It’s “Spooky Season,” everyone, and while haunted hotels aren’t exactly our cup of tea, we’re more than willing to explore some of America’s haunting ghost towns. Read below to uncover the United States’ most captivating ghost towns, brimming with stories of boom and bust, making them ideal for immersing yourself in the eerie spirit of this season.
In the rugged Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain region, Bodie stands frozen in time as one of the most renowned and authentic gold-mining relics. Providing a glimpse into the daily lives of some 10,000 19th-century residents who resided in this boomtown, much of the settlement has retained its original form—where set dining tables, fully stocked kitchens, and even lessons on schoolhouse chalkboards remain—making this one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the American West.
St. Elmo, CO
St. Elmo, situated at an elevation of 9,961 feet, is located approximately 20 miles south of Buena Vista in the Colorado Rockies. This historic town was founded in 1880 and thrived as a gold-and-silver mining hub until the railroad ceased operations in 1920. Legend has it that the town’s residents departed on the last train and never returned, creating a spooky atmosphere. Unlike many ghost towns, St. Elmo still has an operating general store that sells vintage antiques.
Kennecott, a neglected mining camp in the middle of Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (the USA’s largest national park) was once a successful copper mill producing over $200 million worth of copper in the early 1900s. Due to declining profits and increasing railroad construction costs, the mountain town’s residents deserted the mine in 1938. Visitors can explore the stranded barracks via a two-hour guided tour with St. Elias Alpine Guides, where special access is granted to entering the ominous buildings.
North Brother Island, NY
Established in 1885 for contagious diseases like tuberculosis and smallpox, the Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island in New York City’s East River was deserted over 50 years ago. It transformed into housing for World War II families and a rehabilitation facility but was ultimately abandoned in 1963 due to high costs. Today, it remains off-limits for recreational visits, serving as a bird sanctuary with eerie ruins from its haunting past.
Crystal Mill, CO
Built in 1892, the historic Crystal Mill wooden powerhouse is perched about the roaring Crystal River just outside the small town of Marble, Colorado. As the most photographed landmark in the state, this ghost-town beacon is both eerie and beautiful, enticing adventurers to visit this site year after year.
Between the late 1800s and 1912, Garnet experienced a gold-mining boom, growing to a population of approximately 1,000 residents and evolving into a thriving town. It boasted several amenities, including four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, a schoolhouse with 41 students, a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor’s office, and 13 saloons. However, a fire in the business district led to Garnet becoming a ghost town, with discarded cabins left untouched.
Situated just outside Big Bend National Park, Terlingua was once North America’s largest mercury mining town in the late 19th century. Famous for hosting the first-ever chili cookoff championship in 1967, approximately 10,000 visitors from around the country visit the ghost town for its annual cookoff on the first Saturday in November.
Originated in 1946 by Hollywood investors, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, Pioneertown is a make-believe Old West movie set developed as a shooting location for actors working on Western films and TV series. So, while it’s not a legitimate boomtown, the city is still a relatively desolate destination and replicates actual events like mock gunfights on Mane Street and live music performances at the centerpiece saloon, Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
Nestled in the Arizona desert along the historic Apache Trail, Goldfield Ghost Town is a meticulously restored Wild West tourist attraction that transports visitors to the heart of America’s gold rush history. Settled in the late 19th century, this well-preserved town captures the essence of the Old West with its authentically restored wooden buildings, including hotels, jails, churches, and saloons. Visitors can also enjoy live reenactments of gunfights and guided gold mine tours, immersing themselves in a real-life Old West experience.