Why do we love abandoned places so much? Perhaps we like to imagine what the people who inhabited these places were like, or how things once were, when these towns and villages were bustling, busy communities. Sometimes abandoned places are peaceful and quiet…other times they have a distinctly creepy vibe. We’ve put together a road trip that takes you past 10 abandoned places in Utah. From ancient dwellings to more recently abandoned ghost towns, you’ll find plenty to explore here. As always, treat these areas with respect, and don’t trespass on private property.
This road trip makes an almost complete circle and covers over 1,100 miles - you'd want to take at least a week to complete the entire trip.
The Google map feature allows me to include just 10 stops, but you can see by the map that you'll be passing by many of Utah's national and state parks, monuments and other ghost towns. Take your time, and add as many extra stops as you'd like along the way.
Thistle had about 600 residents in 1917 and was supported mainly by the railroad, which went through town. Steam engines stopped here for water, and passengers disembarked to grab a meal or rest. When steam engines were replaced by diesel, the need for water stops disappeared and the town only had a few residents by 1983. That year, heavy flooding led to a dam breach, and by April 18th, houses and buildings in Thistle were underwater. The town was a total loss.
Latuda (near Helper)
Latuda was a coal mining town near Helper that thrived for several decades. In 1927, several avalanches wiped out many of the homes and killed residents. This ghost town might well be a real ghost town - the White Lady of Latuda is said to wander the area. She's thought to be the mother of a child that was killed in an avalanche when she briefly left him home alone.
Cisco was a railroad town, and in its heyday, more than 100,000 sheep were sheared here every year. Johnny Cash wrote about it, Thelma and Louise visited it and travelers in the area always stopped here to buy gas and a hot meal. When I-70 was built, this town was bypassed, and it quickly died out.
Hovenweep National Monument
This area was once the home to as many as 2,500 people. Between A.D. 1200 and 1300 Puebloan people thrived here. They built many towers, which may have been used for religious purposes or storage. This national monument allows people to wander through the ruins.
Edge of the Cedars State Park
Edge of the Cedars State Park contains a remarkably intact Puebloan dwelling, a museum with a huge collection of Puebloan pottery and a restored kiva. While you're there, climb down the ladder into the kiva and imagine what it would have been like to live there.
The Cedar Mesa area contains hundreds of ancient Puebloan dwelling and buildings. Take some time to explore this area, but please be careful and leave it untouched for others to enjoy.
The Mormon town of Paria was settled in 1870, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn't the best place to set up a community. Frequent flooding in the 1880s prompted most to leave. In 1911, a gold mine brought people back, but just one year later the town flooded again and was abandoned for good.
Brigham J. Lund and his two partners started a freight business here in 1899, and for awhile the little town thrived. It's abandoned now, but you can still see the hotel, general store and a few other buildings, many of which still have Lund's name on them.
The mining town of Frisco was once a wild, violent place. The town had 26 saloons and multiple gambling halls and brothels. Drunk miners tended to brawl on the weekends, resulting in frequent homicides. When a new sheriff came to town, he established order pretty quickly by telling the criminals to either leave or be shot - rumor has it that he shot six men the first night. When the mine collapsed in 1885, it never recovered. You can still see the kilns and some remnants of abandoned buildings here.
The Tintic Standard Reduction Mill near Goshen was built in 1920, but only operated for four years (from 1921 to 1925). It once produced 200 tons of ore per year, but the process used to increase the metal content of the ore became outdated and the mill was abandoned. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.