Seven Ghost Towns to Explore in America

Whether you believe in the super­nat­ur­al or not, ghost towns in the U.S. pro­vide some inter­est­ing hikes into the past. From the live­ly ghost town of Vir­ginia City in Mon­tana to the colo­nial impres­sions left behind at Dog­town in Mass­a­chu­setts, there is a lot of his­to­ry to explore in America’s ghost towns, and plen­ty of hik­ing trails to take you there.

independence ghost rtownInde­pen­dence Ghost Town, Aspen, Colorado
Gold was report­ed­ly first dis­cov­ered in Inde­pen­dence, Col­orado in 1879, and by 1880, over 300 prospec­tors inhab­it­ed the area. By 1882, Inde­pen­dence was home to over 40 busi­ness­es, three post offices, and over 1,500 peo­ple. Even­tu­al­ly, how­ev­er, the long win­ters and con­tin­u­ing growth of the neigh­bor­ing city of Aspen dis­cour­aged the devel­op­ment of Inde­pen­dence, and short­ly after the boom, the bust was quick to fol­low. Today, Inde­pen­dence isn’t pulling any gold from the ground, but the cen­tu­ry-old struc­tures still draw in inter­est­ed hik­ers and his­to­ri­ans. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, guid­ed tours are avail­able through­out the ghost town, and vis­i­tors are encour­aged to respect the frag­ile space and explore the roads and restored cab­ins on their own.

Lulu Ghost Town, Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park, Colorado
Found­ed in 1879 by the lure of sil­ver in them thar hills, the city of Lulu had a quick boom fol­lowed by a slow bust, pro­vid­ing a flour­ish­ing decade right after its devel­op­ment, and com­plete aban­don­ment near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er. The Lulu Ghost Town can now be found with­in the bound­aries of Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park and can be reached by hik­ers via a 6‑mile hike from the Col­orado Riv­er trail­head. Upon any vis­it, sight­seers at Lulu can expect to see the rem­nants of old cab­ins and oth­er struc­tures, and a faint sense of what life was like in the days of the old west.

Abandoned copper mine Kennecott AlaskaKen­necott Mines, Wran­gler-St. Elias Nation­al Park, Alaska
Con­sid­ered to be one of the best remain­ing exam­ples of ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry cop­per min­ing, Wran­gler-St. Elias Nation­al Park pur­chased much of the his­toric Ken­necott Min­ing Town, pre­serv­ing this Nation­al His­toric Land­mark for years to come. Many of the struc­tures of this self-con­tained com­pa­ny town haven’t had reg­u­lar vis­i­tors for over 60 years, and while some of the facades have crum­bled over that time, with each vis­it and hike into it’s not hard to imag­ine the men, women, and fam­i­lies that called this min­ing town home. A great place to start explor­ing the Ken­necott Mines is at the Ken­necott Vis­i­tors Cen­ter, which pro­vides both a cen­tral hub for the sprawl­ing trail sys­tem and resources like guid­ed tours, his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion and a lit­tle touch of mod­ern times amongst the days past.

Dog­town, Glouces­ter, Massachusetts
For a look into some of the U.S.’s deep­est his­to­ry, it’s worth tak­ing a vis­it to Dog­town, Mass­a­chu­setts. Orig­i­nal­ly set­tled in 1693, Dog­town was then known as “the Com­mons”, and sup­pos­ed­ly adopt­ed its new moniker after the town’s res­i­dents moved clos­er to the har­bor, leav­ing behind packs of dogs and those who couldn’t afford the reset­tle­ment. How­ev­er the sto­ry goes, today you can see what remains of Dog­town by trail, includ­ing old cel­lar rem­nants and giant boul­ders inscribed with inspi­ra­tional words by depres­sion-era quar­ry work­ers. Map and com­pass skills will help nav­i­gate the worn-down trail lead­ing into Dog­town, and it’s not unlike­ly to see eques­tri­an trail users along the way.

Bodie ghost townBod­ie, California
Cur­rent­ly main­tained by the Cal­i­for­nia State Park sys­tem, the aban­doned town of Bod­ie was once quite the oppo­site. Report­ed­ly hav­ing a pop­u­la­tion of 10,000 peo­ple in the late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, Bod­ie was home to a wide array of old west char­ac­ters includ­ing gun­slingers, shop own­ers, and sure­ly lone strangers rid­ing in on horse­back. In today’s times, Bod­ie can be found not far from Yosemite Nation­al Park just north of Mono Lake, and with­in its arrest­ed state of decay, over 100 struc­tures are wait­ing to be explored. Being des­ig­nat­ed a State His­toric Park, Bod­ie is acces­si­ble to locate and hike around, although no new mod­ern fea­tures exist accord­ing to its his­toric para­me­ters, mean­ing few resources are there to help you if you encounter any trou­ble (or ghosts).

Spokane Black Hills Ghost Town, Custer, South Dakota
Locat­ed just 16 miles north of Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dako­ta, Spokane was first found­ed in the late 19th cen­tu­ry to extract gold from the soil. While oth­er min­er­als proved to be more fruit­ful in Spokane, the town quick­ly flour­ished with prospec­tors and fam­i­lies look­ing to tap into the resources. Much like many of the min­ing towns in the west, Spokane’s boom met its bust, and all that remains today are crum­bling struc­tures that bare­ly stand as a tes­ta­ment towards more pros­per­ous times. To access Spokane, users need to locate and tra­verse one mile down a nation­al for­est road, where the remains of Spokane are wait­ing to be explored with caution.

ghost town Virginia City, MontanaVir­ginia City, Montana
Just 20 miles west of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Vir­ginia City of Mon­tana is a self-tout­ed “very much alive ghost town”, and while the ini­tial boom of this once gold min­ing com­mu­ni­ty has long since fad­ed, the aes­thet­ics and tourism of the town sur­vive today. Between the liv­ing his­to­ry char­ac­ters walk­ing in the streets and hik­ing trails that lead into his­tor­i­cal tours, plus mod­ern cui­sine and lodg­ing in rus­tic accom­mo­da­tions, Vir­ginia City and the neigh­bor­ing Neva­da City are a worth­while vaca­tion on their own.