Less than a day’s drive from the bustling City of Angels, intrepid travelers can find cities that have literally been left to waste away. What we call ghost towns, others call treasures of the past and the old wild west. Take a ramble along the backroads and see some of the best.
Bodie State Historic Park
Bridgeport, CA 93517
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 6 hours from Los Angeles, Bodie State Historic Park is open throughout the year as a ghost town in a state of decay. Visitors will find tables and chairs, bottles and dry goods – all left exactly where they were over a century ago. Ranger lead tours, which take visitors through a town crowded with still-sturdy structures, and through a a community that looks as if the entire population just stepped out to lunch. Make sure to visit for the rugged scenery and the fascinating look at life exactly as it once was, but don’t take any stolen souvenirs. Rumor has it bad luck follows those who “borrow” Bodie heirlooms. Park rangers attest to visitors returning their illicit souvenirs for just that reason.
Goldfield, NV 89013
While Goldfield, Nevada is still inhabited with some 268 people living here, it may as well be a ghost town as the population is so small. It even has a small number of bars, restaurants, antique shops, and working artists. But it was once a gold mining boomtown, replete with elegant dining establishments, saloons, and what is now reputed to be a haunted hotel. Check out the supposed “portal to the other side” along with a “forest” of abandoned, painted cars, and other oddities just a five and a half hour drive from LA.
Rhyolite, Nevada and Goldwell Open Air Museum
Rhyolite, NV 89003
Just outside Death Valley National Park lies another once-thriving mining community. The stark ruins of the entirely deserted Rhyolite make terrific backdrops for photographs and excellent locations to see the days of the old west. From the two story bank building to the railroad station and jail house, it’s extremely fascinating. Still intact is the Bottle House, built with some 50,000 beer and other bottles. Along the road in, stop for a visit at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, founded by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski. The stunning, site-specific sculptures includes a man on a bicycle and a ghostly white shrouded “Last Supper.” Rhyolite, Nevada is just 4.5 hours from Los Angeles.
Ajo Chamber of Commerce
1 W. Plaza
Ajo, AZ 85321
Once a thriving copper-mining town, Ajo, Arizona’s abandoned buildings are in transition these days. The gorgeous, ornate Curley School campus is now the Sonoran Desert Conference Center, a beautiful hotel and community space with reasonable rates and terrific views. In addition, the charming 1916-era storefronts of the town plaza are being repurposed as galleries and cafes. Start at the Visitor’s Center and score a map to the awesome original murals painted around town, or view the historical artifacts left from the Phelps Dodge Mine, including the enormous mine pit. Thanks to the efforts of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, this town is coming back to life, and it’s only six hours from LA.
35 Butte Ave.
Randsburg, CA 93554
Located just off Highway 395 just twenty miles from Ridgecrest, Randsburg, CA is a living ghost town just two hours from Los Angeles. The town houses offer a funky general store and soda fountain that still sells yummy sandwiches and ice cream, a saloon, and the artifact-packed Randsburg Museum that’s open on weekends. Abandoned mines, dirt paths that form an off-road-vehicle enthusiast nirvana, and storefronts with a classic old-west ambiance make this one a classic. Antique shops offer plentiful browsing, and just outside of town, the historic town jail allows visitors to step inside.