Six Best Ghost Towns in the United States
There are dozens of ghost towns across the country, from deep Appalachia to the remote Death Valley Desert. Some of the towns are preserved & maintained by government agencies such as the National Park Service, while some are left completely abandoned, where only a few buildings but many ghost stories remain.
Many travelers, from urban explorers to historians, explore ghost towns. Some are tourist towns, some so remote one must cross three rivers to reach the destination. All are unique and hold their spot in American history.
And in true Four Wheel Camper style, we had to make sure some of the ghost towns mentioned are 4×4 only! So pack up your truck camper and enjoy the ride to the best five ghost towns to visit in the United States:
1. Kirwin, Wyoming
Kirwin is one of the country’s most remote and rugged ghost towns. Originally founded as a mining town, the area started becoming well-known by others for its scenic mountain vistas. Amelia Earhart visited Kirwin and decided the town would be her retirement cabin after completing her failed round-the-world attempt. The remnants of her cabin still remain today.
The town met its demise in the early 1900s when an avalanche cascaded down from the slopes above, killing eight people, including children. Today, many town buildings are well-preserved & visitors are allowed to enter at their own risk. Part of the adventure, however, is getting to the town site. Kirwin is located over an hour from the closest town, a small community of 400 year-round residents called Meeteese. From the town, adventurers must travel nearly 40 miles down dirt roads, and 4WD truck campers or vehicles are required to make it the last nine miles to the town. The off-road portion includes miles of rocky terrain & three river crossings. High snowmelt in the spring can make crossing the rivers impossible until mid-June, and grizzly bears frequent the area, so pack your bear spray!
2. Rhyolite, Nevada
Another remote and rugged ghost town in the United States is located within Death Valley National Park, far from the regular tourist path. This location should only be accessed during cooler weather months. There have been instances of visitors heading out to the town in the summer, only to overheat and get stranded along the way. Without the right supplies, something like that could easily turn deadly.
There are many reasons this town was abandoned, including the harsh climate. In the summer, temperatures in Death Valley often exceed 115 degrees. Water sources are scarce, and the environment is desolate and unforgiving. The town, which once was big enough to have a hospital & inn, officially shuttered in 1916 after the collapse of the gold rush.
Don’t want to make the drive? No worries, the town is on the big screen and was used as a set in the movie The Island.
3. Jerome, Arizona
Sure, everyone puts The Grand Canyon on their list of things to do in Arizona, but one of the most remarkable side adventures is Jerome, Arizona. The small, abandoned mining town is located high in the state at over 5,000 ft and only a 45-minute drive from Sedona. This little quiet corner is quirky, scenic, and beautiful.
Unlike other, more remote ghost towns in the United States, Jerome has a tourist town surrounding the original copper-mining ghost town. It’s known as the ‘largest ghost town in the United States’ because it boasted a population of nearly 15,000 residents at one point. After its mining days, most leftover residents were chased out by repeated fires and World War II. Today, the population of Jerome is under 100 residents.
4. Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott is one of the most well-known ghost towns in the United States, but that doesn’t make it an easy trek. The remote copper mining town is in remote Alaska and is only accessible by a 60-mile dirt road about 7 hours outside Anchorage. It boomed to life in 1910 and became a well-established town until 1940, after the Kennecott Copper Corporation abruptly ended operations and when copper ran dry. Due to its remote location, looters and mischievous teenagers never ransacked the town, which is still pristine.
Today, the site is protected as a National Historic Landmark, and the only way to visit is by booking a two-hour tour. The area is closed to visitors during winter months.
5. Rocky Bar, Idaho
Once so prominent it was nearly named the capital of Idaho; Rocky Bar is a remote town near the Feather River that had nearly 2,500 in the late 1800s. It was a promising location for those traveling west during the Gold Rush. The decline of Rocky Bar started in 1892 after a fire swept through the town, destroying many buildings. Residents attempted to rebuild, but the decline of gold eventually put the final nail in the coffin.
Rocky Bar is located in a remote section of central Idaho, about 65 miles northeast of Mountain Home. Today, the population is two people. Visitors love the welcome sign, which reads:
Cat’s Dog’s and Kid’s
And Old People with Gun’s?”
6. Thurmond, West Virgina
Many people associate ghost towns with wild west towns of the mining days. And although there are more ghost towns in the west, the east still has a fair share! Thurmond, West Virginia, is the perfect example. Many of the abandoned towns in the east are remnants from coal mining days, Thurmond included.
The town once had a large downtown area comprised of hotels, banks, a post office, and shops. At the time, the banks serviced coal barons, and it was one of the wealthiest areas in the country. In the mid-1900s, the railroad stopped service in the town after coal mining operations dived during the Great Depression. After many years of sitting in decay, the National Register of Historic Places stepped in to give the town new life, and it has been beautifully restored for visitors to enjoy. The population of the town now sits at five residents.
Six Best Ghost Towns in the United States
There’s nothing more we love at Four Wheel Campers than an adventure that takes us to remote & beautiful places – ghost towns included. There is plenty of free & paid camping in national forests surrounding these locations. And if you’re not part of the FWC family yet but want to get out and explore the country’s most remote, beautiful, and untouched places, shop our truck camper fleet or contact us with questions.
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