When you think of a ghost town, most likely you envision a rundown former mining town in the high deserts of the west. In part, this is true. A typical ghost town is usually an abandoned village, town, or city that has failed due to a lack of economic activity or natural or human-caused disasters.
However, there are many historic ghost towns that are still inhabited by people and have become rather lively places to visit.
Many of these towns have also become protected historic sites and tourist attractions. In addition, they can also be unusual and fun places to go camping and contain a load of interesting stories, history, and maybe a few active spirits. For Halloween, take an RV camping trip to one or more of these historic and slightly creepy ghost towns.
1. Bannack State Park, Montana
Bannack State Park contains one of the best-preserved ghosts towns in the U.S. and is also a National Historic Landmark. It was established with the discovery of gold in 1862 but dwindled when the ore ran out. With over 50 of the original buildings still standing and in excellent shape, Bannack is a great place to learn about Montana’s gold mining history.
Bannack has two campgrounds with a total of 24 sites. The Vigilante Campground is best for larger RVs and the smaller Road Agent Campground is first-come, first-served. The park also has a tipi available for rent.
2. Virginia City, Nevada
In the dry hills above Reno, there is a town that was once one of the most cultured cities of the Wild West. Virginia City, home to the famed Comstock Lode, was one of the richest mining towns west of the Mississippi during the mid to late 1800’s and had a range of restaurants, bars, and culture.
The town itself is still very much alive and is a big tourist draw during the summer and fall months. Right in the middle of town is the Virginia City RV Park & Market. Located above the city’s famous (and supposedly haunted) cemetery, this park has 50 full hookup sites, a full market and laundromat, propane tank exchange, and a shower house. There is also a tent area and several rental cabins.
3. Calico Ghost Town, California
Because of its famous gold and silver rush, California has an amazing number of ghost towns. Many of them are extremely popular (such as Bodie State Park in the Eastern Sierra), but don’t have any nearby campgrounds.
However, the Calico Ghost Town in San Bernardino County has been kept alive with its popular tours, museum, shops, and campground. The Calico Ghost Town sports over 500 silver mines and fully restored buildings.
Calico is also a State Historical Landmark. The ghost town offers 265 sites with full and partial hookups. The campground also has hot showers, restrooms, and two dump stations. Several historic cabins and bunkhouses are also available for rent.
4. Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina
This eerie mill town near Asheville, North Carolina is instantly recognizable to fans of the Hunger Games movie trilogy. This abandoned town became the location for District 12 in the movies, but it has its own special history.
The textile town opened in 1905 and produced yarn for over 50 years before closing up in the 1970s. The town came back to life as the dystopian home of Katniss Everdeen in 2012 and is now available for tours for both history and movie buffs.
The Henry River Mill Village is protected and does not have its own campground, but there are plenty of campsites at the nearby Indian Springs Campground in Hickory. This campground only accepts RVs with their own bathrooms since they do not have a bathhouse.
5. Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona
Goldfield Ghost Town near Apache Junction, Arizona doesn’t feel at all ghostly, but it’s such a fun place to visit. This historic town was a hotbed of gold mining in the 1890s, but like many mining towns of the era, died when the ore dried up.
Goldfield now boasts a lively tourism industry with Wild West shows, train rides, restaurants, bars, museums, gold panning, and even a zip line that flies past the Superstition Mountains.
This family-friendly location also has a campground just down the street. Lost Dutchman State Park is open year round and has 138 sites with 68 of those sites with electric and water hookups. Cabins are also available for rent.
6. Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico
Not every ghost town came about by the fall of an industry. Sometimes just the building of a road can kill a little town. Glenrio is located on the border of Texas and New Mexico and in the 1920s became an important stop along Route 66. Even John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was filmed in Glenrio.
Being right on the border of two states made for some interesting political decisions. Gas was pumped on the Texas side since taxes were lower in the Lone Star State.
Bars were located on the New Mexico side since the county in Texas was dry at the time. When the main highway was moved to Interstate 40, the town’s economy dried up and it’s now a group of abandoned buildings along a dirt road.
If you are interested in Route 66 history, this is one stop you need to make. Along the way, you can choose from several nearby campgrounds, but the closest is the Midpoint Campground, the midpoint of Route 66. This campground has 10 full hookup spaces, a laundromat, and a small store and cafe.