The Wild West Awaits: 13 Ghost Towns in America You Can Still Explore
Where Deserted Streets are Steeped In History
It’s the wild west. A dusty main road is lined with wooden shops and saloons; a vulture glides overhead as a warm breeze rattles the shutter of a nearby home. In the distance you can faintly hear the footsteps of worn leather boots or the clinking of spurs.
It’s not just a scene from an old movie — old towns like this still exist in today’s modern world, if you know where to look. Towns that have long since been deserted but are oddly well-preserved. They’re aptly referred to as ghost towns; the inhabitants vacating their homes and businesses, leaving the structures abandoned and left to decay.
The United States is home to many of these towns, strewn across the country. Here are some of the best ghost towns of America.
Located on Grasshopper Creek in Beaverhead County, Montana, Bannack was the site of a major gold discovery. John White founded the town in 1862 and it grew quickly as news spread of the gold strike.
The growth of the town’s population resulted in the establishment of many businesses and amenities, including hotels, bakeries, blacksmith shops, meat markets, grocery stores, a restaurant, a brewery and up to four saloons.
At the height of its popularity, Bannack was home to around 10,000 people, but just a year after being founded, many of the town’s occupants had moved on in hopes of finding gold elsewhere. The town saw a fluctuating population over the next 60 years. By the 1950’s, the mine and town had all but shut down and Bannack was officially declared a state park.
Today, many of the Bannack’s buildings and structures are still standing along the main road for visitors to explore. There is a small park fee charged per vehicle, but if you have a Montana license plate, your visit will be free. Discover more information, resources, and a map of the state park here.
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Rhyolite, named after the unique volcanic rock found in the area, was established in the early 1900’s during the gold rush.
Like many of the towns built during the rush, Rhyolite was home to many, but only for as long as the gold held out. By 1919, Rhyolite had become an abandoned ghost town.
What makes Rhyolite stand out from the rest is that many of the town’s buildings were built from permanent materials, which means many of the structures are still standing, waiting to be explored. Many similar towns in the area have long-since crumbled away, whereas Rhyolite provides a rare glimpse into life during the gold rush, making for an exciting day
trip and a unique educational opportunity.
Rhyolite can be found just outside of Beatty, Nevada; roughly 30 miles outside Death Valley, California and about 120 miles from the Las Vegas strip.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
St. Elmo, Colorado
Colorado is home to plenty of ghost towns, but St. Elmo is likely the best preserved. It’s nestled in the heart of the Sawatch Range about 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista. It’s also reported to have the most hauntings and paranormal activity of any other ghost towns in the state.
St. Elmo was originally named Forest City, however due to many other towns sharing the same name, one of the founders changed the name. At its peak in the 1890’s, the town included saloons, hotels, dance halls, a newspaper office, a telegraph office, a school house and a general store.
The general store is still standing and operating today along with several other structures including houses, the town hall and the jail. The town of St. Elmo’s is open to the public from Mother’s Day weekend in May into October and even offers cabin rentals to those wanting to stay and explore.