Winter is an ideal time to visit the ghost towns scattered across the American West. With fewer crowds, winter casts an eerier glow on the deserted streets and the abandoned storefronts and homes of ghost towns, from desolate Rhyolite in western Nevada and the secluded and well-restored Bodie State Historic Park in eastern California to the classic, semi-deserted sites in Tombstone, Arizona, and Central City, Colorado.
Rhyolite is an eerie-looking ghost town set in the barren desert of western Nevada. In 1904, gold was found in the nearby hills, and Rhyolite boomed and busted in 1910. This famously photographed ghost town is a National Historic Site and has been featured in many western films. Rhyolite makes a great day trip from either Las Vegas or Death Valley National Park, and visitors can tour several remains of the boom days, including the old train depot, bank, jail and the Bottle House, which was fully restored for Paramount Pictures' film "The Air Mail."
Bodie is a nicely restored ghost town in eastern California about 75 miles south of Lake Tahoe. It was a booming gold-mining town in the late 1800s and, at its peak, reached a population of more than 10,000 in 1880, according to the Bodie Foundation. In the 1960s, Bodie was designated a State Historic Park, and visitors can tour the town and view 200-plus structures that are still standing, as well as 80 headstones in the Bodie Cemetery. The park is open year-round but might require some sort of snow transportation (such as skis or snowmobiles) when the winter snow is deep.
Tombstone is one of the most famous old mining towns of the Wild West and was home to Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone was founded in 1879 after a wealth of silver was found in a nearby plateau. After the bust, Tombstone was saved from being a total ghost town and still boasts about 1,500 residents. Visitors can tour buildings in Tombstone State Historic Park, stand in the street where the gunfight at O.K. Corral took place and tour the famous Boothill Graveyard.
Central City, Colorado
Central City is a National Historic District just 40 miles west of Denver. The city was founded in the mid-1800s during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush and was a bustling mining town for nearly a hundred years until population fell to a few hundred people in the 1950s. The Central City area boomed again when gambling was introduced to the area in the 1990s. Visitors can take a break from the casinos in Central City and tour historic Main Street, the cemetery and the Central City Opera House.