20 Ghost Towns In California

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Ghost towns are a unique attraction that intrigues urban explorers and history fans. They provide the opportunity to explore abandoned locations while soaking in the area’s history. As the second-largest state in America and the site of its most famous gold rush, there is a significant collection of ghost towns in California. 

During the 1800s, towns would burst into life and then be abandoned entirely again within a matter of years. California’s hot, dry weather has helped keep many of these towns perfectly preserved, while a number retain historical features from the mining industry. With such a great collection to choose from, visiting them all would be a tall task. So here are the 20 best ghost towns in California to help get your exploration underway.

20 Ghost Towns In California

Ghost Towns In Southern California

1- Calico Ghost Town

Best ghost town in California (Calico aerial)
Calico is one of the best ghost towns in California for families to explore.

Calico is one of the most impressive ghost towns in California.

Located just off the historic Route 66, the old west mining town in the mountains northwest of Barstow has been completely restored to its former glory.

You can explore buildings like a jail, town hall, blacksmiths workshops and join a guided tour down into the mine itself.

Once you’re done exploring, kick back in a saloon with a traditional sarsaparilla or pick up some souvenirs at the gift shop to help you remember your trip.

Calico Ghost Town is at 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, 92398.

2- Silver City Ghost Town

Ghost towns of California Silver City old wagon beside a barn
Another wild west ghost town in Southern California, Silver City offers guided tours.

The Silver City Ghost Town is a perfectly preserved old west town, which gives you a glimpse into the life of an average Californian in the 19th century.

The homes and buildings are filled with all of the items they would have contained when the town was active, while some operate as shops where you can purchase supplies and keepsakes.

There is an option of a guided tour for those who want the complete Silver City experience.

Silver City Ghost Town is at 3829 Lake Isabella Boulevard, Bodfish, 93205

3- The Golden Cactus Ghost Town & Museum

The Golden Cactus Ghost Town is a small yet beautifully preserved little town, complete with a fully restored and operational general store.

It’s run by friendly people who are more than happy to have a chat and try to answer any of your questions.

A quaint museum explains a little of the town’s history and displays some of its artefacts, making it a great place to make a stop to take in some history and refreshments on your travels.

Golden Cactus Ghost Town & Museum is at 10325 – 10599 Sterling Road, Pearsonville, 93527.

4- Robbers Roost Ranch

The Robbers Roost Ranch ghost town consists of a small collection of historic buildings, artefacts and inscriptions, providing visitors with a nice little bit of history about the area.

With its own mini-mart, campsites, ATV trails and beautiful photography spots, Robbers Roost Ranch is a destination where you can enjoy a ghost town as part of a more extended break taking in the California countryside.

Robbers Roost Ranch is at 49901 CA-14, Inyokern, 93527.

5- Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

The Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is unique in that it is neither wholly abandoned and run down nor fully restored for tourism.

It’s a location stuck between the two and is currently in the process of being restored.

Cerro Gordo is the perfect place to see a historic town during its transformation from ruins and remnants to its former glory.

There are numerous buildings for you to explore, while the current owners of the town are often present to offer history lessons.

There is even a gift shop, where you can pick up souvenirs to remember your experience.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is on Cerro Gordo Road, Keeler, 93530.

For more California ideas, see:

6- Leadfield Ghost Town

Leadfield Ghost Town rusty mining shed
Leadfield is one of the ghost towns in Southern California that is relatively undiscovered.

Leadfield Ghost Town is the site of an old mine, of which the entrance is still clearly visible.

While you can’t gain access to the mine itself, there are several buildings surrounding it that you can explore.

With petroglyphs and historical markers, it is a hidden gem of a ghost town, which still has enough to see to be entertaining but not enough for it to be overrun by visitors.

Leadfield Ghost Town is on Leadfield Road, Death Valley National Park.

7- Ballarat Ghost Town

Ghost towns California (Ballarat)
Blink and you might miss Ballarat as this Southern Californian ghost town is in a remote location.

Ballarat is a tiny ghost town consisting of a few dilapidated buildings and broken down old cars.

It is truly unique because it still has a functioning general store, complete with a working toilet, essential supplies, and even Ballarat souvenirs, miles away from anything.

The town’s sole resident will happily give you a lesson on the history of Ballarat and answer any questions you may have.

Ballarat Ghost Town is at Ballarat Road, Trona, 93592.

8- Panamint City

Located in the Panamint Mountains, Panamint City burst into life with the discovery of copper and silver in 1872.

However, in 1876, a flash flood almost destroyed the town. A road into the town was maintained until 1983 when another flood destroyed this.

With no paved access, visitors now have to hike for seven and a half miles to reach Panamint City.

Although there is little left of the town, being so far off the beaten path allows it to remain almost cemetery isolated.

This means there is a spooky feeling in the air awaiting those who do decide they want to explore the remains.

Panamint City is on Surprise Canyon Road, Death Valley National Park.

9- Empire Mine State Park

Empire Mine State Park is the abandoned site of the oldest gold mine in California.

Despite its age and that it has been abandoned for decades, both the mine and the buildings surrounding it have been incredibly well-preserved.

Visiting the mine is an opportunity to see a traditional mine and its town as they would once have looked.

Numerous exhibits and restored blacksmiths will teach you about life in a historic mining town, while the surrounding trails through a beautiful park are perfect for appreciating the natural beauty of the area when.

Empire Mine State Park is at 10791 East Empire Street, Grass Valley, 95945.

10- Bombay Beach Ruins

California ghost town (Bombay Beach shipwreck)
With shipwrecks and abandoned trailers, Bombay Beach is one of the most unique ‘ghost towns’ in California.

Bombay Beach was a popular beach resort for many years until the ecosystem of its late began to dry up, and it was abandoned in the 1980s.

Unlike most ghost towns, Bombay Beach features mainly abandoned trailers instead of buildings, giving it a unique feel.

This has also led to several artists visiting Bombay Beach and using it as a canvas for some incredibly vibrant street art.

So popular is this aspect of the California ghost town, it hosts The Bombay Beach Biennale art festival each year.

Bombay Beach 9576 Avenue G, Niland, 92257.

11- Goffs

Goffs is a traditional ghost town that hasn’t been modified or restored.

What you’ll find here is a set of dilapidated buildings to explore, including a diner, school, some houses and a few broken-down old buses.

A recently-opened museum is now available to help you learn a little more about the town, while an active level crossing gives you a feel for the town’s significance during the early days of the railroad.

Goffs is on 119246 Goffs Road, Essex, 92332.

12- Allensworth Historic Town Site

List of ghost towns in California Allensworth historic timber building
Put Allensworth on your list of ghost towns in California to soak up some 19th-century history.

The Allensworth Historic Town Site and neighbouring Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park feature a former late 19th-century town, with many buildings restored to look how they originally would have.

Plaques and signs provide an in-depth explanation of everything you are seeing and detail how the town was founded, while an app is also available that offers an audio guide.

Allensworth Historic Town Site is on Young Road, Earlimart, 93219.

13- Gardner Field

Gardner Field is a former US military base erected in the 1940s to train pilots during World War II.

The base was abandoned and largely demolished when the war ended, with the remnants left to the elements.

All that remains are cement foundations and pavements, which are mostly covered by sagebrush and sand.

However, there is still enough to help you imagine how the base would have looked when it was in operation.

There is also a very eerie feel in the air, knowing how many young men were trained here, only to lose their lives a short while later.

Gardner Field is in Maricopa, 93252. 

Ghost Towns In Northern California

14- Bodie State Historic Park

Bodie ghost town in California at dusk
One of the most famous ghost towns in California is Bodie.

Bodie State Historic Park features an incredibly well-preserved gold and silver mining town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Active for just a few years before being abandoned, the town remains in virtually the same condition left a century ago.

Both guided and self-guided tours around the town are available and include highlights like a stamp mill and a wonderful little church.

There is a museum for those who want even more information on the town and its industry.

Bodie State Historic Park is at CA-270, Bridgeport, 93517.

15- Drawbridge

Drawbridge ghost town in California a rundown barn at dusk
Drawbridge is a ghost town near San Francisco.

Drawbridge is the location of an early settlement along the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, complete with its own railroad station.

Despite its prime location, the town has been abandoned since 1979, when it slowly began to sink into the surrounding marshland.

While many of the structures are partially visible, it sits on land designated as a wildlife refuge.

This means that, while there may be sights to see, it is technically illegal to visit, and anyone who decides to will be doing so at their own risk.

Drawbridge, Fremont, 94538

16- Masonic Mining Camp and Chemung Mine

Ghost towns in California run down Chemung Mine
The remains of the Chemung Mine has a foreboding atmosphere that qualifies it as one of the top Californian ghost towns.

The Masonic Mining Camp and Chemung Mine consist of a small mining cabin and a remote mine.

While the cabin helps you get a feel for how isolated this type of mining would have been, the remains of the mine itself are limited and in pretty bad shape.

However, when combined with the nearby Chemung Mine, which has lasted considerably better, the area makes an excellent stop for people interested in the California Gold Rush.

Chemung Mine is in Bridgeport, 93517.

17- Shasta State Historic Park

Ghost towns in Northern California Shasta bakery and general store
The former gold mining ghost town in California’s Shasta is a step back into the past.

The Shasta State Historic Park is a former 19th-century gold mining town, which has been fully restored to allow visitors to experience how it would have once looked.

Now it’s a ghost town in Northern California with skeletons of brick buildings, including a jail and town hall, giving you a glimpse into life here more than 100 years ago.

A museum explains the history of the town, the people who lived in it and the Native Americans who inhabited the surrounding areas.

Shasta State Historic Park is at 15312 CA-299, Redding, 96003.

18- Old Chinese Camp Town

Some may not consider the Old Chinese Camp Town a proper Ghost Town, as it is still partially inhabited.

However, there are plenty of the typical ghost-town offerings for fans, so it is worth including.

Remnants of an 1850s mining town provide the opportunity to explore one of the older settlements in the region, while plaques help educate you on the town’s history.

The town’s jewel is the church and cemetery, which look like they have been plucked straight out of a western.

The availability of refreshments, which you can purchase from a quaint little store, is a nice bonus as well.

Old Chinese Camp Town is at 10001 – 10015 Main Street, Chinese Camp, 95309

19- Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is filled with camping, fishing, and hiking trails, weaved between the remains of 19th-century buildings and mining equipment.

More spaced out than most ghost towns, it is one of the best ghost towns in Northern California to experience well-preserved locations without being surrounded by mobs of tourists.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is at 23579 North Bloomfield Road, Nevada City, 95959.

20- Canon City

Canon City was established in 1851 and quickly became a busy town, with stores, saloons, hotels, a blacksmith, a school, a post office and two sawmills.

Only 40 years later, in 1891, the discovery of gold just upstream led to it being abandoned as quickly as it had sprung to life.

Remnants of some original structures remain, as do a number of the canons, which the city was named after.

With historical markers to give you a brief history of the town, it is a historic ghost town in Northern California that won’t take too long to explore fully.

Canon City is at 8690 Canyon Creek Road, Junction City, 96048.

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Steve Burden is an avid traveller and experienced writer. As a former pro wrestler, Steve used to travel frequently for work throughout the USA and Europe. Having spent the last decade travelling all over the world in search of new sights and experiences, he has turned his love for travel into a new career helping others decide on the best places to visit, as well as what to see when they get there.