11 Abandoned Ghost Towns in the U.S. You Can Still Visit

Get a taste of the past at these cool ghost towns in the U.S.

<p>John Elk/Getty Images</p>

John Elk/Getty Images

The rapid expansion west helped U.S. towns blossom all over the United States. Be it for their fertile land or stellar trading, tiny townships once boomed across the nation — until one day, they didn’t. Abandoned because of illness, collapsing industry, or merely because their once lively citizens moved on, these communities became known as “ghost towns.” 

Perfectly (or near perfectly) preserved relics of our past can be found around the nation. As The New York Times reported, some 3,800 ghost towns exist in America, mostly abandoned between the 19th and 20th centuries for greener pastures and big city dreams. However, just because no one lives there doesn’t mean you can’t visit.

Here are 11 ghost towns in the U.S. you can still experience today.

Silver City, Bodfish California

<p>htrnr/Getty Images</p>

htrnr/Getty Images

Saving Silver City, located in California’s Kern River Valley, was a major labor of love. According to Sierra Nevada Geotourism, the 20-plus buildings that remain preserved to this day are thanks to the efforts of Dave and Arvilla Mills, who painstakingly worked to move the structures to a safe location as they were slated for demolition in the 1960s. Through their hard work, visitors today can see the buildings used in the mining camps around the area, as well as settler housing and even an old jail. The town now operates as a museum and is open seven days a week.

St. Elmo, Colorado

<p>Steve Heap/Getty Images</p>

Steve Heap/Getty Images

Founded in 1880, St. Elmo was once a thriving gold and silver mining community. Some 2,000 people eventually moved here looking for their little piece of prosperity, but by the early 20th century, the mines ran dry. So, the townspeople “rode the last train out of town and never came back,” according to its website. You can see their almost perfectly preserved homes and storefronts by visiting the community during the summer months.

Terlingua, Texas

<p>Loop Images/Getty Images</p>

Loop Images/Getty Images

Terlingua is yet another mining town, only this one became one of the greats. By the 1930s, the community was the largest producer of quicksilver in the nation, according to Visit Big Bend. However, by the 1940s, the company leading the mining went broke, filed for bankruptcy, and many residents moved on. However, this place has had somewhat of a renaissance, with newcomers moving in, making the one-time abandoned spot a little more lively and more inviting to visitors, like you.

Rhyolite, Nevada

<p>Education Images/Getty Images</p>

Education Images/Getty Images

Rhyolite, you guessed it, is yet another mining town that was eventually left abandoned. Here, miners came for the plentiful quartz. Some 30 camps were set up within a short span, the National Park Service noted on its website, and the town even became home to its own stock exchange for a while. However, when the mining went belly up, so did the town. But you can still come to see the old bank and town’s former jail and dream about what life was like for this thriving community at the turn of the 20th century.

Custer, Idaho<strong> </strong>

<p>RobertCrum/Getty Images</p>

RobertCrum/Getty Images

Custer is one of the older ghost towns on this list. Founded in 1879, the community became a must-visit destination for gold speculators and eventually was the home of the Lucky Boy and Black mines, which employed many of the townspeople. The community, Visit Idaho explained, reached its peak in 1896 with 600 residents. However, by 1910, the town was left abandoned. Thankfully, many of its buildings were left intact, and in 1966, the Challis National Forest took ownership, and the community even landed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, visitors can come to explore the mining town during the summer months with free guided tours.

Kennicott, Alaska

<p>David González Rebollo/Getty Images</p>

David González Rebollo/Getty Images

Head further north, all the way to Alaska, to see another pristine example of what life was like in early 20th century America (though this one wasn’t technically in America, as Alaska didn’t become an official U.S. state until 1959). Kennicott was a one-time thriving copper mining community, attracting many miners and their families. However, the region was mined out by the 1930s and became a ghost town in 1938. However, the National Park Service once again stepped in to preserve the town and even put together this handy map for a self-guided tour.

Calico, California

<p>Peter Unger/Getty Images</p>

Peter Unger/Getty Images

California was a hotbed of activity for miners in the 1800s, due to the presence of gold and other minerals. Several made their way to Calico, a town in Bernardino County, for their shot at finding silver. They did — at least for a while, until the mid-1890s, when silver lost its value and those looking for their fortunes left as quickly as they came. But the town has stood the test of time thanks to Walter Knott, who purchased the place and its buildings in the 1950s and restored those that lost their luster. You can visit every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

South Pass City, Wyoming

<p>John Elk/Getty Images</p>

John Elk/Getty Images

South Pass City began as another gold mining town in the mid-1800s, but after an initial boom, the gold ran dry. Rather than abandon the town on first pass, however, many who came for the gold stayed for the fertile land, setting up farms and homesteads. That too went by the wayside, but the community center still stands as a testament to the preservation efforts by the state, which designated it a historic site in 1968, alongside a dedicated group of volunteers who maintain it to this day. Come for a tour throughout the summer season.

Independence, Colorado

<p>Faina Gurevich/Getty Images</p>

Faina Gurevich/Getty Images

Prospectors struck gold in Independence, Colorado, sometime in the late 1800s, causing others to quickly follow suit. According to the Aspen Historical Society, the Farwell Mining Company acquired most of the leading mines by 1881 and employed hundreds of people thereafter. The town peaked with about 1,500 residents, and local businesses flourished — that is, until workers moved out in search of other riches, leaving the town abandoned. However, in 1975, the Aspen Historical Society took on the work of restoring the town for all the world to see. You can visit during the summer months via a self-guided tour.

Nevada City, Montana

<p>Teresa Otto/Getty Images</p>

Teresa Otto/Getty Images

Nevada City could have just been another mining ghost town that languished in the annals of history. However, this one-time gold mining community was restored by the Bovey family, who worked on the project between 1945 and 1978. Today, many of the town’s original wooden structures remain. There are even a few intact music boxes and player pianos to check out inside. Admission is $10 for adults, and guests can visit over the summer months.

Goldfield, Arizona

We bet you don’t have to guess what people were after in Goldfield, Arizona, in the mid-1800s. Prospectors made their way here to work in the Mammoth Gold Mine and quickly turned it into the kind of town that would later inspire Wild West movies. While here, visitors can still see its multiple saloons, general store, boarding house, and more. You can even watch a recreation of an old gun fight, thanks to the Goldfield Gunfighters. The town is open every day to visitors.

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