6 American Ghost Towns Every Thrill Seeker Should Visit

Updated 06/14/17

When you hear the words "ghost town," haunted neighborhoods are what probably immediately come to mind, but these communities aren't where the Boogie Man lives. American ghost towns are actually regions or settlements from long ago that were suddenly abandoned and largely remain unsettled today. There's often a lot of mystery and uncertainty around what happened to the community (and why), but the lack of information gives the areas some charm. If you're an adventurous traveler or a massive history buff (or both), you may want to explore some of the top American ghost towns on your next vacation. Scroll down to learn about six of the most interesting ghost towns stateside. Just don't say we didn't warn you that they're spooky.

Rhyolite, Nevada

ghost town in Rhyolite, Nevada
Dimas Frias /500px

Rhyolite, Nevada, should be your spooky day trip the next time you venture out to Las Vegas. The area was once dubbed the Bullfrog Mining District because its founders mistook some green rock with gold ore on it for a bullfrog (good thing they realized what it really was). In 1905, the camp went from holding two tents' worth of people to having an estimated 5000 residents in just six months. At this point, the town had 50 saloons, 16 restaurants, and even a public bathhouse. As with most towns, the natural resources ran out, businesses closed, and the electricity was shut off in 1914. Some of the original structures still remain, so the town has a real Wild West feel, complete with cacti.

Bodie, California

abandoned town in Bodie, California
Julien Boé /500px

Bodie is located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California. In 1859, William Bodey struck gold in a spot that is now known as Bodie Bluff (the spelling was confused at some point). Soon as many as 10,000 people flocked to the community. It became a major mining town filled with families, robbers, store owners, and beyond until it became too costly to keep the mines going. There are still around 100 structures in place for you to see, including saloons, residences, and mills. At one point, the community was home to as many as 65 saloons, housed several opium dens, and even had a red-light district, which is why they say it's in "a state of arrested decay."

Nevada City, Montana

Nevada City ghost village
James Morris /500px

This ghost town in southwest Montana was restored to its original splendor by the Bovey family from 1945 to 1948, and it's now a "living historical museum." But in the 1860s, it was one of two main mining centers during one of the biggest gold strikes in the Rocky Mountains (the other hub was sister town Virginia City). Fast-forward to 1876, and the community had moved on to greener pastures. Now you can come and explore tons of wood-paneled buildings that look like they haven't aged a day (like the barbershop and saddlery). This attraction is great for the whole family and is particularly kid-friendly. Little ones can "mine" at the River of Gold and explore the largest collection of automated music machines at The Nevada City Music Hall. 

Kennecott, Alaska

deserted town of Kennecott, Alaska
Emma Rogers /500px

Kennecott, Alaska, looks as though it could belong in Switzerland—the rolling hills and snow-capped peaks are insanely beautiful. And guess what? The abandoned town located 60 miles into Wrangell–St. Elias National Park is actually larger than Switzerland. From 1911 to 1938, the area was primarily a mill town, cranking out $200 million worth of copper ore (it was insanely popular because workers received higher wages than they did at other mills). But workers left when the mines were tapped of the natural resource. The building you see above is actually one of the remaining mills, and you can view the others on a guided tour.

St. Elmo, Colorado

old ghost town of St. Elmo, Colorado
Michael McMurray /500px

St. Elmo, Colorado, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, is located about three hours southwest of Denver. The area was a popular mine and railroad stop from the 1870s to 1922, which was pretty much a double whammy. When compared to other ghost towns still remaining, it may very well be the best preserved. Many of the original buildings on Main Street—including a general store that's still open for business—are privately funded and look as though they're still frequented on the regular. When the railroad closed in the 1920s, the story says that only Annabelle Stark, a longtime resident of St. Elmo, stayed until she passed away in 1960 (but the rumor is that she's never really left).

Terlingua, Texas

abandoned ghost town of Terlingua, Texas
Taha Raja /500px

This ghost town in Terlingua, Texas near the Rio Grande was once known to be a popular site for mercury mining in the early 1900s. But when the need for the mines dried up, the population all but vanished by the 1940s (you'll see these residents' abandoned dilapidated houses around town, as well as decaying mines). For an unknown reason, the area reinvented itself in the 1970s and is now the location of a well-known chili cook-off. If you're going to visit the area, be sure to stop by The Starlight Theatre restaurant and bar (it's the only place to eat in town). Likewise, if you're looking for lodging, The Big Bend Hotel is your best (and only) option.

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