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This Haunting Road Trip Through America’s Ghost Towns Is One You Won’t Forget

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There’s something morbidly fascinating about ghost towns. From dusty boom-and-bust towns in the west, to overgrown woodland settlements in the east and even abandoned communities at sea, this country is littered with towns that fell silent due to economic or social strain. We’ve put together a road trip that will take you to the most interesting, historical, and hauntingly beautiful ghost towns in the nation. The route is the most direct possible, so you can pack as many towns into your trip as possible.

The journey will take you through 40 states; we left out Hawaii, Alaska and contiguous states without accessible ghost towns. If you decide to hit the road and check out some of these awesome spots, feel free to jump in at any point in the route. We weren’t able to include ALL destinations on one map, so here you can find the trip in sections, including the East, South, Mid-America, and West portions.

Glastenbury, Vermont

This 19th-century ghost town is surrounded by legends of strange disappearances and disasters. Between 1945 and 1950, at least four people went missing while walking in the nearby woods. The community’s farming efforts also repeatedly failed, leading some to speculate that the area is cursed.

Actually located in the village of Newcomb, this failed mining town was abandoned twice: once in 1857, and again in 1962. Visitors can actually walk around inside the town’s old blast furnace.

Livermore, New Hampshire

Livermore was founded in the mid-1880s as a logging community. The town was abandoned in 1946, after a smallpox epidemic swept through the community.

This stop on your road trip will take you to scenic Lake Flagstaff, but there’s more to this lake than meets the eye. Flagstaff Village sits at the bottom of the lake, drowned by the construction of Long Falls Dam in 1950.

Dogtown, Massachusetts

This town is steeped in legends of witchcraft and the supernatural. Originally settled in 1693, the town was constantly under attack by pirates and hostile native peoples. After the main population moved away, vagrants and wild dogs moved in. The town includes a series of boulders carved with mysterious inspirational messages such as “HELP MOTHER” and “BE CLEAN.”

This town was founded in 1766 as a mining town. The state of New Jersey now owns the town. Batso’s 32-room mansion is a popular place for historical reenactments and exploration.

This is one of the country’s most famous ghost towns. Centralia was a normal community until an underground coal vein opened and began burning uncontrollably in 1962. A colorful “graffiti highway” leads into the abandoned town.

This may not be a proper town, but St. Mary’s college is definitely an abandoned community with a fascinating past. Opened in 1862, this religious school and seminary was closed down in 1972 and quickly became a magnet for vandals and troublemakers. The main buildings burned down on Halloween night in 1997, but the “Hell House Altar” and beautiful winding steps remain.

Open for just three years between 1996 and 1999, this fair closed due to poor weather conditions and its unfortunate location on a swamp. Though the area is technically designated as no-trespassing, you can access this spot if you have a hunting license.

Thurmond currently has five residents and one tiny hotel called the Dun Glen, which was once the site of the world’s longest-lasting poker game. The game continued without interruption for 14 years.

Henry River Mill Village was the shooting location for District 12 in “The Hunger Games.” This 19th-century mill town was abandoned in 1977, and is a beautifully scenic area dotted with wooden-frame houses.

Elkmont, Tennessee

This is a former cottage community that once was a popular vacation destination in eastern Tennessee. Abandoned cabins filled with personal effects, such as clothing and even a piano, can still be explored.

Old Cahawba, Alabama

Between 1820 and 1825, Cahawba was the capital of Alabama. Today, the ghost town is an archaeological park filled with towering masonry columns, shuttered antebellum buildings and overgrown foundations. Visiting the remains of the Chrocheron House is a must.

Scull Shoals, Georgia

This was once a flourishing mill town, but flooding eventually forced most residents out by the early 1900s. Today, visitors can wander through the town’s decaying brick structures.

Located on the edge of Biscayne Bay, these bizarre houses were built in the 50s and 60s to avoid onshore gambling laws. They were a playground for the wealthy, but the houses were abandoned after a series of hurricanes brought their number down to seven. Today, the buildings are preserved by the National Park Service.

Braithwaite, Louisiana

Braithwaite is a mere 20-minute drive from downtown New Orleans. What makes this ghost town remarkable is that it is slowly sinking into the marshland upon which it was built. After Hurricane Isaac in 2012, the town experienced intense flooding that forced most residents to relocate. Today, the historic Mary Plantation is one of the only active structures in the area.

Located 30 miles northeast of Natchez and founded in 1763, this small town was ravaged by a yellow fever epidemic in the 1840s. Subsequent disasters such as large fires and the shifting of the Mississippi River spelled Rodney’s doom. Today, a single road lined with abandoned buildings leads into town.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Cairo was a bustling community in Illinois’s “Little Egypt” region. Racial tensions and major flooding led to its near-total abandonment in the 1950s, though a few residents still remain.

Paradise, Kentucky

This town is located along the banks of the Green River, and was abandoned in the 20th century due to corrosive rains of ash and coal dust from the town’s coal factory. Today, the area is free of dangerous rains and a lush place to stop for a bit of exploration.

Elizabethtown, Indiana

This should be a quick stop on your trip, as the only remnant of Elizabethtown is a beautiful 19th-century cemetery. The town was born in the 1830s and named after its founder’s daughter, Elizabeth.

The residents of Boston Mills were mysteriously evacuated by the U.S. government in the 1970s. Theories behind the forced abandonment include biological disasters and mutated citizens.

This coastal settlement is now part of Fayette Historic State Park. The site includes a massive charcoal kiln, the masonry shells of former buildings, and a number of preserved old wooden-frame buildings.

Located midway up Minnesota’s North Shore, Taconite Harbor was once a small company town that sheltered thousands of mining employees and their families in the 1970s and 1980s. The town was eventually abandoned in 1990. Today, you can explore the steel structures located right on the water.

Elkport, Iowa

This ghost town has a much more recent history of abandonment. In 2004, devastating flooding damaged most of the town. Residents were relocated in 2006, and Elkport has been silently decaying ever since.

Rush Historic District, Arkansas

The town of Rush was once a prosperous zinc mining locale during the early 1900s, but now stands as a collection of empty houses and overgrown equipment. Most structures are original, whole and have remained virtually untouched since the town’s abandonment in the 1940s. There’s even a hidden vintage canon!

Avilla, Missouri

This “living ghost town” actually has a population of 100 residents. Founded in 1856, the town was severely impacted by population shifts to larger cities and the I-44 bypass. By 1971, most of the town was deserted. Today, crumbling ruins and shabby clapboard houses line the town’s main road.

Ralston, Oklahoma

Located on State Highway 18 in Pawnee County, Ralston was founded in 1894. The town is filled with shuttered saloons, banks, and shops.

Le Hunt, Kansas

This ghost town has a deadly past. A former United Kansas Portland Cement employee fell into a vat of concrete in Le Hunt and disappeared into the mixture. Today, the ghost town is said to be haunted by his spirit. The town includes a field of jagged boulders and a series of concrete tunnels.

Antioch, Nebraska

This town was once the potash (a fertilizer component) capital of Nebraska. Today, all that remains is an eerie collection of towering concrete pillars and arches.

Tucked into the mountains of Chaffee County, St. Elmo was once a lively mining town and enjoyed plenty of growth from 1870 to 1925. However, when the gold dried up, so did this ghost town. Today, the town is open to tourists and even allows visitors to wander through the town’s well-preserved structures and shop at St. Elmo’s little gift shop.

When the mercury market crashed in the early 1900s, this mining town was abandoned. After spending a few decades in total ruin, Terlingua has bloomed again into a bizarre roadside attraction. Visitors can wander the abandoned mine shafts, check out the strange artwork that has appeared amongst the buildings, and even spend a night in the Perry Mansion (pictured above).

This old mining town was mostly abandoned in the 1970s, though a few residents remain. Hike up to Graveyard Gulch to visit some of the town’s original settlers.

Two Guns was once a 1920s tourist destination along the Canyon Diablo, but the town fell into ruin after multiple fires and a rash of murders. Today, the skeletal remains of Two Guns look more like ancient ruins than a 20th-century town.

Located in Washington County, Grafton was abandoned after a series of rock avalanches devastated the community in 1927. The landscape is full of hand-hewn lumber cabins and tall grass.

Founded by a group of prospectors in 1859, this is definitely California’s most famous ghost town. The town of Bodie is so well-preserved that photographers flock from around the globe to capture the town’s untouched buildings, including interiors that are still fully furnished.

Nevada, Metropolis

Metropolis is located north of Wells in Elko County. Founded in 1910 as the center of a huge farming district, but relentless droughts and an invasion of Mormon crickets kept Metropolis from flourishing. Today, old buildings and stone memorials are all that remain.

One of the treasures of Idaho’s “Wild West,” Silver City was once a busy mining settlement. When the price of silver crashed in the early 1900s, this town went bust. Today, you can visit Silver City’s beautiful and historic Our Lady of Tears church, and stay in the restored Idaho Hotel.

Kent, Oregon

Kent is located in Sherman County, and features an abandoned cafe, gas station, and old grain silo. Some residents do still live in Kent, but the town is mostly deserted.

This town was founded as a ranching community in the late 1800s, but the brutal murders of local Judge J.A. Lewis and his wife Penelope in 1902 caused many residents to leave town. Today, Govan’s schoolhouse and a few old homes stand in an empty swath of land.

This town was founded in 1892 on the heels of a gold discovery. The last residents left in the 1970s, and Bannack has since been turned into a state park. The buildings are remarkably well-preserved. Photographers and ghost-hunters love this spot.

Would you take this USA ghost town road trip? Do you have suggestions for other amazing abandoned spots? Let us know!

Sophia
Massachusetts native. Freelance writer and strawberry eater. Get in touch: smitrokostas@onlyinyourstate.com.