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There’s something fascinating about abandoned towns—they’re like a direct portal into the past. Visitors can catch a first-hand glimpse of life in that specific era and time, creating a more clear depiction than any museum. America’s best-abandoned town stemmed largely from mining towns that eventually ran dry, but there are a few other interesting ones on our list as well. These are the abandoned towns in the United States that warrant a visit.
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Virginia City, Montana was at its prime when miners struck gold in 1863. When the gold was gone, so was the money, which meant the Old West Victorian buildings never were remodeled or replaced. Now the small city draws in the adventurers who want to not only see the old structures but also experience the old days. From slumbering at the antique-laden Fairweather Inn to diving into old fashioned candy, Virginia City has a lot to show us for an old, abandoned town.
Goldfield, Arizona, snugly set between the Superstition and Goldfield Mountains, lived up to its name for most of the 1800s. Like most mining towns, it met its demise and was reduced to mere ruins. In the 1970s, a couple resurrected a replica of the town on the site of the old mill, and today it’s still brimming with the same charm and simplicity of the original. Go underground into one of the mike tunnels, see the narrow gauge railway, and have a laugh at some of the imitation establishments such as the jail and brothel.
It doesn’t get much more remote than Kennecott, Alaska, because the tough citizens of the sparse state have deemed it is even too “in the middle of nowhere” for them to sustain. After a few years housing iron-mining families in the early 1900s, the town slowly became abandoned. However, the mill structures are still in place, while some of the other cool features, like the town ice skating rink, not so much. But the ruins have now melded into the surroundings and are a main feature of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. You’ll have better luck finding lodging in Anchorage.
You could hit up Bodie, California when vacationing at Lake Tahoe, as it’s located not too far away within the Sierra Nevada mountains. Now an official historic site, the preserved area is also the namesake of the park in which it resides, Bodie State Historic Park. Buildings left from the 1800s era town are not restored, but rather preserved intensely, which sets it apart from abandoned towns that have been partially or even fully rebuilt. Here, you’re truly seeing the Old West frozen as it was way back when.
Terlingua, Texas is an interesting little place surrounded by proximal mountains, and some hills that can be seen, on a clear day, as far away as Mexico. Both the Old West and modern day are mixed into this little town, and it’s quite the gritty stop. You can grab a bite to eat and even stay at an eccentric hotel or attend the most famous chili cook-off in the nation. Big Bend National Park sits right on the edge, so outdoor adventures like mountain biking and hiking go hand in hand when visiting Terlingua.
Bannack, Montana is also preserved instead of undergoing major renovation efforts. Inside Bannack State Park, visiting is encouraged, as is an exploration of the multiple Old West structures. During July, the ghost town comes to life with historic re-enactments, wagon rides and other authentic festivities. Guests can camp within the park as well if you’re not too afraid of outlaw ghosts roaming the grounds.
Glenrio, New Mexico also borders over into Texas, and once was a bustling town filled with weary travelers trekking Route 66. Although a bit eerie, it’s interesting to peek inside the now empty motel, gas station and cafe. You can almost see the flock of people buzzing about in the town during the 30s and 40s.
Believe it or not, Southern California’s Bombay Beach was supposed to be like the French Riviera of the west coast, but a strange phenomenon left the 1950s town engulfed in salt deposit from the Salton Sea. In the 1940s and 1950s, trailers lined the popular area that was hoped to become a funky getaway for the wealthy, but nature had other plans. Stuck in time, with vintage cars and dwellings rusted and rotted in their original places, Bombay Beach can be appropriately referred to as looking post-apocalyptic.
Rhyolite, Nevada is the real deal of Wild West abandoned towns, so much so, it’s even been used as a movie set. Imagine cowboys and inhabitants puttering around the dusty streets during the height if its gold rush era.
Calico Ghost Town in California is more interactive than most abandoned sites—you can ride an old train, see the once operational mines, and yes, you can absolutely go on an official ghost tour. More gimmicky than most abandoned towns, it’s pretty perfect for the average tourist. There’s a lot to do and experience, while the history and ghost town factor is all there.