Arizona, a state steeped in history and natural allure, is also home to some of the most captivating ghost towns in the nation. These abandoned settlements, once lively with miners, cowboys, and outlaws, now offer a window into the Old Wild West’s bygone era. Whether seeking a spooky adventure, a history lesson, or a picturesque drive, these seven Arizona ghost towns merit exploration.
Nestled on the Black Hills’ slopes in the Verde Valley, Jerome stands as one of Arizona’s most renowned and well-preserved ghost towns. Once a bustling copper mining town, Jerome earned the moniker “wickedest town in the West” due to its notorious saloons, brothels, and gambling dens. Although its population peaked at over 15,000 in its heyday, by the 1950s, Jerome was nearly deserted. Today, it thrives as a tourist destination, offering art galleries, museums, restaurants, and shops. Notable historic sites include the Jerome Grand Hotel, the Sliding Jail, and the Gold King Mine Museum.
Situated on the historic Route 66 in the Black Mountains, Oatman, founded in 1906 as a gold mining camp, became a magnet for prospectors and fortune seekers. The town is also famous for its wild burros, descendants of those brought by miners and now roaming the streets. Visitors can enjoy Wild West shows, explore the Oatman Hotel, peruse antique shops, and partake in annual events like the Oatman Egg Fry and Bed Races.
Recapturing the ambiance of a 19th-century mining town, Goldfield, near the Superstition Mountains, was established in 1893 following a gold discovery. Although the gold vein depleted by 1898, Goldfield was revived in the 1980s as a tourist attraction. Authentic buildings, including a saloon, general store, bordello, and church, transport visitors to the past. Attractions include the Goldfield Mine Tour, Superstition Narrow Gauge Railroad, Goldfield Gunfighters, and the Goldfield Museum.
Established in 1863 by Henry Wickenburg, Vulture City once held the title of the most productive gold mine in Arizona. The Vulture Mine produced over $200 million worth of gold, attracting thousands of miners and settlers. With a post office, school, hotel, saloon, jail, and hanging tree, Vulture City thrived until the government closed the mine in 1942. Now a historic site, guided tours offer insight into remaining buildings like the assay office, cookhouse, mess hall, and brothel.
Claiming to be the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in Arizona, Chloride was founded in 1862 when silver ore was discovered in the Cerbat Mountains. Once boasting a population of over 5,000, Chloride had a newspaper, bank, theater, school, and hospital. Despite its violent past, Chloride persisted, and today, about 250 residents preserve its heritage. Visitors can explore historic buildings, Chloride Murals, Chloride Cemetery, and the Roy Purcell Rock Art.
Founded in the early 1900s as a prosperous mining town, Ruby later became notorious for the unsolved Ruby Murders that occurred between 1920 and 1922. Abandoned in the 1940s, Ruby, now private property, allows public access for a fee. Explorers can wander through the ruins of the schoolhouse, store, jail, and cemetery, with some believing the site is haunted by the victims’ ghosts.
Once a vital railroad and commerce hub founded in 1881, Fairbank connected Tombstone, Bisbee, and Nogales. Declining in the 1920s after mining closures and a rerouted railroad, Fairbank is now part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Restored buildings, the Fairbank Cemetery, and the Fairbank Historic Townsite Trail showcase its historical significance.
Beyond its arid landscapes and cacti, Arizona holds a treasure trove of Old Wild West legacy in its ghost towns. These remnants of the past not only serve as historical artifacts but also present engaging attractions. They provide an opportunity to delve into Arizona’s history, culture, and adventurous spirit. For a distinctive and memorable experience, these seven Arizona ghost towns are must-explore destinations.