8 Best American Ghost Towns to Visit

Travel Map IconUNITED STATES - Ghost towns are popular tourist attractions in the United States.  They are usually small towns abandoned when the local industry moved away or died out. Ghost towns are often preserved as historical sites, and many of them have museums. Visiting ghost towns in America is a great way to experience the country's beauty. Each ghost town is unique and has a history that is worth studying. There are some great towns to visit in each state of the country.

Best American Ghost Towns to Visit
Photo: Virginia City in Montana

Best American Ghost Towns to Visit

1. Thurmond in West Virginia

If you're looking for an excellent ghost town, there's no better place than Thurmond, West Virginia. Not only is it the site of the famous movie "Matewan," but it's also home to a National Park Service visitor center. The name Thurmond comes from the Confederate Captain William Thurmond, who served in the Civil War. The town of Thurmond was once a thriving railroad hub. The former Chesapeake & Ohio Railway facilities and a booming coal mining industry in the New River Gorge were there.

The National Park Service restored the old train depot, which is now a visitor center. Visitors can see exhibits bringing the golden days of railroading to life. Aside from the depot, a nearby engine house is used to service locomotives. It was a two-story building. The ground floor contained restrooms and a ticket agent's office. The second floor housed a dispatcher and a signal tower. The train station in Thurmond is a tourist attraction, although it's the second least-used Amtrak station in the state. Amtrak still makes a flag stop here every Wednesday.

2. Bombay Beach Salton Sea in California

If you're looking for a unique American ghost town to visit, you can't do much better than Bombay Beach, California. This quirky, post-apocalyptic wasteland sits on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. Bombay Beach is a former resort town that sprang up in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a popular destination for tourists from Los Angeles and San Diego. It was also home to a yacht club, a golf course, and a swimming beach. As its popularity grew, the population of Bombay Beach grew as well. Several celebrities visited the area, including Desi Arnaz and Dwight Eisenhower. The area also became a center for powerboat races.

The shoreline of the Salton Sea has been eroding, affecting the ecosystem. This is caused by the salinity of the water, which is increasing. This means that the fish that live in the saltwater has been dying and producing a foul odor. The waters of the Salton Sea have a reputation for having a powerful smell. Chemicals cause this odor in the mud, which is caused by years of agricultural runoff. This has caused the lake to deteriorate over the last few years.

3. Virginia City in Montana

If you're interested in learning about the Old West, you'll want to travel to Virginia City, Montana. This ghost town is one of the best-preserved mining camps in the country. Located in southwest Montana, the town is a stepping stone into the past. This Victorian mining town was once a thriving frontier metropolis. It became the territory's first transportation hub, home to more than 10,000 people. However, lawlessness accompanied the fortunes of the town. It also served as a crucial battleground in the Civil War.

It's possible to tour the town on your own or take a guided tour. Visitors can also check out the many historic buildings and attend events. In addition, the state of Montana is involved in a variety of different preservation activities. Virginia City offers many free attractions. The Opera House is an old livery stable that has been converted into a theater. It features an air conditioning system and a concession stand. Visiting the museum will give you a taste of the town's history.

4. Bodie in California 

The California Ghost Town of Bodie is one of the most authentic ghost towns in the country. The city once had over 10,000 inhabitants. But by the 1920s and 1930s, it was in decay. It also suffered from prohibition and fires. By World War II, only three people remained. Fortunately, the state of California saved Bodie, and it became a state park. The park now receives over 200,000 visitors annually. The park rangers protect the buildings, and many are maintained in an "arrested decay" state.

Some of the old saloons and stores are still open. The Miners Union Hall was once a meeting place for miners. It has artifacts from various homes and is also used as a museum. The town has become a popular place for organized night photography. The only church that remains in the town is the Methodist. However, most of the town's residents moved away seemingly overnight. The town is full of restless spirits. They are said to guard the town's treasures and prevent theft. But some people don't want to risk being haunted by long-lost souls.

5. Orla in Texas

Orla, Texas is a ghost town that is worth checking out. In addition to being a great place to photograph and explore, it also boasts a slew of interesting historical structures. This old west town is located on US Hwy 285 near Reeves County. It's also a good jumping-off point for exploring the Big Bend National Park. If you are looking for a nice little day trip from Houston, this is the place for you. Although it's now a ghost town, Orla, TX, was once a bustling oil and gas supply center. The population of this small town grew from just a few dozen in the early 1900s to a few hundred in the mid-1960s. It's still a viable option for equipment shipping today.

It's not surprising that this town has some of the best-preserved historic structures in the state. The most notable is the Hall Olds cafe and the post office. If you're into history, the old schoolhouse has been turned into a museum. The other cool thing about Orla is that it's a good jumping-off point for exploring the nearby Big Bend National Park. It's also close to a nuclear power plant. A few new gas stations have opened up in town.

6. Kennecott in Alaska

The National Park Service has taken the lead in restoring and revitalizing several buildings in Kennecott. These include the General Manager's Office, Recreation Hall, Blackburn School, Power Plant, Refrigeration Plant, and a Residential Cottage. These buildings are used for educational programming and community events. Kennecott is located in south-central Alaska and is a National Historic Landmark. It was home to one of the world's richest copper concentrations in the early twentieth century. The town featured a 14-story concentration mill, general store, hospital, skating rink, and a school.

The first X-ray machine in Alaska was also installed in the Kennecott hospital. The General Manager's Office is the oldest building in the town. It displays panoramic photos of the town and its residents. The recreation hall is used for community events and educational programs. The Kennecott Mine was abandoned between 1939 and the mid-1950s. The five mines were closed due to a low copper supply. The mine was once an industry and a major tourist attraction. Its profits were used to expand the company.

7. Rhyolite in Nevada

If you are looking for a ghost town to visit in the United States, look no further than Rhyolite. Located just outside Death Valley National Park, this old mining town in Nevada is well-signposted. The main road leads past crumbling banks, buildings once bursting with gold, and mine ruins. Rhyolite is a great ghost town to visit for photographers and explorers. The town was once a large mining community with over a thousand residents. Sadly, most of these buildings have been destroyed; the only ones left standing are the railroad depot and the Overbury building. The railroad station is still a beautiful mission-style structure.

Another popular attraction is the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The museum features a series of sculptures crafted by Belgian artists. In addition, there is an artist in the residency program. Those who want to see some of the enormous outdoor art sculptures should make this stop. You can find the Goldwell Open Air Museum just south of Rhyolite. The museum has several sculptures, including the "Last Supper" sculpture by Albert Szukalski.

8. Cody in Wyoming

Cody is the self-proclaimed "Rodeo Capital of the World." The town is home to the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody and several historical attractions. It is also a significant gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Old Trail Town is one of the best attractions to visit in Cody. This historic town contains dozens of old, worn-out wagons and other historical buildings. It is a popular family destination.

Heart Mountain is another intriguing attraction. The visitor center includes an interpretive center, photos, and oral histories. It is also home to remnants of the old barracks and Japanese-American internment during World War II. The Dead Indian Summit Overlook is a great place to view Wyoming landscapes. It is located along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is an excellent museum. It has a collection of artifacts and is affiliated with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. It is a national treasure. The Cody Dug Up Gun Museum is one of the most famous museums in Cody. It features an extensive collection of antique guns. The labels show the details of the weapon and how powerful it was.