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Last updated: October 1, 2021

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P.O. Box 579 Death Valley, CA 92328

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8 Ghost Towns in Death Valley: Explore the Dust & Rust

California’s gold rush boom in the 1850’s set off a frenzy of mining unlike any that the US had ever seen. And not only was there gold in them thar hills, but also silver, copper, lead, borax and zinc. Many such mines sprang up in the dry, southern reaches of Eastern California in what is now the area around Death Valley National Park. This region isn’t called Death Valley for nothing, so when the boom started to wane, Death Valley’s formidable landscape and unforgiving climate gave little reason for the mining towns to consider prospering. And the long slow slide began.

As a result, you’ll find quite a few ghost towns in Death Valley…and in the adjacent region. We’re recommending eight of them that are worth adding to your Death Valley trip. All but three of the ghost towns are easily visited with a normal car and you have choices whether you are coming in from LA, the Highway 395 corridor or Nevada.

Death Valley Ghost town- Rhyolite cabin ruin

(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)

Plan Your Death Valley Trip

We a veritable gold mine of resources to help you plan a trip to Death Valley (sorry, but we couldn’t resist the pun). Start with our Death Valley visitor’s guide , which includes things to do and practical tips like when to visit and how to get there. Get some fun facts about the national park. Find accommodation using our hotel guide or our camping guide . We also have a two-day itinerary (which includes some of the ghost towns), and a suggested road trip routing from SF (which includes other ghost towns).

Get guides for the popular Golden Canyon and Sidewinder Canyon hikes. Then keep driving to Joshua Tree , using our road trip guide.

Ballarat ghost town green car door

Tips for Visiting Ghost Towns in Death Valley

  • Keep the gas topped up : While there are several gas stations in Death Valley, the park and surrounding area has a lot of open space and a “middle of nowhere” vibe. So keep the tank gassed up.
  • Always carry water : It can be very hot in Death Valley, even during the spring and fall. Be sure to pack plenty of water, both in the car and on your hikes.
  • Take an old school map : Death Valley has notoriously poor mobile reception, so you may not be able to count on Google maps to help you find some of these locations. We are huge fans of the California Road & Recreation Atlas . It’s super detailed, showing both paved and dirt roads and recreational areas.

Rhyolite ghost town rail car

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite was a grand boomtown. In its glory days, it had a public bathhouse, 50 saloons, and 19 lodging houses. Starting as a small mining camp in 1905, the town’s population grew to 5,000 miners in just a half a year. Charles M. Schwab’s attention elevated the town, bringing in water mains, electricity, telegraph, and telephone lines. Unfortunately, the ore diminished, leading first to mine closures and then the closure of the town’s related businesses. They cut power to the town in 1914, forcing most of its inhabitants out.

Some of Rhyolite’s remaining attractions are:

  • The Tom Kelly bottle house, which is the largest and oldest bottle house in the US.
  • The Goldwell open-air museum.
  • Remains of the old bank, jail and train depot.

Getting to Rhyolite : Rhyolite is 4 miles west of Beatty, Nevada and and 1.5 hours northeast of Death Valley’s main activities. Here’s our full guide to Rhyolite , which has more history on the site and a bunch of pics.

Gold Point Ghost town near Death Valley

Gold Point is a ghost town with a resurrection story. It was founded in the early 1860’s as a silver mining camp. Things tootled along until the 1920’s, when gold was found there. The population topped out at 2,000 and the town supported many saloons, hotels and stores. And then came the inevitable decline.

In the late 1970’s two friends came to town and decided to do what they could to save Gold Point. They began purchasing buildings and worked with the few remaining townspeople to shore up the buildings.

Things to do there:

  • The Post Office (which is also a museum).
  • Self-guided tour of the town.
  • Overnight stay in simple cabins .

How to Get to Gold Point : The town is a great stop if you are entering Death Valley from Nevada and also want to visit Rhyolite via Beatty, NV. The town is one hour north west of Beatty.

Chloride City

Like Panamint City (noted below), Chloride City is another Death Valley ghost town that’s located within the park borders. But it’s somewhat tricky to get to. Silver ore was found in Chloride in 1871. But the difficult location meant that it never really boomed like other sites, and calling it a “city” is generous. But mining came and went into the early 1900’s before the formidable location meant the the city started melting in to the landscape.

Things to see include:

  • Building ruins.
  • Mine entrances.

Getting to Chloride City : This 17 mile dirt road requires 4×4 and clearance. Going east on the Daylight Pass Road toward Beatty, look for the small sign 3.6 miles east of the Hells Gate rest stop (which also has park signage). Then head south and up.

Cabin interior at Ballarat ghost town near Death Valley

Ballarat is a little boomtown in the Mojave Desert’s Panamint Valley, at the western edge of Death Valley National Park. Ballarat rose at the tail end of the 19th-century mining rush of 1896. It was a mining supply station and a source for whisky and water, both being in scarce supply in this very dry desert. At its peak in 1897, the town was home to 500 people and had a post office, morgue, and a jail. As the lodes dried up, the post office shut down in 1917, ending the town’s heyday.

You can simply wander around visiting the old buildings, trucks and farm equipment There’s also a small store with some historic artifacts and explanatory signage. A donation is requested.

  • An old graveyard and the grave of one of the last of the Rainbow Seekers– Seldom Seen Slim.
  • The general store run by the ghost town’s lone resident and dog.
  • Charles Manson’s old truck.

Getting to Ballarat : It’s located 40 minutes directly south of Panamint Springs and an hour west of Stovepipe Wells. It’s about an hour south of Darwin and you can do both in one shot. Along the way, don’t be surprised if you’re bombarded by a herd of feral mules. They were cut loose by the miners and now live off the land. They like carrots, should you feel so inclined.

Rear view mirror in Ballarat ghost town

Panamint City

The Panamint City ghost town is located near(ish) Ballarat, but within the confines of the Death Valley National Park borders. This area is remote, even by intrepid 1800’s standards. And the area was a magnet for bandits. The town started booming when silver and copper were found there in 1872. Nevada Senator John P. Jones rushed in to buy up claims. But it was a very risky endeavor, given the remote location and difficult terrain. The frenzy peaked in 1874 with 2,000 miners but by 1876 a steep decline began.

  • A smokestack.
  • Miner cabins.
  • Mining equipment.

Getting to Panamint City : Visiting this Death Valley ghost town is only available on foot and not for the feint hearted. The trailhead parking is 6 miles north of Ballarat. The trail itself is a difficult 12.6 mile out and back with nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Only attempt this hike if you are an experienced backcountry hiker.

California ghost town of Darwin- abandoned store

Darwin is a “kind of” ghost town located outside the western reaches of Death Valley National Park. The town borrows its name from Darwin French, a prospector who visited the area in 1850. The adjacent canyon and falls north of town are also named after him. The first settlement in Darwin came up in 1874, in the wake of lead and silver mining in the region. The post office opened in 1875 and, but for a brief closure, it’s been open ever since.

The town remained operational because of the Eichbaum Toll Road, which provided western access into the national park. But the town became isolated in 1933 when Death Valley was designated a national monument. When a a new, free bypass into the park was created, the town inevitably declined.

According to the 2020 census Darwin still has 36 residents. This isn’t a zoo, and the residents own private property, so please be considerate while wandering around.

  • Old buildings from its mining heyday.
  • Folk art stores and open air museum.
  • Post Office, which is open 10a-2p Monday-Saturday.

Getting to Darwin : It’s located 30 minutes west and south of Panamint Springs.

Cerro Gordo mining ghost town in California- old wood buildings

Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo, Spanish for ‘fat hill’ is one of the most authentic mining ghost towns near Death Valley. And while it’s not in Death Valley proper, it’s worth a stop if your trip also includes time driving the Highway 395 corridor.

Cerro Gordo was the first major silver strike in Owens Valley. Its roots date back to 1865 when Pablo Flores set up a silver ore mining and smelting point at Buena Vista peak. By 1867, more miners began flocking to the area. Some businesses were established and in 1868, a proper road was built to the remote area. This enabled mule-team wagon trains to transport more of the ore to Los Angeles.

At its peak, 1,500 people filled the camp and it developed a reputation for lawlessness. However, like the other towns listed here, the mine’s production and profitability ultimately fell, and by 1920, Cerro Gordo had only ten miners remaining. The site is now a privately owned 336 acre ghost town. The entrance fee is $10. The town is open 9am-5pm Monday-Sunday. They are open all year, but the road may be impassable during winter storms.

Things to see in Cerro Gordo include:

  • Authentic feel of a 19th-century mining town tour.
  • Hoist House and Assay Office experience.
  • The area’s photographic scenery.

Getting to Cerro Gordo : Located 41 miles southeast of Lone Pine off of Highway 395. Getting there requires going up an 8-mile dirt road which is steep in sections, topping out at 8,500′. They advise a 4×4 car or at least some clearance.

Abandoned building in Keeler California

If you are getting to Death Valley from the Highway 395 corridor, you drive in right past Keeler and it’s definitely worth a quick stop. The town is one of two ‘almost’ ghost towns near Death Valley, with a human population of 71 and a sad number of abandoned buildings.

Keeler grew on the shores of Owens Lake in the 1870s as a freight terminal. By 1880, a mill was build to process ore from the Cerro Gordo mines and a rail spur was laid to help move the ore. Keeler went through several highs and lows because it was tied to Cerro Gordo’s fortunes. As noted above, Cerro Gordo ultimately Cerro dried up and then the nearby lake dried up as well, which killed the town and drove away most of the residents.

That said, there are still people living there, so please respect that when you wander the town.

Things to see in Keeler include:

  • The old post office, operational since 1883.
  • The Owens Lake Silver Company furnace, a historical landmark.
  • Keeler cemetery, the old train depot and other mining buildings.

Getting to Keeler : It’s located 15 miles south of Lone Pine, on the western road into Panamint Springs and Death Valley.

Abandoned room in Keeler California with television and yellow pages

Other Things to Do in the Area

If you are getting to Death Valley via the Eastern Sierra, be sure to use our H ighway 395 road trip itinerary to find some key stops. We’ve also got guides for things to do in both Lone Pine and Bishop .

If you are also including Joshua Tree in the trip, we have a whole guide for the national park . We’ve also got a list of the best Joshua Tree hikes , a campground guide , advice on how to spend a day in the park , and things to do in nearby Joshua Tree town .

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13 Ghost Towns In Death Valley [MAP]

Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Urbex Underground

If you’re searching for ghost towns in Death Valley, we’ve got you covered! Below are 13 different ghost towns you can explore across the Death Valley area along with their status and exact GPS coordinates.

We rate ghost towns in Death Valley based on their status. Here’s how our system works:

  • Abandoned: Is abandoned with ruins and structures in a decayed state. Great for urban explorers .
  • Historic: Preservation efforts have been made and sometimes plaques installed. Great for everyone .
  • Barren: Almost nothing remains of the town. Ideal for metal detectorists.
  • Commercial: Is commercially owned with amenities, restaurants, and stores. Great for families .
  • Semi-Abandoned : Abandoned areas with a small population in the area.
  • Privately Owned: Tours might be available but not open to the general public.

1. Ballarat

2. panamint, 3. death valley junction, 4. cerro gordo, 5. leadfield, 6. rhyolite, 8. skidoo mill, 9. journigan’s mill, 10. ashford mill ruins, 13. gold point, the anarchist’s guide to exploration.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into the world of urban exploration, this book is for you. Learn how to uncover more abandoned places and the techniques used to capture their beauty.

36.04641, -117.22673 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The town of Ballarat was once a bustling place, with three hotels, a school, and seven saloons. But now it’s a ghost town, watched over by a single man and his dog. The town was abandoned in the early 1990s, and in 1988, the family of Charles Manson stayed in the Barker ranch south of town.

What’s Left?

The old town is still worth exploring. It has a unique history. You’ll be glad you took the time to visit. And if you’re visiting the area, don’t miss seeing the old mining equipment that still lies in the flats.

36.11828, -117.09533 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

Panamint in Death Valley was a thriving community in the 1870s, but has long been abandoned. Several thousand people lived in this small settlement, lured by the promise of easy money and adventure. Panamint was the site of a silver mining boomtown in the 1870s. The town was run by outlaws and eventually flooded, destroying everything. The road to the town was only accessible to dedicated 4x4s until the late 1980s. 

You can explore the remains of the abandoned mine while hiking through a scenic 7.5-mile trail. This hike is strenuous and requires an excellent amount of endurance. However, the views are worth it. You’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery and an authentic sense of history. You’ll be glad you did.

36.302, -116.41416 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The town began life as a tent settlement. A saloon and hotel were built. Then in the 1920s, the Pacific Coast Borax Company built a hotel and office complex in Death Valley Junction. Once the company stopped operation in 1928, the town’s development went sour.

Today, the town remains in various stages of decay. To get a taste of Death Valley’s past, be sure to check out the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. The opera house boasts elaborate murals, vintage seats, and a backstage stuffed with costumes. We were lucky enough to attend a tour led by a local ghost-hunting team.

36.5377, -117.79523 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

Once the epicenter of the silver rush in the 1800s, Cerro Gordo in Death Valley is now a ghost town. This 400-acre town in the Inyo Mountains is a nugget in time. But don’t expect comfort or luxury – it was built for rugged beauty,

There are a number of attractions to explore in Cerro Gordo, including a one-room saloon with two out-of-tune pianos and a mysterious bloodstain on the wall. The road is steep and requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle, so you might want to bring a friend. The town’s caretaker, Robert, is a friendly host who can offer tours of the buildings. If you’re staying overnight, you can also get a tour of the ghost town, which is included in the cost of your room.

36.84829, -117.05945 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

Julian was a well-known oil promoter in the Southern California region, and he bought stock in the Leadfield Mining Company. Although his business practices were questionable, he continued to promote the area and drill, despite the low-grade ore. As a result, he became an overnight sensation and was welcomed in the area by the Inyo Independent newspaper. The local newspaper wrote about Julian’s character, but Julian’s shady business practices led to the town’s demise.

The buildings, slabs, and other structures are all highly photogenic, and this will captivate visitors of all ages. It is important to plan plenty of time for your trip, as there is not much shade. The ghost town is located on a small road, and you’ll have to hike to get there.

36.90321, -116.82811 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The town was established in 1904 by entrepreneur Charles M. Schwab. By 1906, the town had water and electricity. It also had a railroad and newspapers. It was home to an opera house and a stock exchange. The history, numerous ruins, and proximity to the freeway make this one of the best ghost towns in Death Valley to visit.

When visiting Death Valley, be sure to spend some time in the town of Rhyolite. The ghost town sits amid a barren landscape and is easy to reach.

The town is located just 35 miles from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The nearest town, Beatty, Nevada, is nine miles away. While the town is free to enter, the road does become increasingly rough and the BLM has erected fences around unstable buildings. A visit to the Rhyolite ghost town is not part of the National Park, but it is located just outside of the park’s boundaries. 

37.00527, -116.78388 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

Pioneer was founded in 1908 to support workers mining in the nearby gold mines. The population capped out at 2,500 until a fire decimated nearly all of the town’s buildings. By 1931 Pioneer officially closed its post office sealing its fate as a ghost town.

Pioneer is one of the smallest ghost towns in Death Valley and is better suited for camping or longer hikes. While there isn’t much left there are a few remnants of the mine and stone ruins.

36.43671, -117.15493 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The Skidoo Mines Company built this historic mill to process gold from ore by water, gravity, and a combination of the two. This mill was the only water-powered mill in Death Valley. The water supply was piped from Telescope Peak, about 23 miles away. The mill had a telephone exchange, newspaper press, and a school. When the mines in the region ran dry, the town went into decline.

Skidoo Mill is one of the better-preserved ghost towns in Death Valley, making it a must-see location on your trip.

36.41359, -117.18251 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The history of Journigan’s Mill in Death Valley dates back to the 1930s. The site is near several springs and was home to at least one mill before Journigan’s operation. The mill used stamp mills, cone-type ball mills, and crushers to treat ore and prepare it for shipping.

Today, the remains of Journigan’s Mill can be seen on Emigrant Canyon Road in Death Valley National Park. The trailhead is on the west side of Emigrant Canyon Road.

There are also plenty of other places to visit near the park. Just make sure you bring a camera. The Dead Horse Point hike is relatively safe and easy to do, making this one of the greatest ghost towns in Death Valley for family trips.

35.91897, -116.68328 Status: Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

Ashford Mill supported the Ashford mine during the early to mid-1900s. Unfroturely, the mine was not as prosperous as anticipated which forced the mine and mill to shut down early into its operation.

One of the most beautiful sites in Death Valley National Park is the Ashford Mill Ruins. Ashford Mill is the perfect location to see the desert and the harsh life it provides. The trail to Ashford Mill is about 2 hours from Las Vegas, making it one of the more accessible ghost towns in Death Valley.

36.26799, -117.59173 Status: Historic

ghost town california death valley

Darwin was settled during the mid-1800s by a prospector by the name of Darwin French who was searching for valuable resources in the western expanse.

When silver and lead were found, a larger settlement took root in 1874. Ironically, Death Valley was actually the death of Darwin. When Death Valley was designated as a national monument in 1933 their bypass road isolated the town, removing nearly all traffic to the town.

Today about 50 people call Darwin home. While it’s not the most exciting ghost town in Death Valley, it’s certainly a cool little town you’ll want to check out while exploring the desert.

36.48715, -117.87396 Status: Semi-Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The town is situated on the NE shore of the now-dry Lake Owens and is accessed from California State Highway 136. A railroad once served this town, and the town’s growth coincided with the fortunes of the nearby Cerro Gordo mines.

Keeler was named after Julius M. Keeler, who owned the Keeler Mill. The Carson & Colorado Railroad was the last to stop in Keeler, but little traffic meant that there was no freight for the train to haul. In 1911, a zinc mine was discovered in the town. But by the time the mine was closed, the deposits had run dry. The last train left Keeler in 1960.

Today, Keeler has many abandoned buildings to explore making it one of the best ghost towns in Death Valley for urban explorers.

37.35465, -117.36507 Status: Semi-Abandoned

ghost town california death valley

The town of Gold Point, Nevada, is a well-preserved historic mining community located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. The town was named for its local gold-mining industry, and its current population is seven. This area is well known for its sweeping views of Death Valley, and its attractions and activities include hiking, photography, and other outdoor pursuits. Gold Point is also home to a number of historical buildings and sites making it one of the best ghost towns in Death Valley for urban explorers.

There are plenty of buildings to explore as well as some interesting geological discoveries. Trilobite fossils were first found at Gold Point by two geologists in the early 1960s. They were later identified by USGS paleontologists as the largest known assemblage of Early Cambrian trilobite fossils. This discovery prompted scientists to start exploring the site and its surrounding area. In addition to fossils, Gold Point is known for its extensive collection of dinosaur bones and skeletons.

Go out and explore!

That concludes our list of ghost towns in Death Valley, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.

If you’re having trouble finding ghost towns be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Finding Abandoned Places , or explore other ghost towns across the country.

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This California Ghost Town is the Ultimate Risk-Reward Hike

Feeling adventurous take on the seven-and-a-half mile hike to panamint city, an abandoned village deep within death valley’s surprise canyon..

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The Panamint Hilton isn’t what you’d call luxury accommodations. It’s a run-down, ratty cabin that’s miles from civilization. But it does have one massive selling point: it’s nestled within Panamint City , one of the most secluded and well-preserved ghost towns in the United States.

To reach it, you’ll have to hike, wade, scramble and squeeze through over seven miles of sparsely marked trail in Death Valley’s Surprise Canyon, climbing more than 3,600 feet in the process. You won’t have to deal with Death Valley ’s legendary heat, though: The canyon is an oasis within the area’s arid landscape (that’s the surprise!) filled with waterfalls, streams and lush greenery. The trail itself is long, treacherous, and occasionally waterlogged, but at its end lies Panamint City and some of the best-preserved ruins from the “Old West”. Only about 100 people a year attempt to reach it.

Before settlers arrived, the area now occupied by Panamint was home to Timbisha Shoshone people. Prospectors founded the town after a silver strike in 1872, and, funded by a pair of Nevada senators, Panamint City became a booming mining town. Visitors will see that the little town is remarkably well-preserved despite weathering flash floods and desolate conditions for over a century before its abandonment – its Main Street remains dotted with cabins, saloons, mines and more. But first, they have to get there.

For many, the journey begins in Ballarat, a nearly-abandoned town that served as a temporary home for the notorious Manson cult (the “family’s” ranch is nearby, and the remains of Manson’s faded green Dodge Power Wagon are still there). Stop in at the Ballarat Trading Post for a drink or information on the surrounding Panamint Range, then drive about five miles up Surprise Canyon Road to the trailhead at the Chris Wicht Camp, where parking is available.

From there, the adventure begins in earnest. Hikers will first have to navigate Surprise Canyon’s narrows, scrambling across rocks, tunneling through thorny brambles, slogging through streams, and backtracking from dead ends. Flanked by white stone walls, the creek sometimes creates waterfalls and pools that provide respite from the heat, as well as two springs where water’s often available. (Pack in a gallon per person per day to be safe.)

After completing the four-mile trek through the narrows, the canyon basin transforms into a juniper and pinyon-covered mountainside. Atop the canyon, hikers will have to contend with crumbling ridges and narrow ledges, but the trail becomes more defined around the five mile mark.

Just a mile further on, the silhouette of Panamint City’s massive smokestack comes into view, signalling that the end of the journey is near. The smokestack once vented fumes from.a smelter that cast silver into heavy, cannonball-like spheres, designed to be hard for bandits to carry off. The final stretch of the journey, nicknamed “the long mile,” is bounded by stone walls that will finally lead you into the town’s Main Street.

Once there, you can wander at will. Panamint City’s seclusion has protected its structures from the elements, so there’s plenty to see. Several cabins lining the main street are mostly intact, including the old miner’s cabin that hikers have dubbed the “Panamint Hilton,” so named because of its furnished interior – including beds, tables, chairs and a full kitchen. (A word of caution: the Hilton is known as a hotspot for Hantavirus, a rare disease spread by rats, so I’d recommend camping just outside the cabin – and don’t drink the water before filtering it!)

Visitors can set up camp outside one of Panamint’s many cabins and stay for days, exploring relics of the past including old bars and saloons, scrappy automobiles, and even Native pictographs that date back to well before the town’s founding. Mining ruins can also be found scattered across the town and the nearby Sourdough Canyon (to the northwest) and Marvel Canyon (to the west).

For those brave enough to make the trek, Panamint offers a combination of history and scenery unlike any place in the United States. Even the experienced hikers are known to struggle with the seven-and-a-half mile climb—but what’s an adventure without a little struggle?

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5 Great Death Valley Ghost Towns

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Randsburg

When visiting the area known as "Death Valley," you'd expect to encounter a ghost or two. 

Death Valley National Park and its environs are full of mysteries, surprises, and communities that went from boom to bust so quickly they're all but forgotten. Most of these towns were built for some kind of mining endeavor, and when the industry dried up, so did their thriving populations.

While you might stumble across some of these "ghost towns" on your way somewhere else — say to Leadfield in Titus Canyon — others take a bit more work to find.

Some require a four-wheel-drive to reach them by roads, which run the risk of being washed out from recent rains in the area. Some towns have nothing left but a historical marker, while others are completely inaccessible by car. 

Here are five great ghost towns worth hunting down in and around Death Valley:

Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite

The most famous and accessible Death Valley ghost town is probably Rhyolite, even though it's not actually in the park or even in California. It's just off of nearby border town Beatty, Nevada, and from 1905 to 1911 it was known as the "Queen City." When you drive down the old unpaved Main Street, you're surrounded by rubble and scrap metal - the vestiges of abandoned homes and businesses that are currently unrecognizable, sometimes with only a pile of stones remaining. But you can still see the old railroad depot, the "Rhyolite" sign double-painted with "Rhyolite Ghost Casino," and the old general store. And as a bonus, there are even more ghosts living in Rhyolite than the prospectors and miners who rushed over for gold and fled just as quickly. At the Goldwell Open Air Museum at the gateway to Death Valley, shrouded figures reenact "The Last Supper" and ride a bicycle in Albert Szukalksi's sculptures, which were installed here in the 1980s. 

Death Valley Junction

A small theater is lit up in red light. The seats are mostly in the dark while the stage is illuminated in red. The stage is small and a single cushioned chair sits in the middle along with two side tables.

There aren't a lot of places to stay overnight in Death Valley National Park aside from camping, so you could spend an uneventful night in the popular stopover town Beatty. Or you could choose a far more remote and interesting location. Spend the night in Death Valley Junction, a ghost town whose only remaining business is the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel .

Amargosa, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places,  was originally built in the 1920s as a borax company town for local workers. It had residences, a coffee shop, a hospital, a rec hall, a store, and a garage across the street. In the 1960s, actress and dancer Marta Becket moved from New York City to Death Valley Junction and rented out the original hall to turn it into an opera house. She painted its walls with murals, and illuminated the house with lights that she'd handcrafted out of coffee cans. Once the performance space was to her liking, she performed dances and mimes there for over 40 years. The hotel rents out their no-frills rooms by the night, and the opera house still has occasional performances by other dancers and musical acts. Although Marta passed away in 2017, you can still see her dance — on the TV screen in the lobby, which shows old VHS tapes of her performances.

Panamint City

Just outside the west side of the park as you pull off on Surprise Canyon Road, you reach what's left of some lower-canyon remains of the mining history of the Panamint Valley - namely, Novak's Camp, which is the gateway to the silver mining ghost town of Panamint City. In fact, the only way to get to the former boomtown run by outlaws is by taking a seven-mile hike uphill from Surprise Canyon. It flooded and washed away in 1876. But the wagon roads that were built up the canyon to reach it were amazingly still navigable by motorized vehicles until the early 1980s. Now, that's the way to hike up to it. The road passes the stamp mill while nature has overtaken the rest of the remains of the lower mining camp, thanks to being closed to off-roading vehicles that once disrupted the soil and scarred the bedrock. Now, it's surprisingly wet (hence its name) and thick with vegetation, so the trip all the way up to Panamint City by foot is likely a full-day affair, and probably requires an overnight stay amidst the ruins. 

Ballarat

Novak's Camp (previously known as "Chris Wicht Camp") at Surprise Canyon used to be quite a successful private operation, and because of that, Rocky Novak and his father George resisted their camp being absorbed into the designated wilderness area to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. When Novak's Camp burned down in 2006, the Novaks blamed the BLM, accusing it of arson. The BLM denied it of course, and with everything gone, the Novaks moved to nearby ghost town Ballarat, which was founded in 1897 as a supply stop for nearby miners. George died in 2011 at the age of 90, at which point his son Rocky (also known as "Rock" and "Roc") became its only official resident and unofficial "mayor" - the sole caretaker of the dwindling town that once had hundreds of residents (and multiple saloons). Its other big claim to fame was as a haunt for Charles Manson and his "family" - and there's a junked-up old truck still parked there, reportedly having belonged to some member of the family, if not Manson himself. If you stop to take a photo, make sure you buy a soda or water from Roc and say hello. If he's feeling chatty, you'll get a priceless ghost town experience.

Randsburg 2

Rand Mining District was initially comprised of several towns and several different mining operations including Randsburg, Johannesburg, Red Mountain, and Garlock. It was first organized in 1895 during the first mining frenzy, and it touted a total of nearly 30 mines, producing $25MM of gold in its 50-year history (according to 1920s pricing). It was mostly a tent city at the time, but it was most certainly a boomtown. Now, there are only about 60 or 70 residents left in Randsburg, but you can stay the night as a solo traveler, or with a bunch of buddies. 

Whether you're stopping over for the nearby OHV trails or you're just getting away, be sure to check out the old jail, the church, and the cemetery - which was established in 1896, with the burial of William Davis, who was shot and killed in a gambling dispute. Just watch out for the dangerously high levels of arsenic — over 400,000 times higher than a healthy level — which might either be a byproduct of mining, or a very good sign that there's still gold to be found in those hills.

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Five Death Valley Ghost Towns Worth the Trek

Deep in the Mojave Desert, where California fades into Nevada, the ragged remains of ghost towns are strewn across salt-crusted soil, lost at the ends of bumpy roads, and tucked into rocky mountain canyons. I’m the type of person who can’t resist crumbling cabins or map symbols for “Point of Historic Interest,” so I’ve trekked through the eastern Mojave looking for these pieces of abandoned history. Here are some spots that are easy to miss—although you won’t want to.

Panamint City, California

Panamint City’s iconic brick smokestack.

Panamint City was a mean, tough silver town with a lawless reputation so bad that Wells Fargo refused to open a bank there. It was founded in the early 1870s and saw mining on and off until the 1980s, when floods wiped out the only road.

More than 130 years after Panamint City’s peak as a boomtown, it looks like a post-modern apocalyptic summer camp. Abandoned cabins, rusted mining equipment (fashioned into sculptures by enterprising hikers), mining tunnels, rotting cars, and a backwoods hot tub MacGyvered from a bathtub and fire pit are tucked into the narrow, enclosed valley. The brick smokestack of the smelter stands like a beacon. Wander the stone remains of the once-bustling Main Street and red light district.

It takes a 5-mile hike along the remains of the old road through Surprise Canyon and 4,000 feet of elevation gain to get to Panamint City. The “surprise” may be all the water so close to harsh desert. Dazzling white canyon walls, waterfalls, pools, and a sparkling creek contrast with lush greenery. Panamint City has it all: adventurous journey, striking setting, and well-preserved ruins. The bumper sticker on an abandoned 1957 Chevy at the edge of town sums up the magic: “I’d rather be in Panamint City.”

Ballarat, California

The old general store where Rocky Novak dispenses icy drinks and information.

Ballarat is a dusty outpost at the foot of the Panamint Mountains. It’s been teetering on the edge of ghost town status for over 100 years. Rocky Novak, caretaker and lifelong resident, keeps it from that fate by living there year-round. In its heyday between 1897 and 1905, Ballarat was a resupply and entertainment center for the nearby mines. Today, newer trailers are mixed in among the historic adobe structures. Nearby, Charles Manson had his final hideout at the Barker Ranch. A truck owned by the Manson family rusts quietly in front of the general store.

Rocky Novak is the coolest thing about this place. He has a wealth of information about the past and present that he’s willing to share, as well as an ancient cooler stocked with icy cold sodas and beer for sale. Visitors can stop to chat, get the latest on road and trail conditions, grab an icy drink, and tap the pulse of this remote desert corner.

Chloride City, California

ruins scattered across steep hills

The scattered debris of Chloride City hints at life in a remote mining camp back in the day. Think deafening quiet, scorching sun, wind, and a long wait for the mule supply train. Looking over the crumbling ruins strewn across a bowl in the steep hills of the Funeral Mountains, the name “Chloride City” seems optimistic. Clearly this was never a city.

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Silver-lead ore was discovered here in 1871, making it one of the oldest historical sites in Death Valley. But the lack of infrastructure (the closest town was 180 miles southeast across salt flats and mountains, with no roads or settlements in between) killed mining efforts after less than two years. Chloride City came back to life intermittently until the early 1940s. Each time, the remoteness proved too formidable—even in a region known for remoteness. Walk the old loop road through town and look for the remains of the mill, mining tunnels, marked grave of James McKay (no one knows who he is now), and dugouts—small miners’ houses built into the hillsides.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite’s well-preserved train station.

Shorty Harris, prospector and colorful Death Valley character, started some of the region’s most famous gold strikes. In 1904, he sparked the mining craze near Rhyolite with his friend E.L. Cross. Thousands of people streamed to the area. At its peak in 1907-1908, Rhyolite was home to 3,500–5,000 people. The 1907 financial panic kicked off a rush in the opposite direction, and people left in droves. By 1911, the mine had closed.

Today, Rhyolite’s roads lead past the two-story ruins of banks, an intact mission-style train station, cemetery, and red-light district and mine remains. Rhyolite also has one of the few remaining bottle houses in the west, built by resourceful miner Tom Kelly out of a plentiful material on hand—beer and liquor bottles.

Rhyolite shares the desert backdrop with the Goldwell Open Air Museum. Belgian artists created the museum’s larger-than-life sculptures in the 1980s. The most famous, The Last Supper, features hollow, hooded figures hunched on a platform. The combination of ghost town and haunting sculptures is surreal.

Gold Point, Nevada

Gold Point’s working saloon.

Gold Point is what’s called a living ghost town. Stuck in the high desert north of Death Valley, Gold Point was a mining camp in the 1860s. It became a proper town in 1908 with a post office, saloons, and residences. Even when the mines dried up, a few old-timers held on, living in the cabins along the town’s dirt streets. In the early 1980s, two friends began buying up the mostly abandoned property and stabilizing the cabins and buildings. Other people followed suit, saving Gold Point from obscurity and the elements. Today, Gold Point is the real deal. It’s a fiercely independent Wild West community—gritty, isolated, and authentic. Visitors are welcome to this frontier time capsule—just remember that it’s private property. Owner Herb Robbins and his business partner Walt are usually on the premises, willing to open the saloon and share a beer and stories.

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Jenna Blough

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Discover the Eerie Ghost Towns of Death Valley

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When you visit the ghost towns in and around Death Valley National Park, you’ll see little more than the foundations and crumbling walls of buildings constructed more than a century ago. So don’t expect the staged gunfights and cool sarsaparillas of more tourist-oriented ghost towns. Get ready to use your imagination to bring these communities to life.

Some of Death Valley’s ghost towns were once communities with hundreds — even thousands — of residents who were drawn to this foreboding region by the promise of work or quick riches. Think about the combination of blind optimism and maybe a hint of desperation that drove people into the heart of North America’s hottest, driest desert in search of their fortunes. Most never found it.

Many of Death Valley’s onetime settlements are in remote areas. Panamint City, where 2,000 people lived in the 1870s during its silver mining heyday, is accessible either via a 13-mile round-trip hike or on a jeep trek best done by experts with winches on their vehicles.

Before you head out, keep a few things in mind:Some destinations may require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

-Even dirt and gravel roads normally suitable for passenger vehicles may become impassable following storms. -Check on road conditions at the park’s Furnace Creek Visitor Center before trying to drive to your destination. -Do not enter any mines; the walls and ceilings may be unstable. -If you’re worried about wear-and-tear on your car, consider taking a tour or renting a jeep through Farabee Jeep Rentals in Furnace Creek.

Here are some ghost towns of note:

Rhyolite

Compared to the more modest mining settlements in the Death Valley region, Rhyolite was a veritable metropolis. Across the border in Nevada, about 38 miles from The Oasis at Death Valley, Rhyolite boasted a stalwart, three-story bank building and a school for 250 children. There was an opera house and symphony. Rhyolite even had its own daily newspaper and some sources say the population reached 10,000 at its peak.

Like so many things, Rhyolite began with gold. In 1904, Death Valley legend Frank (Shorty) Harris and his friend Ed Cross were camped out. When Harris went to fetch their burros, he came upon a ledge that looked promising and used his pickaxe to chip off a piece. “The chunks of gold were so big that I could see them at arm’s length…Right then, it seemed to me that the whole mountain was gold.” The green rock, spotted with yellow, reminded Harris of a frog’s back. And so the two named their claim Bullfrog.

After the discovery, Rhyolite quickly grew. Electricity arrived in 1907, as did misfortune: A panic in U.S. financial markets decimated the banking and mining industries. Despite its early promise, the mine closed in 1911. By 1916, Rhyolite was well on its way to being the ghost town you can visit today.

You’ll see a number of original buildings, including the walls of the Cook Bank and an intact train station (on private land). Rhyolite’s many saloons provided a unique building material and the town is also home to a beautifully preserved house constructed from bottles.

Dubbed “the wraith of the desert,” Ballarat in the Panamint Valley west of Death Valley was named for a famous gold mining center near Melbourne, Australia.

Sitting along the base of the Panamint Mountains, Ballarat briefly boomed between 1897 and 1905 when it served as a hub for gold miners working in the range. Ballarat had a water source roughly half a mile away at Post Office Springs, and at one time the population reached about 400 — enough to merit a Wells Fargo stagecoach stop and to keep three hotels and seven saloons in business. There was also a jail, as well as a school with 31 students.

But as a new gold rush began at Tonopah in Nevada and the local stocks dwindled, so did Ballarat. By 1917 its post office finally closed. These days you’ll see ramshackle wooden buildings and a few adobe walls, and you can also leave a tribute at the gravesite of prospector Charles (“Seldom Seen Slim”) Ferge. He was a Death Valley legend whose memorial reads, “Lonely? Hell no! I’m half coyote and half wild burro.”

Now privately owned, Ballarat has a general store. It’s about 80 miles from The Oasis at Death Valley; if you’re driving into Death Valley via Ridgecrest and the Trona Wildrose Road, Ballarat makes an easy side trip.

Chloride City

About 31 miles northeast of The Oasis at Death Valley off Daylight Pass Road, Chloride City in the Funeral Mountains was part of one of the earliest mining areas in the Death Valley region.

As the legend goes, A.J. Franklin, a U.S. government civil engineer, first found silver-lead ore at Chloride Cliff in 1871. When he picked up a rock to kill a rattlesnake, Franklin noticed a vein of chloride of silver. No word on the fate of the rattlesnake. After staking a claim, Franklin, and later his son, worked the area intermittently to maintain the family’s stake. Eventually, prospectors fanned out from the gold strike in Nevada’s Bullfrog Mining District to work the area. By 1905, Chloride City arose — in a saddle located 4,800 feet above Death Valley — as the support town for local mining operations. Limited activity continued in the surrounding mountains into the 1940s.

There’s not much left here, other than the remains of three stamp mills. But the view from Chloride Cliff across Death Valley to the Panamint Mountains rivals the best in the national park.

Dry road

With a brief heyday in 1925 and 1926, this ghost town along today’s Titus Canyon Road boomed later than many Death Valley mining locations.

Prospectors originally found lead and copper around Leadfield in 1905 but transportation costs made the remote site unprofitable. According to the National Park Service, in March 1924 a trio of prospectors arrived in the canyon and established claims before selling their stakes to John Salsberry, who then founded the Western Lead Mines Company. The company improved a road and built a boarding house in 1926 as it officially established the town of Leadfield.

Soon after, C.C. Julian, an oilman and huckster, invested in the company and took charge as its president. He heavily promoted Leadfield and sold stock in the company, which eventually prompted a state investigation into Julian’s business practices. Even so, drilling and tunneling accelerated in the area. What killed Leadfield was not Julian’s unsavory business but the low-grade ore that the company ultimately found. It simply wasn’t high enough quality to make the operation profitable.

Drive the 27-mile, unpaved Titus Canyon Road and you won’t find the town of 1,749 lots that was laid out back in the 1920s. There are only a few lingering remnants of what might have been: the ruins of wooden and tin buildings, as well a mill’s foundations and numerous open mines.

How to Explore

To visit the ghost towns of Death Valley, use The Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Resort) as your base, which is located in a lush oasis surrounded by the park. It is located just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. You can stay at the historic AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley (formerly Inn at Furnace Creek) or the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Ranch). For information and reservations, visit oasisatdeathvalley.com or call 800-236-7916.

For A World of Unforgettable Experiences® from The Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore .

Written by: Matt Jaffe Specializing in California, the Southwest, and Hawaii, Matt Jaffe is an award-winning former senior writer at Sunset magazine and contributes to a variety of publications, including Los Angeles, Arizona Highways, and Westways. His books include The Santa Monica Mountains: Range on the Edge and Oaxaca: The Spirit of Mexico.

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Rhyolite Ghost Town

Death Valley National Park

Just outside the Death Valley eastern park boundary (about 35 miles from Furnace Creek), Rhyolite epitomizes the hurly-burly, boom-and-bust story of Western gold-rush mining towns in the early 1900s; it had 8000 residents during its peak years between 1904 and 1916. Among the skeletal remains of houses, highlights are the Spanish Mission–style train station, a three-story bank building and a house made of 50,000 beer bottles.

off Hwy 374

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The Discoveries Of

Death Valley’s Ghost Towns: Explore America’s Forgotten Spots

Get ready to discover Death Valley’s abandoned ghost towns – catch a glimpse of America’s past.

The land of extremes – a place frozen in time where only memories of a once glorious past remain. Welcome to Death Valley.

My apologies for overselling it a bit. Heck, who am I kidding? There’s no such thing as overselling such a fantastic destination. As the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the USA, surprisingly, there’s a lot to see.

Now there might not be any more gold in them thar hills. But there sure are a lot of ghost towns. 

So, put on your prettiest cowboy hat, and let’s explore.

Tip: Add a visit to Death Valley to your next California road trip for an unreal experience.

Why Visit The Ghost Towns of Death Valley?

Rhyolite Ghost town

Beyond the unforgettable (and unforgiving) landscapes of Death Valley, visiting its ghost towns is the best blast from the past you’ll ever experience.

Visiting here provides apparent bragging rights that you dared to go where few do. Besides, a trip through these crumbling wasteland homesteads is a scene from the best Indiana Jones movie. 

And, if you ever felt a tinge of curiosity (or excitement) when you see a “Point of Historic Interest” sign, I can’t imagine why you’d skip an adventure like this.

The History of Death Valley’s Ghost Towns

Now I want you to imagine the year 1848: A group of prospectors tackling an exhausting journey through what we now call Death Valley quite literally stumble upon a tiny golden nugget. What happened next is what we know as California’s gold rush.

It wasn’t just gold they found, oh no. Beyond rich deposits of this mineral, soon enough, mines for silver, copper, lead, borax, and zinc shot up within the dry Eastern California region.

Tapped dry over the following 140 years, the epic boom of 1850 became a loving memory. Death Valley started to live up to its name as the rush began to wane. Without the allure of riches beyond belief, there was seemingly no reason for the towns throughout the region to even attempt to prosper. 

However, some villages and mines continued operations until the economic panic of 1907. Soon after, most closed, and inhabitants deserted the towns.

Death Valley Ghost Towns to Visit 

Panamint city (california).

Jailhouse of Ballarat

Close to the city (and I’m using that word lightly) of Ballarat, but still within Death Valley’s borders, is Panamint. A very remote ghost town even by 1800s prospector standards. Famous for its silver and copper, it soon shot to popularity.

A frenzy of miners, bandits, and eager politicians descended upon the town in 1872, and at its height, a total of 2,000 people called it home. But, following a series of devastating floods, the city’s inhabitants abandoned it by 1983.

Getting here is no easy feat. You can’t reach Panamint by road but only through a 5-mile hike through Surprise Canyon, with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain. If you make the trek – and I urge you to, it’s pretty spectacular – you’ll see the town and a collection of sculptures made from old mining equipment.

Chloride City (California)

Chloride, Arizona

Like Panamint, Chloride is another Death Valley National Park ghost town within the park’s borders. Also quite tricky to get to, this town never saw the same boom as the rest of Death Valley, even considering its large number of silver deposits.

Dating back to 1871, it’s one of the oldest historical sites in the valley, but because of its location and lack of infrastructure, mining efforts stopped in 1873. A slight uptick in these efforts happened in the early 1900s but soon halted.

To reach Chloride, you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance and the grit to travel along a narrow unmarked dirt road of 17 miles. Along Daylight Pass Road, a small sign 3.6 miles east of Hells Gate points south towards Chloride.

Darwin (California)

Darwin California

So technically, Darwin isn’t inside the park, but it is one of the best ghost towns near Death Valley so I think you’ll forgive me. 

This little gem sits right outside the western reaches of the park and is easier to visit than Panamint and Chloride, about 30 minutes from Panamint Springs.

Named after prospector Darwin French, the adjacent canyon and falls north of the town share the name, Darwin. After silver and lead mining began in the region, the town sprung up in 1875 with the building of a singular post office. Fun fact, it’s still in operation today.

Darwin today has 36 inhabitants, making it one of the few ghost towns in and around Death Valley to have residents still. Here you can visit the folk art stores and open-air museum, which these 36 people run.

Ballarat (California)

Ballarat, California

A tiny boomtown at the foot of the Panamint Mountains, Ballarat rose to fame at the tail end of the 19th-century rush of 1896. Sitting on the western edge of Death Valley National Park, although not much mining happened here, it was an important supply station.

At the height of its glory, Ballarat included a few saloons, a post office, a morgue, and a jail. Supplying the region with water (and whiskey), it became a hub for entertainment. But in 1917, the post office as the final official building closed. 

When you’re in Ballarat ghost town in Death Valley, you can visit the general store, run by the town’s last remaining resident — Rocky Novak and his (very cute) dog. Or visit the final hideout for Charles Manson – of the cultish murder variety – nearby at Barker Ranch.

Rhyolite (Nevada)

Rhyolite

Probably one of the most significant boom towns in Death Valley sits within the Nevada side of the park. Rhyolite ghost town in Death Valley at its peak featured a public bathhouse, 50 saloons, and 19 lodge houses.

Its kickoff happened in 1905 and, in just under two years, the town’s population reached nearly 5,000. It grew so famous that Charles M. Schwab moved into town, and soon after, Rhyolite boasted water mains, electricity, and telephone lines. 

Unfortunately, as ore deposits dried, the town was finally cut off in 1914. Today you can explore the Tom Kelly bottle house, the oldest and largest in the US, or the Goldwell open-air museum. 

Getting here is relatively easy as the town is about 4 miles from Beatty, Nevada, along a well-marked road.

Gold Point (Nevada)

Gold Point, Nevada, USA

Few ghost towns near Death Valley, or even inside it, have quite the story like Gold Point. 

Boasting a genuine resurrection story, Gold Point initially found life in the early 1860s as a silver mining camp. It peaked in 1920 with a population of 2,000 and numerous saloons, hotels, and stores.

Then as per the norm, the town teetered into decay, but in the 1970s, two friends arrived and bought up as much land and property as they could. Their efforts paid off, and along with the remaining townsfolk, they restored and saved much of the town.

Now, when travelling through the town, you can visit the post office (also a museum), opt for a self-guided tour, or stay overnight in historic cabins. Getting here is also easy because it lies just as you enter Death Valley from Nevada, about one hour from Beatty.

Tip: Find out what else besides ghost town hunting are the best things to do in California .

Practical Tips for Exploring Death Valley’s Ghost Towns 

  • Keep a close eye on your fuel gauge – trust me on this one. There are several petrol stations within the park, but vast stretches of the open road lie in between. 
  • Death Valley is a harsh and unforgiving region, so always carry an over-supply of water. Have a large reserve of bottled water in your vehicle; when hiking, more is more.
  • Although it might be hard to imagine (sense the sarcasm), Death Valley has abysmal mobile reception, meaning your GPS might lose signal. Bring along an old-school map. You’ll thank yourself.

Death Valley Ghost Towns: Map

Death Valley Ghost Towns: Read Next

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Death Valley’s Ghost Towns

I’m Julianna Barnaby - a professional travel writer and geek extraordinaire. I started The Discoveries Of to help you to discover the best of new destinations from around the world.

Discovering new places is a thrill - whether it’s close to home, a new country or continent, I write to help you explore more and explore differently.

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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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Ballarat Ghost Town

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Ballarat Ghost Town - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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Path to Panamint City: Quest for a Death Valley Ghost Town

LA-based writer Jenna Blough specializes in finding those out of the way places, hidden gems and haunted landscapes. Death Valley is about 4-5 hours from LA and a good 8-9 hours from SF. Enjoy:

Panamint City is a ghost town deep in the Panamint Mountains of  Death Valley . It’s historic, well preserved and hard to reach. More than 130 years after Panamint City’s peak as a silver boomtown, it looks a lot like a post-modern apocalyptic summer camp. Abandoned cabins, trash sculptures, mining tunnels, colorful, rotting cars and a hillbilly hot tub MacGyvered from a bathtub and fire pit are tucked into a narrow enclosed valley. The hike is a tough one with a 4,000-foot elevation gain and rock scrambling.

The trail follows pieces of the old mining road through Surprise Canyon. Surprise Canyon is a destination in its own right. The surprise here is all the water you encounter just a few miles from harsh, open desert. Surprise! It’s a green canyon wonderland. Dazzling white stone walls and a sparkling creek contrast with the lush greenery. The creek tumbles into waterfalls and pools that are deep enough for a dip. At times, the hiking trail is the creek.

On a blazing hot day at the end of May some friends and I met up at the almost-ghost town of Ballarat to start our backpacking adventure. The town is surreal. It rises from the dusty, mirage-filled Panamint Valley floor in a permanent golden nostalgic glow. It’s unexpected, dwarfed by the mountains. Ballarat was a supply center for silver mines and camps in the early 1900s. Its more dubious claim to fame is hangout for the Manson family in the 1960s. Their ranch was nearby, and their old truck is parked in town. Rocky Novak, the self-appointed caretaker and lifelong resident will be happy to point it out to you. As the only full-time resident, he saves Ballarat from being a full on ghost town. He watches over the historic ruins and keeps an icy cooler for travelers, stocked with beers and sodas, in the old general store. Rocky can give you the history of the area, tell you about road conditions and give insider tips before a hike. Stopping in to say hi is the first step for any trip.

As we hiked through Surprise Canyon we found and lost the old trail. We bushwhacked our way through the creek. We climbed over waterfalls. We pulled out rock climbing maneuvers we didn’t know we had. We wondered how a road ever came through here. In Surprise Canyon it’s easy to lose track of time and distance. Hiking guides list the trek to Panamint City at five miles, but it’s easier to think you’ve gone farther than you have. It’s the other surprise of Surprise Canyon. You think you’ve gone 10 miles, but it’s only been two!

A few hours in we thought for sure we should be there. We became convinced we had wandered up a side canyon, lost the trail completely, or somehow walked right past all the huge ruins of Panamint City. Note: none of these things are possible. Panamint City was nowhere in sight, but we were tired and ready to set up camp. We stumbled onto a kickass campsite. The flat rock platform with a natural stone fireplace was our home for the night.

We woke up to a lone hiker trekking past our camp at a brisk clip. We asked him where he was headed. Um, Panamint City? In the cold light of morning our wild speculation from the night before fizzled. Soon we were packed up and hiking the final mile along the old mining road, obvious, just past our camp. Apparently we needed the tourist hiker from Idaho, with the same guidebook and topo map we had, to set us on our way. We didn’t mention the fact that I’m writing a guidebook to Death Valley or that my friend is a seasoned backpacker who had solo-hiked Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous US, the year before.

Pretty soon ruins started appearing, a brick smokestack in the distance, stone foundations, mining tunnels. Panamint City! Scenic, well-preserved, well watered, and forested with Junipers and Pinyons, there are cabins, a mill and artifacts for days. Hikers have dubbed the biggest cabin the “Panamint Hilton” because of its running water and glass in the windows. Rusted wind chimes dangle from the porch, fashioned by creative hikers, whittling away the time, new sound from found junk. Sourdough Canyon stems off to the north just before town and has a cabin and its own surprises. Water Canyon just beyond Panamint City has an old camp and a running creek. An abandoned 1957 Chevy proves that there used to be a road. It has a bumper sticker that reads: I’d rather be in Panamint City.

The way back was a lot shorter. We took time to dip in the clear mountain pools and take pictures, but we kept up a good pace. We knew the coldest beer in Ballarat was waiting for us at the general store.

Jenna Blough is a writer in Los Angeles. She developed her love of camping growing up in the Virginia mountains, but finds her inspiration in the deserts and ghost towns of California. She is currently finishing up a travel guide to Death Valley National Park for Moon Guidebooks slated for Fall 2015 publication. You can find pieces like this one in the Moon guidebook and on her site  When The Road Ends .

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Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley, California

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If you’ve taken a look at my Titus Canyon post in Death Valley National Park , you would know by now it’s in my top 10 favorite places on earth. About halfway through that epic drive is Leadfield Ghost Town, a 100-year old abandoned settlement with a whole lot of history to tell.

Abandoned buildings at Leadfield ghost town

Where is Leadfield Ghost Town?

Leadfield Ghost Town is located in the northeast section of California’s Death Valley National Park , just over the Nevada border. From Beatty, Nevada, find the entrance to Titus Canyon Road from CA-374. Leadfield is 16 miles into that 27 mile drive, the main proponent behind why this road was made.

Read more about Titus Canyon Road – The Most Epic Adventure in Death Valley

Leadfield sign at entrance

About Leadfield Ghost Town

Established as a settlement for mining copper and lead, the area around Leadfield began attracting miners in the early 1900s. Because of high costs for transporting ore to smelters, the attempts to mine ceased.

Remnants of Leadfield ghost town

In the year of 1926, an investor by the name of Charles C. Julian saw potential in the area. He began to promote the mine for the Western Lead Mines company with “wild and distorted” advertisements. To fix transportation issues, he constructed the 27 mile-long Titus Canyon Road .

Titus Canyon Road Death Valley

Attempting to get the buzz going about Leadfield, he rented over 100 private cars to bring nearly 1000 investors and buyers to the area for a private luncheon. Newspapers and even politicians around the country caught on to the excitement, essentially driving the company stock up from 10 cents to $3.30 a share.

Abandoned buildings in Leadfield

Scores of hopeful entrepreneurs began showing up to Leadfield. Having more than 1700 lots ready to be built on, a post office was established in August of 1926.

Post Office at Leadfield

As fast as the town sprung up, it died. Lead deposits became scarce and Charles Julian went bankrupt, amid claims of fraud. In February of 1927, the post office closed which essentially led to the end of Leadfield, leaving it as a ghost town nearly 100 years later.

Remnants of abandoned buildings

Exploring Leadfield Ghost Town

After descending from Red Pass 16 miles into the drive on Titus Canyon Road , a pull out appears on the right and signage suggests we’re now in Leadfield. On this side of the road are remnants of where various buildings stood like the cafe, the Pioneer Club, a general store and the Western Lead Mining company offices.

Want more info on driving Titus Canyon Road? Click here!

East side of the road in Leadfield

Walking along the other side of the road and over the dry creek basin, we arrive to a vast area scattered with mines, dumps and tin buildings.

Old mine entrances at Leadfield

Tips for Visiting Leadfield Ghost Town

  • To drive the Titus Canyon Road and access Leadfield, you will need a high clearance vehicle with good tires and sometimes 4-wheel drive.
  • If storms are brewing, don’t attempt the drive to Leadfield as flash floods can happen in an instant. Check the NPS website here for any alerts before driving to Leadfield.
  • Leadfield is a historic place so be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles while visiting.

Mine entrance in Leadfield

  • Some of the mine entrances are open to explore at your own risk. Be sure to have the necessary hiking essentials if you enter the mines.
  • The temperatures in Death Valley can reach insane heights. Bring plenty of water with you for the drive and exploring Leadfield.
  • Watch out for rattlesnakes in this area.

Leadfield Ghost Town building

Be sure to check out my Death Valley archive here for more first-hand tips for exploring! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Before heading into historic places, it’s imperative that you’re familiar with the “Leave No Trace” principles. Read More:  Leave No Trace: The 7 Rules of the Backcountry Learn more about Leave No Trace on their website  here .

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Discovering California’s Death Valley Junction: A Ghost Town With Artistic Flair

Death Valley Junction, a small town in the heart of California’s Death Valley National Park, is a testament to the resilience and creativity of small communities. Once a bustling mining town, the area became a ghost town until its inhabitants’ artistic flair brought it back to life.

Today, Death Valley Junction is a hidden gem that captures the essence of history and art uniquely and captivatingly. The town’s most famous landmarks include the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel and Marta Becket’s dance theater.

The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel is a historic building built in 1923. It served as a hub for the mining community until it was abandoned in the 1960s. It was then discovered by a talented artist, Marta Becket, who transformed the building into an opera house and theater.

Today, the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from all over the world who come to experience the unique blend of history and art that Death Valley Junction has to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Death Valley Junction has a rich history that dates back to the early 1900s when it began as a tent town and later became home to mining activities by Pacific Coast Borax.
  • The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, built in 1923 as a hub for the mining community, was transformed into an opera house and theater by Marta Becket and is now a popular tourist destination.
  • Marta Becket’s Theater of dance, which opened in 1967 and still operates, features intricate murals painted by Becket and showcases her love for the art of dance.
  • Death Valley Junction is a testament to the resilience of small communities and their ability to adapt and find new sources of income, and represents a place where history and art come together in fascinating ways.

History and Origins

The history of Death Valley Junction can be traced back to the early 1900s when it began as a tent town. The discovery of new mines in 1915 led to the incorporation of Death Valley Railroad, which built a line eastward and brought about the construction of civic facilities. As the town developed, milling facilities for borax were added to the local economy.

Pacific Coast Borax moved its mining activities to the area in 1927, further boosting the town’s growth. Despite the economic challenges brought about by the Great Depression, the town continued to thrive. The creation of Death Valley National Monument in 1933 brought in tourists, and the town’s resilience was further demonstrated when it continued to grow after the Death Valley Railroad ceased operations.

The history of Death Valley Junction is a testament to the enduring spirit of small towns and the role that mining played in their development.

Attractions and Landmarks

Amidst the abandoned buildings and rail yards, visitors can explore the historic Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, once a hub of activity in Death Valley Junction. The hotel, built in 1923, was a comfortable resting place for railway workers and miners. It was also a popular social gathering spot in the town, boasting a restaurant, bar, and dance hall.

Today, the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel is a testament to the town’s past and offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of those who once called it home. The hotel is not the only attraction in Death Valley Junction. Visitors can also marvel at the Marta Becket’s dance theater, which opened in 1967 and still operates today.

This unique theater features intricate murals painted by Becket herself and hosts performances that showcase her love for the art of dance. Other fascinating buildings and rail yards can also be explored, offering a glimpse into the town’s past and role in the local economy.

Significance and Legacy

One can appreciate the resilience of small towns in the face of economic challenges by exploring Death Valley Junction’s attractions and landmarks. Despite the decline of the town’s mining industry and the impact of the Depression on tourism, Death Valley Junction persevered and continued to attract visitors with its unique charm. The town’s ability to adapt and find new sources of income, such as Marta Becket’s theater of dance, is a testament to the resilience of small communities in the face of adversity.

In addition to its economic resilience, Death Valley Junction represents a place where history and art unite. Marta Becket’s theater of dance, which she built and decorated herself, is a stunning example of artistic expression in an unexpected location. The town’s other buildings and rail yards are also fascinating examples of the intersection of history and art.

Death Valley Junction’s legacy is not just one of perseverance, creativity, and artistic ingenuity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any ghost sightings or supernatural occurrences reported in death valley junction.

No empirical evidence supports claims of paranormal experiences or haunted history in Death Valley Junction. At present, local legends and supernatural folklore cannot be substantiated and are likely fabrications or exaggerations.

What is the current population of Death Valley Junction?

The current population of Death Valley Junction is unclear, as the town is considered a ghost town. Local infrastructure includes the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, Marta Becket’s theater of dance, and historic buildings and rail yards.

Has any famous artist or celebrity visited Death Valley Junction in the past?

Like a shooting star in the night sky, famous visitors have graced Death Valley Junction with their presence. From Hollywood royalty to renowned artists, the town’s artistic inspirations continue to attract creative minds from all walks of life.

Are there any unique local cuisines or dishes found in Death Valley Junction?

Local cuisine options in Death Valley Junction are limited, but the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel offers a restaurant with American-style dishes. There are no known food festivals in the area.

What is the climate like in Death Valley Junction, and is there a specific time of year that is best for visiting?

Death Valley Junction has a hot desert climate, with summer temperatures exceeding 100°F and mild winters. The best time to visit for outdoor activities is in the fall or spring. Top attractions include the Amargosa Opera House and Marta Becket’s dance theater. Exploring the surrounding area offers scenic drives and hiking opportunities.

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Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., ballarat, california – death valley ghost town.

Panamint Mountains, California

Panamint Mountains, California

Sitting at the base of the Panamint Mountain Range, Ballarat began in 1897 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamint Mountain Range. The main mine supporting the town was the Radcliffe in Pleasant Canyon, just east of town. Between the years 1898 and 1903, the Radcliff would produce 15,000 tons of gold ore.

Ballarat was named after an Australian gold camp by one of its first residents, an Australian immigrant named George Riggins. It was in the original Australian town of Ballarat that the first gold was discovered in that country in 1851.

It was also there that the largest gold nugget in the world was found, weighing in at almost 143 pounds. Perhaps the first settlers of the “new” Ballarat thought the name would bring them luck.

A year after the town was established, it boasted some 500 residents, even though they were forced to face extreme weather and the barren land offered little more than sagebrush. Summer highs often reached 120 degrees, and during the winter, it was bitter cold. Though virtually everything needed for survival, including water, timber, and food, had to be brought in, sometimes from great distances, these hardy pioneers persevered.

The settlement, built of adobe bricks, soon sported seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo Station, post office, school, a jail, and a morgue, but not a single church. This wasn’t that kind of town. Wild and wooly, the settlement was where the miners went to blow off some steam and relax after a hard day in the mines. With a large population of men, the settlement catered to them, providing several “ painted ladies ” for their enjoyment.

Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

The town was also home to several legendary desert figures, including Frank” Shorty” Harris, “Seldom Seen Slim,” and Wyoming gambler and gunman Michael J. “Jim” Sherlock.

The town began its demise when the Radcliff Mine suspended operations in 1903. Soon afterward, other mines began to fold as the gold played out. In 1917, the post office closed, and the only remaining residents were a few die-hard prospectors, including Shorty Harris , who lived there off and on until he died in 1934.

In the 1960s, Neil Cummins bought the private land east of Ballarat, hoping to create another Palm Springs. He built a cinder-block store and set up a trailer park with electrical hookups. However, his attempt to turn Ballarat into a tourist spot failed, and he finally gave up in 1988.

“Seldom Seen Slim” was the last old-time prospector to live in Ballarat. Seldom called by his real name of Charles Ferge, he was often asked if he was lonely in the remote ghost town, to which he would reply: “Me lonely? Hell no! I’m half coyote and half-wild burro.” Slim died in 1968, and those words he spoke so often were inscribed on his tombstone, which stands in Ballarat’s cemetery.

Ballarat, California, photo courtesy Ghost Town Explorers

Ballarat, California, photo courtesy Ghost Town Explorers

Today, this lonely ghost town still sports a couple of full-time residents, and the little store is open most afternoons and weekends. Though the land is privately owned, visitors are welcome. Four-wheeling is the most popular activity, but for those who like to sightsee, the scenery is stunning and virtually unmarred by human signs.

Most of the Ballarat’s adobe buildings have returned to the earth, but some crumbling walls and several foundations can still be seen, as well as several old miners’ cabins and other tumbling shacks.

The Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail is just outside of town, a rugged and fascinating path of about 27 miles that features many of the camps and mines that Ballarat once supported, including Clair Camp , the Radcliffe Mine Thorndike Mine, and more.

Ballarat is located 3.6 miles from the pavement of the north-south Trona-Wildrose Road (California 178), north of Trona. There is a historical marker at the turnoff.

©  Kathy Alexander / Legends of America , updated November 2021.

Death Valley, California

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Posted: March 1, 2023 | Last updated: July 17, 2023

When people think of mining history, gold and silver usually come to mind. But borax was a hot item in the 1880s and still is today. People use the white powder for everything from making enamel glazes to trying to cure epilepsy. At the height of its operation, the Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley mined three tons of borax daily and hauled it out with <a href="https://amzn.to/3y01noO" rel="noopener">20-mule teams</a>. Wear your <a href="https://go.skimresources.com?id=77560X1705140&xs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.merrell.com%2FUS%2Fen%2Fantora-3-leopard%2F56420W.html&xcust=DeathValley" rel="noopener">sneakers</a> and poke around to see how borax was mined in the old days.

Harmony Borax Works

Zabriskie Point is one of Death Valley's most popular viewpoints. Every tourist who visits the park is compelled to take some photos here. You'll see brown and yellow hills intricately carved by water, with salt flats and mountains in the distance.

Zabriskie Point

Another favorite spot to photograph, Artists Palette is a one-way, nine-mile driving loop of brightly colored rocks. We can thank volcanic deposits from chlorites, iron oxides, and other minerals for the show.

Artists Palette

This vast area is full of weird salt formations left over from an ancient lake. No, you won't need your <a href="https://golfweek.usatoday.com/lists/best-golf-drivers-2023-callaway-taylormade-titleist-ping/" rel="noopener">golf clubs</a>. "Only the devil could play golf" here, according to an old National Park Service guidebook. Hence the name.

Devil's Golf Course

Springtime is wildflower season in the desert. You'll see cacti year-round. Bring your <a href="https://backcountry.tnu8.net/ZdP6YW" rel="noopener">binoculars</a> and be on the lookout for roadrunners, wild burros, coyotes, mountain lions, and desert bighorn sheep.

Desert plants and wildlife

These gorgeous sand dunes are popular at sunrise and sunset. Have fun running up and down the dunes or snapping photos of the scenery.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

It's worth getting up early to experience a Death Valley sunrise. That's what your <a href="https://amzn.to/41sNqgC" rel="noopener">travel coffee press</a> is for, to make these moments possible.

Desert sunrise

Once upon a time, <a href="https://amzn.to/3m6isuw" rel="noopener">Rhyolite</a> was Nevada's biggest city, with perhaps 10,000 souls (estimates vary wildly — it was the Wild West). Now, you and the wild burros might be the only inhabitants there on an early morning visit. This excellent ghost town outside the national park has buildings in various conditions, from almost intact to mostly collapsed.

Rhyolite ghost town

Right beside Rhyolite, Beatty, Nevada, hosts a surprising collection of outdoor sculptures. The late Belgian-Polish sculptor Albert Szukalski contributed spooky works like "The Last Supper" and "Ghost Rider" in the 1980s. Since then, other well-known European sculptors have added pieces. Visitors can wander around freely here, day or night.

Goldwell Open Air Museum

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8 Spookiest Ghost Towns in California

ghost town california death valley

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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IMAGES

  1. Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley, California

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  2. Rhyolite Ghost Town In Death Valley California Photograph by Matt Kelley

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  6. Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley, California

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COMMENTS

  1. Death Valley Ghost Towns

    History & Culture Places Death Valley Ghost Towns Death Valley Ghost Towns "I hear that Frisco is a ghost town now—abandoned and the buildings falling to ruin. That is what happened to many of the towns where I worked in the early days, but nobody then would have thought it was possible.

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  3. 13 Ghost Towns In Death Valley [MAP]

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  5. Death Valley Ghost Towns & Mining Camps in California

    More… Ashford Mill Ruins, Death Valley, California Ashford Mine and Mill - Also called the Golden Treasure Mine, this gold mining operation was founded in 1907. Never a big producer, it is located in southern Death Valley and requires 1.25-mile difficult hike up and 1,100 feet canyon to reach the mine itself.

  6. 5 Great Death Valley Ghost Towns

    Here are five great ghost towns worth hunting down in and around Death Valley: Rhyolite, Nevada Rhyolite. | Sandi Hemmerlein The most famous and accessible Death Valley ghost town is probably Rhyolite, even though it's not actually in the park or even in California.

  7. Five Death Valley Ghost Towns Worth the Trek

    Five Death Valley Ghost Towns Worth the Trek By Jenna Blough, author of Moon Death Valley National Park Deep in the Mojave Desert, where California fades into Nevada, the ragged remains of ghost towns are strewn across salt-crusted soil, lost at the ends of bumpy roads, and tucked into rocky mountain canyons.

  8. Death Valley Ghost Towns

    Map of Death Valley Ghost Towns. ... Find it on Rhyolite Road off of CA-374, about 5 miles from Beatty, Nevada. Read More: Rhyolite Ghost Town - A Worthy Death Valley Detour. Leadfield. The ghost town of Leadfield was established as a mining town for copper and lead. A man by the name of Charles Julian was responsible for bringing hundreds of ...

  9. Discover the Eerie Ghost Towns of Death Valley

    To visit the ghost towns of Death Valley, use The Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Resort) as your base, which is located in a lush oasis surrounded by the park. It is located just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. You can stay at the historic AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley ...

  10. Panamint City, California

    Panamint City is a ghost town in the Panamint Range, near Death Valley, in Inyo County, California, US.It is also known by the official Board of Geographic Names as Panamint. Panamint was a boom town founded after silver and copper were found there in 1872. By 1874, the town had a population of about 2,000. Its main street was one mile (1.6 km) long. ...

  11. Rhyolite Ghost Town

    Rhyolite Ghost Town. Just outside the Death Valley eastern park boundary (about 35 miles from Furnace Creek), Rhyolite epitomizes the hurly-burly, boom-and-bust story of Western gold-rush mining towns in the early 1900s; it had 8000 residents during its peak years between 1904 and 1916. Among the skeletal remains of houses, highlights are the ...

  12. Exploring Death Valley's Ghost Towns

    Discover the best Death Valley ghost towns - take a glimpse into America's past at these abandoned spots. Exploring Death Valley's Ghost Towns — The Discoveries Of The Death Valley ghost towns you need to explore. Take a glimpse into America's past at these abandoned spots. Skip to content Twitter Instagram YouTube Pinterest TikTok

  13. 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.

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

    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.

  15. Ballarat Ghost Town

    Ballarat Ghost Town 67 reviews #39 of 64 things to do in Death Valley National Park Ghost Towns Write a review About This town was once a supply town for mines in the region and is a good stop during a driving tour of the valley. Suggest edits to improve what we show. Improve this listing All photos (138) Top ways to experience nearby attractions

  16. Path to Panamint City: Quest for a Death Valley Ghost Town

    LA-based writer Jenna Blough specializes in finding those out of the way places, hidden gems and haunted landscapes. Death Valley is about 4-5 hours from LA and a good 8-9 hours from SF. Enjoy: Panamint City is a ghost town deep in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley. It's historic, well preserved and hard to reach.

  17. California's Death Valley

    Ballarat, California. Ballarat is a town in California's Death Valley region initially known for its gold mining heyday. This small Australian settlement had over 400 residents when it first opened. Still, today only about 30 live here permanently - most of them with their legacy left behind by those days long gone.

  18. Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley, California

    Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley, California - The Break of Dawns Home About Contact Disclaimer Leadfield Ghost Town was established on false hopes and dreams, now standing as a century-old abandoned settlement in Death Valley National Park.

  19. Salt built this California ghost town. Now salt is destroying it.

    Saltdale is not California's most picturesque ghost town. It's certainly not the largest, nor is it the most historical. But it may be the next to disappear. Saltdale sinks into Koehn Lake, a ...

  20. California's Death Valley Junction

    Death Valley Junction, a small town in the heart of California's Death Valley National Park, is a testament to the resilience and creativity of small communities. Once a bustling mining town…

  21. Ballarat, California

    Ballarat, California - Death Valley Ghost Town Panamint Mountains, California Sitting at the base of the Panamint Mountain Range, Ballarat began in 1897 as a supply point for the mines in the canyons of the Panamint Mountain Range. The main mine supporting the town was the Radcliffe in Pleasant Canyon, just east of town.

  22. Death valley junction

    Death Valley Junction. March 19, 2000. D.A. Wright photo. Amargosa Opera House. This is located on one end of the wing of the former borax company office complex. Marta Becket, a former New York City ballet dancer, per chance drove through Death Valley Junction in the 1960s and stayed.

  23. Must-see sights on a road trip through Death Valley

    The late Belgian-Polish sculptor Albert Szukalski contributed spooky works like "The Last Supper" and "Ghost Rider" in the 1980s. Since then, other well-known European sculptors have added pieces.

  24. California's 8 Best Ghost Towns to Visit

    Updated on 02/07/20 Abandoned Car in Bodie Ghost Town, California. 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.