Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.
Between the 19th and 20th centuries, expansion through the Western states in the U.S. boomed. From mining to logging to the gold rush, hundreds of towns were established, only to be abandoned shortly after once the natural resources dried up.
These towns sit relatively untouched; they’re perfect examples of how people lived in the past. Consider visiting these towns to get a glimpse into the past.
St. Elmo, Colorado
Established in 1880, this town was founded because of the nearby silver and gold mines.
At its height, St. Elmo hosted over 2,000 residents. However, the mines eventually ran dry, and the people of the town packed up and left, leaving the town essentially untouched.
One of the creepiest parts of visiting this town is looking in the windows of the homes and seeing rooms still furnished with kitchen tables, dining clothes, and window drapes. The home owners just got up and left one day, leaving their possessions behind.
Terlingua is another abandoned mining town. It was completed abandoned by the 1930s, but many of the retro buildings and vintage cars are still standing.
Many visitors stop by to take a photo in front of the Starlight Theatre. It’s rare to see a movie theatre from the early 20th century. This town is a blast from the past and definitely worth visiting.
Rhyolite was well known for its plentiful quartz mines, but the mining dried up, and the town was left wholly abandoned before 1900.
This town is a fantastic image of life in the late 1800s in the U.S. You can still visit the ruins of the bank and the old jail. Unfortunately, many stone buildings suffer from erosion in the desert due to wind storms, so many buildings are crumbled.
Custer is one of the best intact ghost towns in the U.S. The town was thriving in 1896 with almost 600 residents, but by 1910 it was left completely abandoned.
Thankfully, the state of Idaho kept the houses and buildings in good repair, and today it’s owned by the local National Historical Society. When visiting, you can take a guided tour to learn about what life would look like more than 120 years ago.
Although this town was never technically part of the United States as it was left in 1938, twenty years before Alaska became an official state, this abandoned copper mining town is a perfect example of early settler life.
You can take a self-guided tour of the train tracks, the old copper mining facilities, and the general stores.
Visiting Goldfield, Arizona, feels like you stepped onto the set of an old Western film.
Luckily, the state of Arizona took great care of this abandoned gold mining town, and you can still visit it today. You can even step inside the saloon and general stores. Visitors can even witness an old gunfight and cowboys on horses.
This stop is a family-friendly place to visit and learn about history.
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