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24 Ghost Towns In California [MAP]

    ghost towns in California

    If you’re searching for ghost towns in California, we’ve got you covered! Below are 24 different ghost towns you can explore across the great state of California along with their status and exact GPS coordinates.

    We rate ghost towns in California based on their status. Here’s how our system works:

    • Abandoned: Is abandoned with ruins and structures in a decayed state. Great for urban explorers.
    • Historic: Preservation efforts have been made and sometimes plaques installed. Great for everyone.
    • Barren: Almost nothing remains of the town. Ideal for metal detectorists.
    • Commercial: Is commercially owned with amenities, restaurants, and stores. Great for families.
    • Semi-Abandoned: Abandoned areas with a small population in the area.
    • Privately Owned: Tours might be available but not open to the general public.


    1. Bodie

    38.2133, -119.01512
    Status: Historic

    most famous ghost towns in California

    History:

    Bodie, California is a true gold-mining ghost town in Mono County, California, located east of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. When mining on the western side of the Sierra Nevada began to collapse, prospectors crossed the eastern slope in pursuit of their fortunes. In 1859, one of these men, William (aka: Waterman) S. Bodey, discovered gold at what is now known as Bodie Bluff.

    Unfortunately, the poor man died in a snowstorm that same winter, and he never saw the new town named after him. Even though Bodie was already dying, Prohibition and the Great Depression accelerated his decline. Bodie was a ghost town by the end of the 1940s, and it was only visited by visitors interested in its history. Given all its history, Bodie is one of the most famous ghost towns in California.

    What’s Left?

    “The Angel of Bodie,” a three-year-old girl who was accidentally killed when a miner’s pick struck her in the head, is buried in the Bodie Cemetery. Except for park personnel, there are no permanent residents in the town. There are no tourist traps, eateries, or replica saloons in this real ghost town. The Bodie Museum, which is open to the public and sells books, postcards, and other souvenirs, is the only business.


    2. Shasta

    40.59828, -122.49145
    Status: Historic

    History:

    Along the highway, the red-brick Southside Ruins are must-see remnants of California’s ghost towns. They are the ruins of Shasta’s core commercial center, which was formerly known as the Queen City of Northern California in the 1850s. The Courthouse Museum, Litsch General Store, Blumb Bakery, pioneer barn, blacksmith shop, and old cemeteries are all part of the 23-acre state park.

    The topic is gold rush history. Stagecoaches brought newcomers to Shasta on a regular basis, a sawmill processed logs into lumber, and businesses were kept busy with miners’ transactions in Shasta’s glory days. The community had almost 2,000 working mules at one point.

    What’s Left?

    The park attracts school groups, locals, and people from beyond the area, including foreign visitors from nations with considerably older recorded histories. For a snack or a picnic, the shady grounds are ideal. The 1880s retail museum has been converted from the Litsch Store, which was open from 1850 to 1950. At the blacksmith shop, demonstrations are occasionally held. Shorty’s Eatery has taken over Blumb Bakery.


    3. Empire Mine

    39.20595, -121.04386
    Status: Historic

    ghost towns in California used in mining

    History:

    George Roberts discovered gold in a quartz outcrop on Ophir Hill in October 1850, but sold the claim to Woodbury, Parks, and Co. in 1851 for $350 (about $11,000 today, adjusted for inflation). As word spread that hard rock gold had been discovered in California, miners from Cornwall’s tin and copper mines gathered to offer their hard rock mining experience and skills. 

    The Cornish contribution of the steam-powered Cornish engine, which drained the mine’s continual water seepage, was particularly significant. On October 8, 1942, the US Government’s War Production Board declared gold mines to be “non-essential industry to the war effort.”

    What’s Left?

    The park’s museum houses a scale replica of the Empire/Star mine complex’s underground workings, as well as exhibitions of ore samples from local mines, a rebuilt Assay Office, and a mineral collection. The gardens cover 13 acres (5.3 ha) and can be toured by people seeking ghost towns in California.


    4. Cerro Gordo

    36.5377, -117.79523
    Status: Privately-Owned

    History:

    Cerro Gordo is about seven miles east of Keeler and thirty miles south of Independence, on the western slope of the Inyo Mountains, in California. This ghost town was Owens Valley’s first large silver strike. Mexicans had been crawling the mountain they called Cerro Gordo, which means “Fat Hill,” hunting for silver long before the area was established. 

    Three of the five prospectors were killed when an early group was assaulted by Indians. Two were taken captive and had to vow never to return when they were released. The Mexicans returned in 1862, after Fort Independence was established and Indian activity had diminished. From its early lucrative years until 1938, the Cerro Gordo camp’s gross production was around $17 million.

    What’s Left?

    Cerro Gordo is a privately owned mining town near Lone Pine, California, in the Owens Valley. The town served as a silver thread connecting Los Angeles, contributing to the city’s expansion and development. It is open for guided tours, photographic groups, mineral and rock groups, schools, and historical groups, and exhibits original buildings and relics related to the town.


    5. Keeler

    36.48715, -117.87396
    Status: Semi-Abandoned

    most famous ghost towns in California that are still active

    History:

    In the early 1870s, Keeler, then known as Hawley, was developed on the shores of Owens Lake as a rival freight station for steamship traffic over Owens Lake. The initial terminus was located six miles north of Swansea.

    According to some reports, Keeler was founded when the March 1872 Lone Pine earthquake shifted the site of Swansea’s shoreline. The true story of Keeler is about a business competition between Mortimer Belshaw, a famous Cerro Gordo based mine and smelter owner, and the Owens Lake Silver-Lead Company, which operated a smelter in Swansea.

    The mineral industries could not sustain Keeler indefinitely, and the train station closed in 1960. The rails were removed in 1961, and Keeler’s position as a freighting center was over, making it a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    Keeler is now a small town with only a few dozen residents and no businesses. The Keeler Cemetery is located directly across the highway from the town of Keeler.


    6. Ballarat

    36.04641, -117.22673
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    In 1897, the town was established. Ballarat had 400 to 500 residents in its peak, from 1897 to 1905. There were seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, a post office (which opened in 1897), a school, a jail, and a morgue, but there were no churches. Ballarat was a rest and resupply stop for miners and prospectors. Seldom Seen Slim (Charles Ferge) was the sole resident of Ballarat from roughly 1918 until his death from cancer at Trona Hospital in 1968. 

    When the Ratcliff Mine, located east of town in Pleasant Canyon, ceased operations, the community began to collapse. Other adjacent mines continued to run dry, and the post office closed in 1917, adding it to the list of ghost towns in California.

    What’s Left?

    Ballarat now has only one full-time inhabitant. On weekends and afternoons, Rocky manages the general store to provide for tourists. Ballarat serves as a staging area for four-wheel-drive trips into the Panamint Range and Death Valley, and up to 300 persons can sleep in the town’s grounds during the winter. The town was recently used as a set to tell the story of Ballarat Bandit.


    7. Darwin

    36.26799, -117.59173
    Status: Semi-Abandoned

    historic ghost towns in California

    History:

    Darwin, now a semi-ghost town on the western borders of Death Valley in Inyo County, California, was formerly the county’s largest city. The town began in early 1860, when a prospecting expedition led by Dr. E. Darwin French moved out from Visalia, California, in search of the Lost Gunsight Mine and a location known as “Silver Mountain” for many years. Nonetheless, they discovered rich silver outcrops, staked a few claims, and returned to Visalia to document them.

    A smallpox epidemic devastated the community in 1878, and Darwin was heavily impacted by a national economic downturn. As production stalled and mine owners cut pay, the neighborhood became more violent. The newspaper office closed its doors in September 1878 and it officially became a ghost town in California.

    What’s Left?

    Darwin’s population is now believed to be around 35 persons. The remains of the company camp, comprising decaying rows of company cottages, Quonset huts, and mill buildings, may still be seen on the hillside of Mt. Ophir, some 1/2 northwest of “downtown.” Several buildings in the city’s core area still have the buildings that once housed but now shuttered. There are rusted-out hulks of trucks and trailers scattered across the area, as well as the remains of the old Defiance smelter.


    8. Rhyolite

    36.90321, -116.82811
    Status: Abandoned

    most popular ghost town in California

    History:

    In 1904, Shorty Harris, of Harrisburg mine, arrived to the area for the first time. Shorty discovered gold-laden quartz, often known as bullfrog rock, strewn over the area. Within 30 miles of the area, there were 2000 claims. It had a three-story skyscraper, a stock market, and a red-light district that attracted ladies from all over the country. Hotels, shops, schools, two power plants, foundries, and a hospital were all located here.

    The community was hit badly by the financial panic that followed during the next few years. Only a few hundred people lived there by 1910. The most successful mine in the area, Shoshone mine, was closed in 1911, and the town’s electricity was turned off in 1916.

    What’s Left?

    Only the remnants of the three-story bank, the jail, the privately-owned rail terminal, and a renovated “bottle house” exist today. Tourism still booms here, making its one of the more popular ghost towns in California


    9. Amboy

    34.55777, -115.74444
    Status: Semi-Abandoned

    History:

    Amboy was formally established in 1883, despite the fact that it was first settled in 1858. The town was founded by Lewis Kingman, a locating engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, as the first of a series of alphabetical railroad stations to be built across the Mojave Desert. The name was most likely inspired by a place in the eastern United States. Amboy’s population had grown to 65 by 1940. 

    Tourism in the United States declined throughout the Great Depression and World War II. However, the town remained bustling due to the remaining passengers’ demand for housing, meals, and gasoline. The community continued like way until 1973, when Interstate 40 was built, bypassing Amboy, making it a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    Next to Roy’s, stands the former Amboy School. After the last pupils left, the school closed in 1999. Amboy was used in the 1986 film The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer. To the west of Amboy, there are two extinct volcanoes. Pisgah Crater is not as well maintained as Amboy Crater due to quarry operations.


    10. Calico

    34.94556, -116.86534
    Status: Historical/Commerical

    History:

    Calico is an old West mining town in California that dates to 1881 and was abandoned in the mid-1890s when the value of silver plummeted. The community that once provided a fair living for miners had lost its vigor and had become a “ghost town.”

    In the 1950s, Walter Knott purchased Calico and restored all but five of the original buildings to their 1880s appearance. Calico was designated as California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town in 2005, when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared it as such.

    What’s Left?

    Calico is now part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system, which attracts visitors from all over the country and the world. Calico Ghost Town contains shops, restaurants, and offers camping, hiking, and off-roading in addition to its history and attractions. Calico is one of the more family-friendly ghost towns in California, making it a more tame place to explore.


    11. Silver City

    35.596614, -118.492737
    Status: Privately Owned

    History:

    The Mills family began hauling in historic local Kern Valley structures (many of which were slated for destruction) to the current site in Bodfish in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Over twenty historic buildings (mostly not visible from Lake Isabella Blvd) from the mining camps of Keyesville, Whiskey Flat, old Isabella, Claraville, Hot Springs, Miracle, Southfork, and other local frontier settlements are represented in this composite town.”

    The Corlews have dedicated more than 20,000 man-hours to the site’s rehabilitation. Many people have contributed labor, assistance, and supplies to the effort (special thanks to Hal Brown and Don and Emily Diggles).

    What’s Left?

    It is now a museum dedicated to the long and colorful history of the Kern Valley. A bar and country shop are located at the Apalatea/Burlando House, which is thought to be the Valley’s oldest standing structure. Thousands of items can be seen all throughout the property. Of all the ghost towns in California, Silver City is among my top favorite.


    12. Panamint

    36.84829, -117.05945
    Status: Abandoned

    Photo Credit: campsitephotos.com

    History:

    Panamint City was founded when three outlaws who were using the region as a hideout discovered silver in Surprise Canyon in 1872, earning it the moniker “the hardest, rawest, most hard-boiled little hellhole that ever passed for a civilized town.” Senators Jones and Stewart, dubbed the “Silver Senators” for their extensive mining holdings, formed the Panamint Mining Company with two-million-dollar capital stock.

    Two of the area’s largest mines had been exhausted by 1876, and the same year, a flash flood swept down the canyon, destroying much of the town. The “Silver Senators” themselves were the last to give up. The Panamint mill, as well as the post office, shuttered after a severe stock market panic in May 1877 deeming it to become a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    The road to Panamint City was maintained by Nyo County until about 1983, when it was entirely washed out by a series of cloudbursts. Only a few foundations and the decaying smokestack of the Surprise Valley Mill and Water Company, built in 1875, remain of the once-thriving town.


    13. Goffs

    34.91898, -115.062
    Status: Abandoned

    Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM – flickr.com

    History:

    Goffs is a ghost town in southeastern California’s western San Bernardino County. The station was formerly named Blake after Isaac Blake, who built the “Nevada Southern Railway” from there northwards. The station was renamed Goffs in 1902, a strange name that has only one interpretation. Except for the minor sidings between those stations, which are shown below in brackets, the AT & SF designated these stations in alphabetical order.

    Amboy, (Saltus), (Altura), Bristol, Cadiz, (Siam), Danby, (Arimo), Essex, Fenner, (Piute), Goffs, Homer, (Bannock), Ibis, (Klinefelter), Java, Khartoum. Amboy, (Saltus), (Altura), Bristol, Cadiz, (Siam), Danby, (Arimo), Essex, Fenner, (Piute

    What’s Left?

    Goffs General Store was (and still is) the largest structure in town, but it is in a sorry state of disrepair. It was entirely renovated in 2000, but was abandoned a few years later and is progressively deteriorating. Goff’s School House was used into a canteen for troops training at the Desert Training Center during WWII. Goffs was the Headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division in 1942, and afterwards fought in the Pacific Theatre against Japan. It was all mentioned on a memorial with a plaque.


    14. Drawbridge

    37.46629, -121.975
    Status: Abandoned

    Photo Credit: Ian Abbott – flickr.com

    History:

    The narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad built a tiny cottage for the operator of the railroad’s two drawbridges over Mud Slough and Coyote Creek to connect Newark with Alviso and San Jose on Station Island in 1876. Despite the lack of roadways, the town had 90 buildings and was separated into two neighborhoods by the 1920s.

    The San Jose Mercury News incorrectly reported for years that the town was a ghost town and that the residents left valuables behind after the drawbridges were removed and most of the residents had left. As a result, the homes of those who remained there were vandalized.

    What’s Left?

    Due to restoration work, the drawbridge is now part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and it is no longer open to the public, however it may still be seen from the Altamont Corridor Express, Capitol Corridor, and Coast Starlight trains for a brief glimpse.

    Unlike most ghost towns in California, Drawbridge is surrounded by lush greenery and water, making it a great change of pace from the harsh desert wasteland.


    15. Chemung Mine

    38.34991, -119.14987
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    The Chemung Mine was established in 1909 in the ghost town of Masonic, California. Although the area was continually eclipsed by the mining operations in Bodie, it was supposedly a good producer of gold, but legal concerns were a constant problem. 

    The structures were torn down and rebuilt three times before being abandoned in 1938, and the 20 workers who remained employed there lost their employment. By the 1950s, the neighboring village of Masonic had also been abandoned, allowing Chemung to fall into obscurity and become a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    Chemung is currently said to be haunted by a poltergeist that causes havoc on Saturdays. However, visitors report that, the only creature haunting the area is a herd of free-range cattle that slowly encircle the parking area and make their way up to the mine to greet the visitors when they decided it was time to leave. Given all these stories, Chemung Mine is infamously know as one of the most haunted ghost towns in California.


    16. Old Chinese Camp Town

    37.87089, -120.43204
    Status: Semi-Abandoned

    Photo Credit: David Berry – flickr.com

    History:

    The ruins of a famous California Gold Rush mining town are known as Chinese Camp. Thousands of Chinese immigrants arrived in the area between 1849 and 1882, hoping to find good fortune on the fabled “Gold Mountain.”

    The community was once known as “Camp Washington” or “Washingtonville,” and Washington Street is one of the few extant roadways. The area became known as “Chinee” or “Chinese Camp” or “Chinese Diggings” after some of the first Chinese laborer’s arriving in California in 1849 were pushed from neighboring Camp Salvado and resettled here. The town had a population of 5,000 Chinese at one time.

    What’s Left?

    Dolores Nicolini designed the current Chinese Camp School in the style of a Chinese pagoda, making it very distinctive. Since 1970, this school has been in operation. Previously, the school was housed in a structure next to the church. On May 4, 2006, this structure was destroyed by fire and this town officially became a ghost town of California.


    17. Gold Town

    35.00166, -118.16888
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    Gold Town (on topographic maps) or OarVille is a former settlement in Kern County, California. Within 2 miles of Gold town, there are gold mines to the north and south. The Golden Queen Mine was active on and off from the early 1900s through the 1980s, employing open pit, underground operations, and heap leaching techniques. Over the years, around 100,000 tonnes of tailings were produced. Some of these tailings have since reached the alluvial fan surface due to erosion. There is a lot of arsenic in the tailings.

    What’s Left?

    Today, Gold town is nothing more than a jumble of dirt roads, a few abandoned buildings, and a few abandoned mines in the desert along California State Route 14. The primary paved road connecting Gold town to California State Route 14 is known as Silver Queen Road


    18. Kelso

    35.0125, -115.65361
    Status: Historic

    History:

    Kelso is a ghost town in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, California, with a derelict train terminal. It was named after railroad worker John H. Kelso, whose name was chosen from a hat along with the names of two other laborers.

    Because of its location and neighboring springs that offered ample water, the town was constructed in 1905 primarily as a train station along the rail line between Utah and Los Angeles, initially known as Siding 16.

    The depot was still in use until 1986. The building began to decay after being exposed to the desert’s harsh elements. The railroad was on the verge of deconstructing the depot by the mid-1990s. After that, preservationists came up to save it.

    What’s Left?

    It was refurbished in 2005 to become the visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve. Currently, the facility is closed for repairs. The reopening is scheduled during Spring 2023.


    19. Llano del Rio

    34.50647, -117.82708
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    Llano del Rio was a colony in what is now Llano, California, in the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles County, east of Palmdale. Job Harriman, a lawyer and socialist politician, founded the colony after failing to win the mayorship of Los Angeles in 1911. The site for the colony was purchased in 1913, and it was officially launched on May 1, 1914.

    The settlement was abandoned in 1918. The water supply from Big Rock Creek proved erratic, and Llano del Rio was too far away from neighboring villages to build a sustainable business leaving this town to become a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    Llano is honored at Twin Oaks, a 100-member contemporary intentional community in Virginia. All of Twin Oaks’ buildings are named after towns that are no longer operational, and one of the communal kitchens is called “Llano.” California Historical Landmark #933 has been assigned to the location.


    20. Masonic

    38.3672, -119.11925
    Status: Abandoned

    Photo Credit: Kyle Beucke – mindat.org

    History:

    The town’s name comes from the fact that it was created by Freemasons. The post office, lodging house, and general store were all located in Middle Town, the largest of the three towns. It also held the offices of the Masonic Pioneer, the town’s newspaper.

    The Lorena post office first opened in 1905, was renamed Masonic in 1906, closed in 1912, reopened in 1913, and finally closed in 1927 becoming a ghost town of California.

    What’s Left?

    In 1906, Masonic had a population of around 500 people. Before closing in 1910, the main mine, known as the Pittsburg-Liberty Mine, produced $700,000 in gold. Masonic mining was in decline by 1911, while some miners continued to operate until the 1920s.

    Like most ghost towns in California, not much is left. Masonic is still a great place to explore if you love old ruins. Plus, there’s a camp site nearby if you want to spend the night.


    21. Skidoo

    36.43671, -117.15493
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    Skidoo is a good example of the boom towns that sprung up in Death Valley in the early twentieth century. The Skidoo Mine, which operated between 1906 and 1917, provided the town’s primary source of income. 

    During those years, the mine produced approximately 75,000 ounces of gold, valued more than $1.5 million at the time. Skidoo’s mining history is commemorated by two unique objects. Initially, the town had the only milling plant in the desert, which was powered almost entirely by water.

    What’s Left?

    The Skidoo Mines Company’s fifteen-stamp amalgamation and cyanide mill is a rare surviving example of an early twentieth-century gravity-feed device for separating gold from its ore but now only ruins of once flourishing place remains, making it a perfect town in California to be named as a ghost town.


    22. Timbuctoo

    39.21694, -121.31861
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    Timbuctoo used to be the county seat of eastern Yuba County. This ghost town’s heyday was in the 1850s, when it was strategically located on the Yuba River near its gold-bearing sandbars but high enough into the river’s surrounding hills to avoid flood risk.

    The town’s amenities included a Wells Fargo office, saloons, a church, hotels, and a theatre, in addition to the regular merchants and businesses. In 1855, the town was established. In 1858, a post office was established. The community was abandoned due to a lack of economic base. In 1883, the post office was decommissioned and became a ghost town after a few years.

    What’s Left?

    Timbuctoo is a National Historic Landmark in California. Rumors that the structure still held masses of gold prompted looters to knock down the walls in pursuit of wealth. Behind a fence intended to safeguard it from further destruction, its brick and stone ruins, topped with rusty fragments of the tin roof, may be seen. Of all the ghost towns in California, Timbuctoo clearly has the most memorable name.


    23. Vallecito

    32.97588, -116.35023
    Status: Historic

    History:

    Vallecito, in San Diego County, California, is a former town on the border of the Colorado Desert in the Vallecito Valley. This oasis, which was once a seasonal settlement of the native Kumeyaay people on a trail across the desert from the Colorado River, became a vital halting point for Spanish and subsequently Mexican travelers recovering from the desert passage between Sonora and New Mexico to California.

    Captain Samuel P. Heintzelman of the United States Army ordered a company of the 2nd Infantry to march to Vallecitos in November 1850 to construct a post with a storehouse as a supply depot for the construction and supply of Fort Yuma. The Vallecito post was abandoned by the Army in 1853.

    What’s Left?

    The United States Army Depot Vallecito was eventually expanded to include a store, a stage station, and a ranch house. The Station house was eventually reduced to ruins, but it was renovated in 1934 and is now the Vallecito Stage Station County Park. The historic Butterfield Stage Station, which was rebuilt in 1934, is now the centerpiece of a 71-acre County Park.


    24. Wrights

    37.13783, -121.94853
    Status: Abandoned

    History:

    Wrights, California (also known as Wrights Station) is a ghost town in Santa Clara County, California. Wrights is one of several ghost towns that flourished during the final part of the nineteenth century in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

    When the Los Gatos-Santa Cruz railroad ended operations in March 1940, Laurel, Wrights, Glenwood, and Clems saw a decrease. Patchen was bypassed and isolated by the completion of State Route 17 later in 1940; it has been a Christmas tree ranch since the late 1960s. Wrights is one of the few abandoned places that still has an accessible tunnel. In the winter the tunnel freeze over leaving massive ice sculptures that look out of this world!

    What’s Left?

    Wrights has vanished completely, leaving only the rubble of the ancient tunnel as a reminder. In the deep forests, some building foundations and trash from the town can still be unearthed. The site is covered in heavy overgrowth and woodland, as seen from space and on the ground. The surrounding area is lightly populated now.


    Go out and explore!

    That concludes our list of ghost towns in California, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.

    If you’re having trouble finding ghost towns be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Finding Abandoned Places, or explore other ghost towns across the country.

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