold mines, especially the monumental Spring Valley Mine, and learn about the era’s hydraulic mining techniques.

Diamond Tales : Understand the surprising discovery of diamonds among the gold and delve into Cooney’s mysterious diamond mining adventures.

Reflect on History: The town offers insights into significant events, like President Hayes’s visit and the ambiguous history of diamond mining by Cooney.

While exploring Cherokee, make it a point to uncover the tales behind Cooney’s diamond mining pursuits and the speculated larger interests that may have influenced its sudden cessation.

Cherokee’s history is not just about gold and diamonds; it’s also about power, influence, and mysteries that remain unresolved.

19. Forest City, Sierra County, CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Located in the Tahoe National Forest, Forest City is situated on the north fork of Oregon Creek, a region deeply tied to California’s gold rush history.
  • Directions: To reach Forest City from major hubs in California, follow signs for Tahoe National Forest. While specific directions may vary, the town’s setting amidst the Sierra Nevada makes it accessible from multiple routes.
  • Where to Stay: There are no lodging options in the ghost town itself. Nearby towns and regions in the Tahoe National Forest offer a variety of lodging options, including cabins and campgrounds.
  • Gold Rush Legacy : Originally named Brownsville after a sailor who discovered gold in the area, Forest City once had over 1,000 inhabitants and 32 commercial businesses, showcasing the boom of the Gold Rush era.
  • National Register Historic District : As a designated historic site, Forest City offers a window into the past, from its gold mining origins to the subsequent decline in prosperity as the gold diminished.
  • Preserved Structures : Out of the once bustling town, 26 structures still stand today, including a school building, dance hall, and two cemeteries, with many managed or owned by the Forest City Historical Association.
  • Unique Public Ownership : The land in Forest City never underwent the patent process, meaning it’s publicly owned. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, all buildings are on special use permits, with private ownership of structures but public land.
  • Step Back in Time : Traverse the town and admire the 26 surviving structures. Notable sites include the dance hall, school building, and the two Gold Rush-era cemeteries.
  • Outdoor Adventures : Use Forest City as a base to explore nearby hiking and mountain biking trails within the Tahoe National Forest.
  • Engage with History : Dive into the area’s history, from its beginnings in 1852, through its peak years, to its transformation into a historical district.
  • Interact with the Few : With only a handful of residents today, speaking with them can offer unique insights into living in a historical ghost town.

While access to Forest City is free due to its status on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, remember to respect private property rights as all structures are privately owned.

Given its elevation of 4,489 feet, winters can be snowy; always check weather conditions before planning a visit.

20. Hornitos, Mariposa County , CA

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

  • Location: Near Yosemite , Mariposa County, CA.
  • Directions: Hornitos is located just a short drive away from the entrance of Yosemite. Depending on your starting point, head towards Yosemite and follow signs or GPS instructions to this historic town in Mariposa County.
  • Where to Stay: As Hornitos is a small town, direct lodging options might be limited. However, being in proximity to Yosemite, numerous accommodations ranging from hotels to campgrounds are available nearby in Mariposa and Yosemite Valley.
  • Historical Significance : Established during the peak of the Gold Rush in 1850, Hornitos is a testament to the prosperity, dreams, and challenges faced by early miners and settlers.
  • Legends and Lore : Hornitos is famed as the home of Joaquin Murrieta, often called the “Robin Hood of the West.” Discover tales of this outlaw and explore the theory of him being the inspiration behind Zorro.
  • Architectural Glimpses : Wander through the remnants of the gold rush era. Structures such as the Ghirardelli General Store, a nod to the famous chocolate brand, the jail, Masonic Hall, and several abandoned farms, stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era.
  • Hilltop Cemetery : An important historic site, the cemetery offers both a look into the past and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  • History Delve : Walk through the streets and ruins of Hornitos to absorb its rich past, imagining the bustling life it once witnessed during the gold rush.
  • Photographic Journey : The ruins set against the Californian landscape make for evocative photography subjects. Whether a professional photographer or just capturing memories, the town provides ample opportunities.
  • Nature and Scenery : Being near Yosemite, visitors can combine their historic exploration with a nature trek, enjoying the unparalleled beauty of Yosemite’s landscapes.
  • Local Interaction : Engage with the handful of residents in Hornitos. Their stories and insights provide a deeper understanding of the town’s past and its significance today.

If you’re a chocolate lover, delve into the history of the Ghirardelli General Store. It’s fascinating to think of the connections between this small town and the global chocolate empire!

Remember to always be respectful of the few residents who call Hornitos home, as well as the historic structures and sites.

21. Rhyolite, NV

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

While Rhyolite technically lies within Nevada’s borders, its geographical proximity and intertwined history with California’s mining legacy make it an indispensable addition to our list of “21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities.”

Its stories and remnants serve as a testament to the region’s shared past, bridging two states with tales of gold, silver, and the dreams of those who once called it home.

The town stands not just as a representation of Nevada’s mining history, but as an integral chapter in the larger narrative of the American West’s pursuit of fortune.

  • Location: Just outside Death Valley, NV
  • Directions: Head four miles west from Beatty, NV.
  • Where to Stay: Death Valley Inn and RV Park (located 6 mi from Rhyolite).
  • Shared Legacy with California : Rhyolite, though in Nevada, is just a stone’s throw from the California border. Its intertwined mining history with the Golden State’s boom era makes it a fitting addition to our list.
  • Mining Legacy: Rhyolite was the crowning jewel of mining towns in the Death Valley area. Its rapid rise and decline provide a unique insight into the transient nature of boomtowns during the Gold Rush era.
  • Architectural Marvels: Imagine a city so prosperous it had an opera house, a stock exchange, and fifty saloons. Such was Rhyolite in its prime.
  • The Bottle House: This unique structure, constructed from beer bottles sourced from the town’s many saloons, stands as a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of its past inhabitants. Today, it’s a must-visit for anyone touring Rhyolite.
  • Goldwell Museum: A short distance from Rhyolite, the Goldwell Museum adds a modern twist to the historical landscape with its outdoor art installations. It’s a blend of the past and the contemporary, making for an intriguing visit.
  • Historical Exploration: Roam the streets of Rhyolite, taking in the ruins of what once was a thriving city. Many of the buildings, though in disrepair, provide a glimpse into the town’s opulent past.
  • Visit the Bottle House: This iconic structure is a favorite among visitors and offers a unique photo opportunity.
  • Artistic Endeavors: The Goldwell Museum, with its open-air art installations, provides a contrasting experience to the ancient town ruins.
  • Scenic Drives: If you’re on a road trip from Las Vegas, the route to Rhyolite provides mesmerizing desert landscapes and a chance to experience the stark beauty of the region.

While Rhyolite offers a rich historical experience, it’s also situated in a desert. Ensure you’re adequately prepared for the weather, carrying plenty of water and sun protection.

Also, while you’re in the area, consider visiting other attractions in and around Death Valley for a comprehensive desert experience.

21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities, Travel Realizations

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Exploring California’s ghost towns is more than just a historical journey; it’s a fascinating expedition into the soul of the Golden State.

These long-forgotten settlements speak volumes about human resilience, the elusive dream of riches, and the relentless march of time.

Each town has its own story, every crumbling building holds a secret, and every dusty path leads to the past.

As you wander through these deserted locales, you realize you’re not just a spectator—you’re a part of the continuing narrative.

Here’s to the travelers who seek more than just destinations; to those who look for stories etched in time. May your adventures be many and your inspirations be endless!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to 21 Best Ghost Towns in California. You may also enjoy these California travel guides.

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.

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lone pine california ghost town

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer. 

I lived in Switzerland for six years and dwelled in absolute beauty, day and night. The house of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey , the house of Herman Hesse in Lugano,

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Cerro gordo ghost town.

Introduction:

What? : An old large mining town that is now a privately owned Ghost Town and open for tourists to enjoy this unique place.

lone pine california ghost town

Where? : The town is located high in the Inyo Mountains, near Lone Pine, California. From lone pine you need to drive 12 miles east on highway 136 to the small “town” of Keeler. Here you will find the unpaved  road entrance that will lead you east into the high mountains.

Google map link.

lone pine california ghost town

When? : Year round, summer here is hot although the high elevation temperatures are much colder than the valley below. In winter (up to may) it can get snow, even a lot of snow that completely block the road. make sure to check road conditions and do not drive if you think this is unsafe.

lone pine california ghost town

Due note 1: High clearance AWD is recommended but usually the road is in good conditions and although can be bumpy in sections the road can be driven also by any car. This is steep, 7 miles long, and winding road so drive carefully, please remember that during winter it can be blocked by deep snow.

lone pine california ghost town

Due note 2: This is on private land, respect the owners and their requests.

lone pine california ghost town

Due note 3: I asked one of the volunteers and he told me that you do not need a pay for visiting here. I did not find place for paper-bill donations…

My thoughts: i wanted to visit here for long time … always when i was nearby, i did not have a chance to drive up here, finally i made it and i was not disappointed. i came in early march 2022 cold winter day, right after it snowed here during the night. it was relatively light snow but some sections of the road were covered with snow..

lone pine california ghost town

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is considered one of the best ghost towns in California (the old town of Bodie is another famous ghost town, located near Mono Lake).

The town past story is interesting but also the current stat has it unique story..

lone pine california ghost town

Today the old town of Cerro Gordo is privately owned and operated by the Cerro Gordo Historical Society. Because this is on private land, permission to visit must be obtained but I do not expect any issue with coming and visiting this interesting site.

I was asked by one of the maintainers not to take video, when asking about pictures he answered that there is no problem with me taking pictures (as long as it is not for commercial use)., do not try to enter close buildings without approval and do not remove any items from this historic site., respect that this is a private property and do not create any damage., the mining history:, cerro gordo ("fat hill"), the peak sits eight miles east and 5,000 feet above owens lake. it became part of the lone pine mining district, formed april 5, 1866, in response to the discovery of silver and lead mines., in 1868 an eight-mile toll road was open that lead up the mountainside, it name was the yellow grade road (named for the yellowish shale). this road help to expedite the town expansion and at the same year steam-powered smelter was built near the mountaintop..

lone pine california ghost town

Cerro Gordo's population at boom years of the 1870 was 4,500, most living in bunkhouses and earning $4 per day. The mining camp sported general stores, saloons, restaurants, at least two hotels, two competing dance hall-brothels, doctors', lawyers' and assay offices and blacksmiths …. but no church, school, or jail.

Back ate the late 1800 cerro gordo was known as a “wild west town” with little to no law and order and bloody record of shootings during the bonanza days, shootouts were frequent and there was around at least one murder a week., in the 1870s, a mine collapsed and trapped around 30 chinese miners, who were never rescued and are still buried underground..

lone pine california ghost town

An estimated $17 million worth of silver and lead ore ($400 million in 2013 dollars) mined and produces out of the Cerro Gordo mines in Inyo County. From the late 1860s to the late 1870s, the ore was transport by 14 mules’ wagons for 200-plus-mile journey, three-week trek, to the emerging pueblo of Los Angeles.

All major mining activity slowed after 1876..

lone pine california ghost town

In 1907, high-grade zinc ore was discovered at the 900- to 1,000-foot level in the Union Mine. A cable tramway was strung above the Yellow Grade Road to carry the ore down in buckets.

Cerro gordo was booming again. a 5.6-mile, gravity-powered wire-rope aerial tramway was strung above the yellow grade road and moved 20 tons of zinc ore daily to the railroad at keeler., electricity and telephones arrived in 1916. old tunnels were extended, and new tunnels were driven; one, the estelle, about two miles below town, reached the impressive length of 8,100 feet., the mines fell silent in 1959 and this was the end of the long mining era of cerro gordo..

lone pine california ghost town

The Present:

In 1938, the last inhabitants packed up and left the depleted mines behind., the dying town was owned by few people and when they died the property was owned by their son, sean patterson., the 300-plus acre cerro gordo property sold in june 2018 for $1.4 million to brent underwood and hi business partner jon bier, with a plan to revive the town for visitors while preserving its history..

lone pine california ghost town

In March 2020, Brent decided to take a “little break” of the COVID crisis, he drove from Austin, Texas, to Cerro Gordo. At the night he drove up the mountain the area was hit with a snowstorm that left him stranded for few days, this is how the latest chapter of Cerro Gordo began.

As of today, underwood is staying at the town for 2 years (when the covid started) and he is committed to the restoration project. there is an active youtube channel that promote this vision., the popularity of the youtube channel attracts many people that volunteer here and help to restore the old building, maintain the town and to revive the tourist activity., when you drive up the steep yellow grade road (1 mile climb in 7-mile-long road, maintained by the county) into the remote mountains you appreciate the miners..

lone pine california ghost town

Once reaching the town you should park on the small parking lot just before the town buildings.

Today the general store in the center of the town is used as a local museum, here you can see some of the colorful history of the mine and life in the town..

lone pine california ghost town

Visit the old garage building that was recently rebuild and transform into Cerro Gordo's first Chapel in 2009.

lone pine california ghost town

The 1904 large Bunkhouse (the large building on the left side of town) was built during the zinc era to house the miners, today it is being used as a house for the volunteers. When walking outside I was invited by one of the volunteers visit inside.

He told me that he stayed there for the weekend helping with maintenance and he is waiting that night snow will melt and it will be safe to drive down the steep road back home., as you enter the first room you will see the huge wood oven in the kitchen on your right and the dining table and library on your left., the rest of the large house is one long corridor with sleeping rooms on both sides..

lone pine california ghost town

The small and restored Assay Office located above and to the left side of the general store. This gives you a peek into the past mining activity. Just nearby you can find an old house with few rooms with a child crib.

lone pine california ghost town

Up at the hill on your left you can see the large mining structure, this is remaining  of the aerial tramway that led Zinc  to the valley below.

lone pine california ghost town

Few other buildings are the American Hotel built in 1871 and the Belshaw House built in 1868.

lone pine california ghost town

There are plans to build a new hotel and I learned from one of the volunteers that it at final stages of fire department approval and they expect to finish building by the help of volunteers in year or two.

Overall, i stayed here for an hour, walking among the buildings, and enjoying seeing how this town start to be live again., when driving back down the snow on the road was melted…, https://cerrogordomines.com/, https://www.youtube.com/channel/ucejbdkfrqqi4tgzt9ylnt8g.

lone pine california ghost town

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IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Ghost Towns of the Lone Pine Area

    Ghost Towns of the Lone Pine Area Cerro Gordo Perched at 8500′ in the Inyo Mountains above the Owens Lake, Cerro Gordo is the most well preserved ghost towns in California. The town blossomed to a population of 4800 hearty souls after the discovery of silver in 1868.

  2. Visiting Cerro Gordo Ghost Town in the Inyo Mountains in California

    Location Cerro Gordo is located 200 miles north of Los Angeles and 200 miles west of Las Vegas. The closest town, Lone Pine, is about 22 miles away. In Lone Pine, you can find hotels, restaurants, and stores if you are in need of these on your journey.

  3. All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

    #1 of 1 things to do in Keeler Historic SitesMinesGhost Towns Write a review About Cerro Gordo is a privately owned Mining Town located in the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, California. The town was the silver thread to Los Angeles, being partially responsible for its growth and economic development.

  4. Ghost Town Trail Near Lone Pine

    In the Owen's Valley, about a two hour drive north of Los Angeles near the town of Lone Pine, is a string of "almost" ghost towns that are fun to visit and explore. You'll also get to experience the views and vastness of Owens (Dry) Lake, the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains - each can take your breath away.

  5. The Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Guide

    Cerro Gordo is a ghost town in the Inyo Mountains near Lone Pine, California. Like many ghost towns today, it was once a bustling mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The main mining prospect was silver, but the area also produced zinc and lead. Prospectors worked the mines here off and on until 1933.

  6. California ghost town with a bloody past suffers a new calamity

    In Lone Pine, a lawyer fights to change campground's derogatory name. The town pushes back Dec. 26, 2019 Their supporters include Terri Geissinger, a historian of the West. "Cerro Gordo is a...

  7. Ghost Town Trail Near Lone Pine

    Near the town of Lone Pine, California, is a string of "almost" ghost towns. This video takes you on a virtual road visiting these towns, including instructions on how to find them...

  8. Long John Canyon to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

    Long John Canyon to Cerro Gordo is a 39-mile out-and-back route through the Inyo Mountains and the Inyo Mountain Wilderness. It follows lightly trafficked dirt road trails through remote canyons and across scenic ridgelines featuring a stop at Cerro Gordo Ghost Town, an old mining town within the Inyo Mountains just outside of Lone Pine, CA. This is a great trek for those seeking a pristine ...

  9. An influencer who bought a ghost town is ready to die there

    An influencer who bought a California ghost town is ready to die there. By Andrew Chamings Updated Feb 23, 2021 2:56 p.m. ... Some in the community (the closest town, Lone Pine, an hour down the ...

  10. Death Valley-Cerro Gordo Ghost Town • The Adventure Portal

    You can also see the 1877 Hoist Works, and numerous other remaining structures. The views from this town site are amazing. Directions: Starting point from the west: California 136 at Keeler, 12 miles east of Lone Pine. Death Valley Cerro Gordo Ghost Town saloon The History of Cerro Gordo Mine The Early Days…

  11. Cerro Gordo Ghost Town via Saline Valley Road

    The hike to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town via Saline Valley Road is a 25 mile lightly trafficked dirt road route that begins in Death Valley National Park and ends at Cerro Gordo Ghost Town, an old mining town within the Inyo Mountains just outside of Lone Pine, CA. The route is primarily used for scenic drives and hikes.

  12. Death Valley Ghost Towns & Mines

    There are numerous ghost towns in the Death Valley area in California and Nevada. Here is a list with the location and a few notes about what remains for each. Ghost Towns, Mining Camps, and Closed Mines: Amargosa, Nevada - East of Amargosa Valley, Nevada - Railroad foundation only.

  13. Cerro Gordo

    Travellers reach the ghost town of Cerro Gordo by a steep road which goes from Keeler about 8 miles up the hill. The place is private property and there are mining activities going on. Visitors should ask information about the conditions at the Visitor Center at Lone Pine. The reward will be some well-preserved buildings.

  14. Cerro Gordo Ghost Town, California

    Cerro Gordo is a privately owned Mining Town located in the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, California. The town was the silver thread to Los Angeles, being partially responsible for its growth and economic development. It features original buildings and artifacts relevant to the town and is open for guided tours, photography groups, mineral and rock groups, schools and historical groups.

  15. Beveridge Ghost Town

    Beveridge Ghost Town - Inyo Mountains Wilderness RECOMMENDED ROUTE Very Difficult 3.5 (2) Areas CA High Sierra Lone Pine Plan with onX Backcountry " Experience a high-desert wilderness adventure for the hardcore hiker! " Cass Kalinski © OpenMapTiles © OSM 18.4 Miles Out and Back 9,518' High 4,586' Low 8,999' Up 8,999' Down 19% Avg Grade (10°) 81%

  16. California's Epic 395: Hidden Gems Along the Way

    There's a certain kind of mystery to the "living" ghost towns of Red Mountain, Johannesburg, and Randsburg. You see mine trailings on the hills and abandoned ghost town buildings, but it's obvious that people still live and even mine here. Just off 395 is the tiny town of Randsburg and it's worth a stop. ... US 395 & SR136, Lone Pine, CA, US.

  17. 17 BEST Ghost Towns in California [Spooky, Abandoned Cities]

    How to get there: Go 15 miles south of Lone Pine, CA, on Ste Rte 136 Nearby accommodation: Dow Villa Motel (14.6 mi), Panamint Springs Resort (35.8 mi) Keeler ghost town, formerly known as Hawley, is another quasi-ghost town in California with around 60 remaining residents.

  18. Lone Pine Ghosts

    Lone Pine plays host to multiple spirits and ghosts! Weird California - By Joe Parzanese ... thin, vanishing cowboy ghost who appears in several hotel rooms in the early hours of the morning. Also the nearby ghost town, Cerro Gordo, is home to a spirit or two, ... Ca on 2018-03-24 said: I frequent Lone Pine for hiking and fishing trips. Last ...

  19. California's 8 Best Ghost Towns to Visit

    A California ghost town might be the kind you think of, an abandoned mining camp with tumbleweeds blowing down a deserted main street, past a long-disused saloon or general store, toward the old cemetery. ... Manzanar National Historic Site is nine miles north of Lone Pine off US Highway 395. There is no admission charge.

  20. Haunted Places in Lone Pine, California

    Built in 1868 and once the home of Mortimer Belshaw, one of California's Bullion Kings, the small house within the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is believed to be haunted. The area is closed to visitors at this time. Read more » 0 Scotty's Castle Lone Pine, California 49.6 miles from Lone Pine, CA

  21. Swansea-Cerro Gordo OHV Route, California

    Explore this 31.6-mile point-to-point trail near Lone Pine, California. Generally considered a moderately challenging route. This is a very popular area for off-road driving, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas. Preview trail

  22. The Magical Mystical Trail of California's Route 395

    The Ghost Town of Bodie. In the northern section of 395, Bodie was founded to support the burgeoning mining industry in the mid-1800s. This once-bustling gold mining town housed around 10,000 ...

  23. 21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush

    Discover the 21 best ghost towns in California, where history comes alive. Unearth the history of Gold Rush settlements and abandoned cities. Ideal for adventurers and history buffs. ... Directions: Situated 9 miles north of Lone Pine, CA or 6 miles south of Independence, CA, the historic site is on the west side of Highway 395. Where to Stay: ...

  24. Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

    Cerro Gordo ("Fat Hill"), the peak sits eight miles east and 5,000 feet above Owens Lake. It became part of the Lone Pine Mining District, formed April 5, 1866, in response to the discovery of silver and lead mines. In 1868 an eight-mile toll road was open that lead up the mountainside, it name was the Yellow Grade Road (named for the yellowish ...